Music, Courage and Death Threats

I just watched an incredible documentary on Fox Traveler of how young people in Afghanistan are risking their lives to take part in ‘Afghan Star’ – a talent/reality show that has mesmerized music lovers in war torn Afghanistan. Once upon a time, music was outlawed by the Taliban, so the show has unsurprisingly found itself the target of violent religious extremists. Anyone who participates in ‘Afghan Star’ does so at their own risk putting not only their own lives but the lives of their loved ones at risk as well.

Launched a couple of years ago, the show which was dismissed as one that would never take off, has seen unprecedented participation with as many as 2000 people from around the region flocking to its auditions each season. Many of the participants from previous seasons are now in hiding. Their lives are under threat.

The documentary was an eye-opener for me. I find it so incredible that pop culture has permeated through, to even the most volatile places on earth – Afghanistan, a country where until just a few years ago, music was banned. Inspite of every threat, very tangible danger and palpable fear, these gutsy young people are gradually mustering up tremendous courage to follow their dreams.

I found the story so compelling and so inspiring. Inspite of everything these people have gone through, the decades of oppressive rule and the heinous crimes committed against them by the Bush government, their spirit remains strong and unflinching. They continue to hope, to dream and to aspire towards a peaceful future.

Clearly dreams, hopes and aspirations are the common factors among all of humanity. After decades of musical censorship, people in Afghanistan can still be imprisoned for owning a cassette, people are beaten regularly for possessing handy cams and compact disks and yet a new generation of fearless, bold Afghans are coming out of the woodwork, albeit temporarily, to give vent to their dreams. In a short period of time they have resurrected and revolutionized the musical landscape of a war raved nation.

The wounds of Afghanistan’s brutal wars are still raw and bare, and this fearless minority has still to deal with so many challenges, the worst I imagine is being torn between traditional Islamic beliefs and western liberalism. But for once, it’s not a deadly explosion that’s rocking the Afghanistan – its music and that I think is a positive sign of upcoming social change.


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