Music matters. I don’t have facts and figures to back up that statement. Sure, I could go online and find them, but you know it’s true, so why fight with WordPress to create a link? Music inspires, educates, and liberates, that’s just how it is, no sense in denying it. Can’t imagine a world without it, and I think I’ve made it pretty clear from previous posts that I wouldn’t want to be in a world that doesn’t have it. I was surprised to learn that from 1996-2001 music was banned by the Taliban in Afghanistan. What is that world like?
Many of you may have heard about the documentary “Afghan Star“. For those of you who haven’t, it’s a film documentary that follows the lives of contestants and producers of a television show in Afghanistan called “Afghan Star”. “Afghan Star” makes “American Idol” contestants look like total wusses. And before you email me compelling stories about the lives of the struggling as to yet already be semi-well-known AI contestants, answer me this; Any former AI contestant have to live under government protection for singing on stage? Yeah, I thought so. Music was banned. However, 60% of the Afghan population is under the age of 21 and the Taliban has lost some of its hold, so that’s right folks, music is back.
“Afghan Star” brings pop music to the people, following the same basic structure that we know from “American Idol”. It’s an elimination based performance contest where people use their phones to vote for their favorites. A third of the country watched the finale of the season followed in “Afghan Star”. This is contestant Setara performing.
Is it just me, or that just damned catchy? I sit and shimmy at my keyboard every time I play it. Notice her jaunty swaying? Well, in Afghanistan that’s the equivalent of Madonna dry humping the stage while rolling around in a bridal gown at the MTV awards. Or perhaps it’s Madonna’s simulated masturbation rendition of “Like a Virgin” for the Truth or Dare Tour? Either way, whatever the most offensive visual Madonna has busted out in public, Setara’s rhythmic swaying is its equivalent.
Setara was doomed to get knocked out of the competition for being so brazen, and as predicted, she was. Although, just like any artist with nothing to lose, she went full out for her farewell performance.
The dancing, and worse, exposing her hair, caused an uproar and death threats. Surprisingly, it was the other female contestant Lima, who was very demure and conservative that ended up living under the protection of her local governor at the end of the film.
But Rebecca, you’re ready to say, that’s all well and good, but that’s one show, and it’s pop music. That’s not really music. One, I’d dare argue that in a country where music has been banned for 5 years, there is nothing more important than a vibrant pop music revival. Second, would a band of pretty Afghan boys in skinny jeans channeling indie Brit pop make you feel better?
In that case, here you go!
That was Kabul Dreams, and they claim to be Afghanistan’s first rock band. I don’t know if that is an entirely accurate claim, but they are a rock band, they are in Afghanistan, and they’re the only one I’ve heard of, so that makes it good enough for me!
There is music in Afghanistan again, and that means that truly anything is possible. That’s what music does, no sense in denying it.
As a quick aside, for those of you who tend towards heavy metal, can I suggest checking out “Heavy Metal in Baghdad”? It’s about Iraq, not Afghanistan, but it follows the only heavy metal band in Iraq. You can watch it for free thanks to Hulu! In fact, if you’ve got one and a half hours, you can watch it here now!