Beneath Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A month after the Taliban seized energy in Afghanistan, the music goes quiet.

The final time the militant group dominated the nation, within the late Nineties, it outright banned music. Up to now this time, the federal government arrange by the Taliban hasn’t taken that step formally. However already, musicians are afraid a ban will come, and a few Taliban fighters on the bottom have began imposing guidelines on their very own, harassing musicians and music venues.

Many wedding ceremony halls are limiting music at their gatherings. Musicians are afraid to carry out. No less than one reported that Taliban fighters at one of many many checkpoints across the capital smashed his instrument. Drivers silence their radios at any time when they see a Taliban checkpoint.

Within the alleys of Kharabat, a neighborhood in Kabul’s Previous Metropolis, households the place music is a occupation handed by way of generations are searching for methods to depart the nation. The occupation was already hit laborious by Afghanistan’s foundering financial system, together with the coronavirus pandemic, and a few households now too fearful to work are promoting off furnishings to get by.

“The present state of affairs is oppressive,” stated Muzafar Bakhsh, a 21-year-old who performed in a marriage band. His household had simply offered off a part of its belongings at Kabul’s new flea market, Chaman-e-Hozari. “We preserve promoting them … so we don’t die of hunger,” stated Bakhsh, whose late grandfather was Ustad Rahim Bakhsh, a well-known ustad — or maestro — of Afghan classical music.

Afghanistan has a robust musical custom, influenced by Iranian and Indian classical music. It additionally has a thriving pop music scene, including digital devices and dance beats to extra conventional rhythms. Each have flourished prior to now 20 years.

Requested whether or not the Taliban authorities will ban music once more, spokesman Bilal Karimi advised The Related Press, “Proper now, it’s beneath evaluate and when a closing resolution is made, the Islamic Emirate will announce it.”

However music venues are already feeling the strain because the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.

Wedding ceremony halls are normally scene to giant gatherings with music and dancing, most frequently segregated between males’s and ladies’s sections. At three halls visited by the AP, employees stated the identical factor. Taliban fighters usually present up, and though thus far they haven’t objected to music, their presence is intimidating. Musicians refuse to indicate up. Within the male sections of weddings, the halls now not have dwell music or DJs. Within the girls’s part — the place the Taliban fighters have much less entry — feminine DJs generally nonetheless play.

Some karaoke parlors have closed. Others nonetheless open face harassment. One parlor visited by the AP stopped karaoke however stayed open, serving waterpipes and enjoying recorded music. Final week, Taliban fighters confirmed up, broke an accordion and tore down indicators and stickers referring to music or karaoke. A couple of days later, they returned and advised the purchasers to depart instantly.

Many musicians are making use of for visas overseas.

Within the household residence of one other ustad in Kharabat, everybody’s go-bag is packed, prepared to depart once they can. In a single room, a gaggle of musicians was gathered on a current day, ingesting tea and discussing the state of affairs. They shared pictures and movies from their performances around the globe — Moscow, Baku, New Delhi, Dubai, New York.

“Musicians don’t belong right here anymore. We should depart. The love and affection of the final years are gone,” stated a drum participant, whose profession has spanned 35 years and who’s the grasp of a number one music training heart in Kabul. Like many different musicians, he spoke on situation he not be named, fearing reprisals from the Taliban.

One other musician within the room stated the Taliban broke a keyboard value $3,000 once they noticed it in his automobile as he crossed by way of a checkpoint. Others stated they have been transport their most beneficial devices exterior the nation or hiding them. One had dismantled his tabla — a kind of drum — and hidden the elements in numerous areas. One other buried his rebab, a stringed instrument, in his courtyard. Some stated they hid devices behind false partitions.

One who managed to depart already is Aryana Sayeed, a prime feminine pop star who was additionally a choose on the TV expertise present, “The Voice of Afghanistan.” Already used to dying threats by Islamic hard-liners, Sayeed determined to flee the day after the Taliban took over Kabul.

“I needed to survive and be the voice for different girls in Afghanistan,” stated Sayeed, now in Istanbul. She stated she was asking Turkish authorities to assist different musicians get out of her homeland. “The Taliban are usually not associates of Afghanistan, they’re our enemies. Solely enemies would wish to destroy your historical past and your music,” she stated.

On the Afghanistan Nationwide Institute of Music, a lot of the lecture rooms are empty. Not one of the academics nor the 350 college students have come again because the takeover. The institute was as soon as well-known for its inclusiveness and emerged because the face of a brand new Afghanistan. Now, it’s guarded by fighters from the Haqqani community, an ally of the Taliban thought of a terrorist group by the US.

Contained in the institute, footage of girls and boys enjoying dangle from the partitions, dusty pianos relaxation inside locked rooms, and a few devices have been stacked in a container on the college’s patio. The fighters guarding the location stated they have been ready for orders from the management on what to do with them.

“We’re not serious about listening to those issues,” one fighter stated, standing subsequent to a set of dhambouras, a conventional string instrument. “I don’t even know what these things are. Personally, I’ve by no means listened to them and I’m not .”

In a classroom on the finish of the hall, a Taliban fighter rested on a mattress listening to a male voice chanting on his mobile phone, apparently one of many instrument-less spiritual anthems widespread among the many group.

Again in Kharabat, Mohammed Ibrahim Afzali as soon as ran the household enterprise repairing musical devices. In mid-August, he put away his instruments, broke the devices left within the workshop and closed down. Now the 61-year-old sells chips and snacks to assist feed his household of 13.

“I made this tiny store. God is merciful, and we are going to discover a piece of bread,” he stated.


Related Press author Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.


This story was first revealed on September 23, 2021. It was up to date on September 25, 2021 to right that Aryana Sayeed escaped Afghanistan a day after the Taliban took over Kabul.

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