Emel Sherzad was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in a family of visual artists and music lovers. Emel grew up in Afghanistan, France and Italy. As a result of the 1978 communist coup in Afghanistan, Emel and the surviving members of his family became political prisoners. After being exiled from his native land, Emel lived as a political refugee in Lausanne, Switzerland for over 5 years. Upon graduating from high school (Ecole Lemania), he obtained a certificate to teach French as a second language. Emel came to the U.S. in 1984. He graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1988 with a B.A. in Spanish, Portuguese and Studio Art. He studied linguistics at George Mason University as a graduate student (1989-91). He currently lives in St. Paul, MN, where he runs an Afghan restaurant, Khyber Pass Cafe. In addition to serving healthy, tasteful Afghan food, Khyber Pass Cafe also presents an adventurous improvised music series every Thursday night at 9 PM.
The love of music and painting have been some of the few constants throughout Emel’s life. His art is inspired by different forms of improvised music with accidentality as its main theme. His paintings are on display on the walls of Khyber Pass Café.
Emel Sherzad has been hosting International Jazz Conspiracy since 1995. Between 2010 and 2015 the program was referred to as Radio Duende.