Music On the Right Note
Underneath the rubble of instability, lies a vibrant movement of young Afghan musicians.
Incorrectly portrayed in the international media, Afghanistan is often depicted as a barren, savage land, deifying young Afghans lost in guns and gore. But not all the streets of Kabul paint the same picture. Boys and girls in urban centers are increasingly purchasing and showing interest in musical instruments. For them, music has served as a lifeline in a war-torn country.
Today, Afghan singers and bands are introducing the country’s music to the world. Afghanistan’s heavy metal band, District Unknown is one such example. While the media continues to portray Afghanistan as an unstable and insecure country, civil society argues otherwise. Syed Mudasir Ali Shah, a renowned journalist from Kabul, asserts, “Yes indeed, music is now changing the lives of many Afghan youth.”
With a strong history of art and creativity, music has always had a special status in Afghan culture but due to continuous conflicts and war, spanning over two generations, the art gave way to gunshots and explosions. When the Taliban came to power, many musicians, singers and composers fled and took asylum in different western countries such as Germany, Australia, and the US. Now with Afghanistan finally gearing up to enter what could be its golden years, many young people have returned and others are ready to pack their bags and come home
soon. However, love for music today seems to have become an urban phenomenon. For Shah, in a country where people are struggling against hunger and shelter, music is a luxury few can afford, restricted only to the capital. “People of Afghanistan are still fighting for education, food and decent job opportunities to feed their families. In this situation, music cannot be their priority especially in the rural sections of the country. But the way international organizations are committed to promoting music in Afghanistan, it seems like things will improve soon,” he says.
Over the years, reports of young musicians targeted and persecuted by a ruthless Taliban regime have also made rounds but on the issue of extremists forcing musicians to leave the country, Shah adds another dimension. “As often portrayed by the world outside, Taliban are not always enemies of music. Music has never been their main target and their opposition to art and culture is melting down,” he emphasizes. In addition, many girls have enrolled at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music where they are learning music and the performing arts. More importantly, the numbers are rising though the country remains a traditional and patriarchal tribal society and girls have unfortunately never dominated the music scene in the country.
The establishment of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, a few years ago emerged as a beacon of hope, serving as a nourishing ground for Afghan music. The institute helps and promotes inspiring singers and musicians and also offers music classes to impoverished children.
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