Under Taliban, thriving Afghan new music scene heads to silence


September 25, 2021 GMT

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A month right after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the music is heading peaceful.

The previous time the militant group ruled the place, in the late 1990s, it outright banned audio. So significantly this time, the govt established up by the Taliban has not taken that step officially. But already, musicians are fearful a ban will appear, and some Taliban fighters on the floor have begun imposing principles on their possess, harassing musicians and new music venues.

A lot of wedding halls are restricting new music at their gatherings. Musicians are fearful to perform. At minimum one claimed that Taliban fighters at a single of the many checkpoints all-around the funds smashed his instrument. Drivers silence their radios anytime they see a Taliban checkpoint.

In the alleys of Kharabat, a neighborhood in Kabul’s Outdated City, households exactly where music is a profession handed via generations are wanting for methods to depart the place. The career was by now hit tough by Afghanistan’s foundering overall economy, along with the coronavirus pandemic, and some households now too fearful to perform are selling off household furniture to get by.

“The current condition is oppressive,” stated Muzafar Bakhsh, a 21-yr-outdated who played in a wedding ceremony band. His spouse and children experienced just offered off portion of its belongings at Kabul’s new flea market place, Chaman-e-Hozari. “We continue to keep offering them … so we really don’t die of hunger,” stated Bakhsh, whose late grandfather was Ustad Rahim Bakhsh, a popular ustad — or maestro — of Afghan classical new music.

Afghanistan has a robust musical custom, affected by Iranian and Indian classical audio. It also has a flourishing pop music scene, incorporating electronic devices and dance beats to extra standard rhythms. Both of those have flourished in the earlier 20 yrs.

Questioned regardless of whether the Taliban authorities will ban tunes again, spokesman Bilal Karimi instructed The Related Push, “Right now, it is under evaluate and when a final choice is manufactured, the Islamic Emirate will announce it.”

But music venues are presently feeling the pressure due to the fact the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.

Marriage halls are normally scene to big gatherings with music and dancing, most usually segregated in between men’s and women’s sections. At three halls visited by the AP, personnel claimed the exact thing. Taliban fighters usually show up, and although so much they have not objected to songs, their presence is scary. Musicians refuse to clearly show up. In the male sections of weddings, the halls no lengthier have reside audio or DJs. In the women’s portion — where by the Taliban fighters have much less obtain — female DJs at times even now enjoy.

Some karaoke parlors have shut. Other people continue to open experience harassment. A person parlor visited by the AP stopped karaoke but stayed open, serving waterpipes and actively playing recorded new music. Last week, Taliban fighters showed up, broke an accordion and tore down indications and stickers referring to music or karaoke. A couple of days later on, they returned and informed the consumers to go away promptly.

Several musicians are making use of for visas abroad.

In the family house of one more ustad in Kharabat, everyone’s go-bag is packed, ready to depart when they can. In a person place, a team of musicians was gathered on a new working day, consuming tea and discussing the scenario. They shared pictures and films from their performances close to the world — Moscow, Baku, New Delhi, Dubai, New York.

“Musicians do not belong in this article any more. We should depart. The like and passion of the very last many years are absent,” explained a drum player, whose job has spanned 35 a long time and who is the grasp of a leading music instruction centre in Kabul. Like several other musicians, he spoke on condition he not be named, fearing reprisals from the Taliban.

Another musician in the space claimed the Taliban broke a keyboard well worth $3,000 when they observed it in his automobile as he crossed by means of a checkpoint. Other folks mentioned they were shipping and delivery their most useful devices outdoors the state or hiding them. A person had dismantled his tabla — a sort of drum — and hidden the areas in diverse places. One more buried his rebab, a stringed instrument, in his courtyard. Some claimed they hid instruments powering bogus walls.

1 who managed to leave by now is Aryana Sayeed, a leading woman pop star who was also a choose on the Television expertise exhibit, “The Voice of Afghanistan.” Previously applied to death threats by Islamic difficult-liners, Sayeed made the decision to escape the day right after the Taliban took more than Kabul.

“I had to endure and be the voice for other ladies in Afghanistan,” said Sayeed, now in Istanbul. She stated she was inquiring Turkish authorities to support other musicians get out of her homeland. “The Taliban are not pals of Afghanistan, they are our enemies. Only enemies would want to demolish your historical past and your new music,” she reported.

At the Afghanistan Nationwide Institute of Songs, most of the school rooms are empty. None of the lecturers nor the 350 pupils have appear back again because the takeover. The institute was the moment well-known for its inclusiveness and emerged as the face of a new Afghanistan. Now, it is guarded by fighters from the Haqqani community, an ally of the Taliban considered a terrorist team by the United States.

Inside the institute, pictures of boys and girls playing cling from the partitions, dusty pianos rest within locked rooms, and some instruments have been stacked in a container on the school’s patio. The fighters guarding the web-site mentioned they have been waiting for orders from the management on what to do with them.

“We’re not intrigued in listening to these issues,” one fighter mentioned, standing following to a established of dhambouras, a conventional string instrument. “I don’t even know what these objects are. Personally, I’ve hardly ever listened to them and I’m not fascinated.”

In a classroom at the conclude of the corridor, a Taliban fighter rested on a mattress listening to a male voice chanting on his cell cellular phone, seemingly one of the instrument-considerably less religious anthems prevalent amongst the team.

Back in Kharabat, Mohammed Ibrahim Afzali once ran the spouse and children organization fixing musical devices. In mid-August, he put away his instruments, broke the instruments remaining in the workshop and shut down. Now the 61-year-previous sells chips and treats to enable feed his household of 13.

“I made this little store. God is merciful, and we will discover a piece of bread,” he claimed.


Affiliated Push author Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.


This story was very first released on September 23, 2021. It was current on September 25, 2021 to proper that Aryana Sayeed escaped Afghanistan a day soon after the Taliban took above Kabul.