Music in post-war Afghanistan

Music in post-war Afghanistan
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 09 26 PM IST

Aryan Band performing in New Delhi at the South Asian Bands Festival, 2008
Aryan Band performing in New Delhi at the South Asian Bands Festival, 2008
Updated: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 09 26 PM IST
Comprising 10 young men, the Kabul-based Aryan Band is one of the music groups to have emerged from post-Taliban Afghanistan. The five-year-old band is experimenting with different styles and will be in New Delhi to perform, on 20 February, for the second year consecutively at the South Asian Bands Festival organized by Seher. Over the phone from Kabul, Siddique Ahmed Sohrab, the 27-year-old violinist and the band’s manager, spoke to Lounge about music and life in Afghanistan. Edited excerpts:
How did the Aryan Band form?
During the war years, many Afghans moved to neighbouring countries. Three of our
Aryan Band performing in New Delhi at the South Asian Bands Festival, 2008
band members went to Iran; I was in Pakistan. After coming back, we met by chance and found that our ideas about music matched.
What does the name signify?
The name “Aryan” is commonplace in Afghanistan. The old name of Afghanistan was Ariana or the land of the Aryans. Many Afghans, Iranians and people of Central Asia consider themselves of Aryan descent.
What kind of music do you play?
We are still experimenting and it is a combination of many things—Latin music, pop rock and the traditional Afghan music. We don’t use any traditional instruments, but our vocals are influenced by local traditions. We sing in Dari (which is a variant of Farsi) and also use classical poetry in our lyrics.
What are your influences?
The range of influence is very wide and nothing very specific—Metallica, Pink Floyd, traditional Afghan music, and the music of Iran.
How popular is music from India in Afghanistan?
In northern Afghanistan there is a pronounced Central Asian influence, and in the south there is Indian and Pakistani influence. There is, of course, Bollywood music, but besides that Hindustani classical music was practised here for a long time. There were singers who performed here and even used to go to India. Just as in India, classical music has its own limited audience—people listen to it at gatherings or at home.
How free are people in Afghanistan to listen and attend to concerts?
Concerts are not very common now. Before the war, people attended concerts all the time. After the war this was lost. As a band we don’t get to perform (a lot); we are still trying to create a platform, and hopefully future bands will get an opportunity to perform. The only time we have concerts is during the traditional New Year Day on 20 March. Otherwise artistes perform solo on the new TV channels with playback music.
Is this limited freedom confined to Kabul or other places in the country, too?
A city’s social life depends on security, and the security in Kabul is better than most provinces. Things are better in the north and the east, but in the south it is totally insecure. In many places during daytime it is government rule and at night time Taliban rules. There is no way we can go there.
Are you hopeful about the future?
It is difficult to say. In Afghanistan we don’t know about the future—depends on how everything goes economically and militarily. We are one of the first few post-war bands, and we are trying to create a platform for the future. If you are trying, you have got to be hopeful, right?
South Asian Bands Festival 2009: a three-day musical extravaganza featuring 14 rock bands from across seven nations. At Purana Qila, New Delhi, 20-22 February.
Seats on first come, first serve basis. For more information log on to
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 09 26 PM IST