Maybe Afghan music used to be all rabab all the time, but since the ousted Taliban can no longer formally ban popular music, the international Afghan exile community has had a chance to reconnect with musicians still in the country. This has allowed all to rediscover old Afghan pop and create pop anew. The recent documentary “Afghan Star” even takes us inside Afghanistan’s wildly popular version of “American Idol”; eleven million Afghans, a third of the population of the country, watched the finale.
Afghanistan may still not have a thriving hip hop scene, but that hasn’t stopped rappers like DJ Besho from trying to make his mark. Not all Afghanis are fans (Abdul Raouf, an Islamic cleric from Kabul, says “I don’t like music at all but this, in my opinion, is the worst,”) but DJ Besho sees his mission to rise above all the war in his land and rap about love.
The All Around This World: South and Central Asia CD includes two Afghan kids’ songs — “Daweedam” (“the Bread Song) and “Boody Boody” (“Grandmother Swings Me”) — from the amazing “Children’s Songs from Afghanistan” by the Afghan Songbook Project, a clear labor of love by former Peace Corps volunteer Louise Pascale.
In class we also celebrate Afghan musicians such as:
— Ahmad Zahir:
Zahir, widely known as “ the Afghan Elvis,” is still a controversial character in Afghanistan more than thirty years after his death. The adored Zahir is reported to have died in a car crash, though many Afghans believe there’s much more to it. There is also a raging dispute over his ethnicity; both the Tajiks and Pashtuns claim him as their own. [the link includes unpleasant Tajik/Pashtun racial vitriol so it’s not an appropriate for kids, but seeing the interplay between the Tajiks and Pashtuns is fascinating.]
— Jawid Sharif:
A true Afghan pop star, Sharif resides in Germany but is popular with Afghans everywhere. For example, see Sharif perform live in Viriginia where apparently everyone knows the “Attan” dance.