Born in 1960, Afshar grew up in Tehran, although her family roots are in Iran’s northeastern Azerbaijan province—a region famed for local string instruments like the tar and the saz. Afshar discovered her passion for the guitar at age 10 while visiting a cousin who had one. Her father bought her her own guitar and signed her up for lessons. In 1977, she moved to the US, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music at the Boston Conservatory. Although Iranians traveled freely to the US before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Afshar had never seen the country before she moved.