Radio Free Europe
By Country / Afghanistan
Afghanistan: Musicians Struggling To Revive Classical Heritage After Taliban
November 11, 2005
Decades of war and the Taliban's five-year ban on music took their toll on Afghan classical music. Musicians have been trying to resuscitate the art since the end of Taliban rule. But they face serious economic and artistic challenges -- including the threat of possible attack by Taliban fighters if they perform in provincial areas. Through interviews and field recordings, RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz has documented attempts to revive Afghan music since the collapse of the Taliban regime nearly four years ago.
Kabul, 11 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Three warring Afghan militia factions in Wardak Province put their disputes aside long enough in early 2002 to celebrate a feast together in the district of Chak.
Hundreds gathered to hear the first performance there of Afghanistan's national dance, the "Atan-i-Mili," since the Taliban silenced music five years earlier.
But only one elderly musician was found to play a double-sided Afghan drum called a dhol. There were no others to play the complex rhythmical counterpoints of the dance. And there was no one to play the traditional melody on the raspy, flute-like surnai. It was a sparse sound testifying to the state of music in southern Afghanistan immediately after Taliban rule.
Instead, militia fighters fired their AK-47s to the drumbeat in the way Western DJs use old records to perform "scratch" rhythms.
Within two years, after many Afghan musicians returned from lives as refugees in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, the sound of a full group playing the Atan-i-Mili would be common in Afghanistan again.
Life today remains difficult and dangerous for Afghan musicians. An ethnic Turkmen singer named Quarab Nazar was gunned down recently along with six of his backing group after performing at a wedding party in northern Jowzjan Province. Police say the attackers were Taliban fighters. The Taliban also is blamed for other recent attacks against musicians in the south and east of the country.
Still, classical Afghan musicians want to breath life back into their heritage after decades of war and repression.
Read the full story, including photographs and audio clips, HERE.