Below Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A month after the Taliban seized energy in Afghanistan, the music is beginning to go quiet.

The final time that 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 implementing guidelines on their very own, harassing musicians and music venues.

Many marriage ceremony halls are limiting music at their gatherings. Musicians are afraid to carry out. At the very least one reported that Taliban fighters at one of many many checkpoints across the capital smashed his instrument. Drivers silence their radios each time they see a Taliban checkpoint.

Within the alleys of Kharabat, a neighborhood in Kabul’s Outdated Metropolis, households the place music is a career handed by generations are in search of methods to depart the nation. The career was already hit exhausting 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,” mentioned Muzafar Bakhsh, a 21-year-old who performed in a marriage band. His household had simply bought off a part of its belongings at Kabul’s new flea market, Chaman-e-Hozari. “We maintain promoting them … so we don’t die of hunger,” mentioned 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 previously 20 years.

Requested whether or not the Taliban authorities will ban music once more, spokesman Bilal Karimi instructed The Related Press, “Proper now, it’s beneath assessment and when a remaining 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 massive gatherings with music and dancing, most frequently segregated between males’s and girls’s sections. At three halls visited by the AP, workers mentioned the identical factor. Taliban fighters usually present up, and though to this point they haven’t objected to music, their presence is intimidating. Musicians refuse to point out up. Within the male sections of weddings, the halls not have dwell music or DJs. Within the ladies’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 taking part in recorded music. Final week, Taliban fighters confirmed up, broke an accordion and tore down indicators and stickers referring to music or karaoke. Just a few days later, they returned and instructed the shoppers 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 after they can. In a single room, a gaggle of musicians was gathered on a latest day, ingesting tea and discussing the state of affairs. They shared images and movies from their performances all over the world — 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,” mentioned a drum participant, whose profession has spanned 35 years and who’s the grasp of a number one music schooling middle 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 mentioned the Taliban broke a keyboard price $3,000 after they noticed it in his automotive as he crossed by a checkpoint. Others mentioned they have been delivery their most beneficial devices outdoors the nation or hiding them. One had dismantled his tabla — a kind of drum — and hidden the components in numerous areas. One other buried his rebab, a stringed instrument, in his courtyard. Some mentioned 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 loss of life threats by Islamic hard-liners, Sayeed determined to flee the day the Taliban took over Kabul.

“I needed to survive and be the voice for different ladies in Afghanistan,” mentioned Sayeed, now in Istanbul. She mentioned she was asking Turkish authorities to assist different musicians get out of her homeland. “The Taliban aren’t buddies of Afghanistan, they’re our enemies. Solely enemies would need to destroy your historical past and your music,” she mentioned.

On the Afghanistan Nationwide Institute of Music, many of the school rooms are empty. Not one of the lecturers 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, photos of girls and boys taking part in hold from the partitions, dusty pianos relaxation inside locked rooms, and a few devices have been stacked in a container on the varsity’s patio. The fighters guarding the positioning mentioned they have been ready for orders from the management on what to do with them.

“We’re not occupied with listening to those issues,” one fighter mentioned, standing subsequent to a set of dhambouras, a standard 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 cellphone, apparently one of many instrument-less non secular anthems frequent 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 mentioned.

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

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