winning Afghan singer and composer Farhad Darya has been the most
influential musician on the Afghan Music scene since the mid 80s,
and certainly is a founder of a new wave of music in Afghanistan.
His influences have echoed throughout several music styles and subsequent
generations. Darya is known as the most prominent voice and a revolutionary
creative force behind the contemporary music of Afghanistan. He
pioneered several different styles of songwriting, and redefined
the role of vocalist in the music of Afghanistan while his style
of singing has been among the very small number of the most emotional
and easily identifiable voices.
Darya is a pioneer of committed and devoted music in Afghanistan:
music committed to new ways of expression and devoted to human causes.
From an artistic point of view, Farhad's music is both domestic
(Afghan) and global (international), a blend of native and global
spent years bridging the gap between urban and rural through his
music, and Afghan music became more committed and obligated after
his works and creations. He has been an extraordinary hit-maker
since the late ‘80s. He has been original and has sounded
like no others. His tastes are fairly eclectic, giving his songs
a musical variety lacking in other Afghan music stars at that time.
who was the biggest news making artist during the conflict years,
found his fame going beyond the boundaries of his country, reaching
out as far as Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, India, and further to
Germany, Denmark, Italy, Australia, Canada, the U.S., the U.K.,
… and gradually the world heard Darya’s music and invited
him for an outstanding performance, the first public spectacle in
the historical COLOSSEUM of Rome, on May 11, 2001, in an international
musical event where celebrities from all over the world, such as
Ray Charles, and others participated, which further led his way
to international fame and fans.
never-ending struggle for Afghanistan’s music revival in the
face of the most restrictive sanctions in the long history of music
in his country, the political and social changes of 2001, and finally,
after the collapse of Taliban, the revival of freedom announced
by Radio Afghanistan (November 13, 2001) awakening the city with
Darya’s song “Kabul Jaan” (beloved Kabul) fully
introduced him to the Western world, to the point that Western media
started calling him “The Voice of the Afghan Nation”
(Die Welt, German newspaper) and “Man of the Day” (BBC
Darya was one of the very few Afghan musicians to break from the
traditional structure of composition, orchestration, and vocal characterization.
He created and sang in the following styles of music: semi-classical,
old and modern Ghazal, folklore and traditional, pop, and experimental.
That’s the reason why his audience ranges from the ages of
2 to 92, a phenomenon unheard of in Afghanistan’s music history.
Darya has proven that music is not only the voice as itself. He
identified the role of a songwriter as a fundamental component of
a musical piece, ever more important than before.
the reign of the red invaders, Darya was recognized as the founder
of Afghan resistance music inside Afghanistan. Censorship of his
music was enforced after Afghan national Radio & TV played his
song “Raseed Mozhdah” ("The Time of Grief”)
in the second year of his musical career in 1981.
has written and sung a remarkable array of songs in most major Afghan
and regional languages and dialects such as Farsi-Dari, Pashto,
Uzbek, Hazaragi, Urdu, and others. He has been drawing a rainbow
of peace and harmony from the existing disparities for all this
mosaic of people in his land.
* * *
was born on the first day of the autumn of 1962 in Kabul. Music
certainly was not a career in Darya’s family. In 1980, Farhad
made his first public appearance on the sole TV station in the country.
Afghan society could hardly envision the twenty-year-old Darya established
as a classical singer, composer, lyricist, and above all a trendsetter
and pioneer. After a short while, he moved from classical music
towards the modern form of pop music in Afghanistan, which was filled
with innovation. Darya realized that communicating via classical
music and Ghazal was not sufficient in the flames of war and the
chambers of smoke and agony. He moved towards folk music and created
Afghan-style tunes. He brought new life and a fresh look to Afghan
music, which made its way to the large cities by way of the sincere
and wounded suburbs. This music was in every ear and on every tongue,
signifying the agony of the Afghan nation.
first professional album, featuring Ustad Mahwash, a prominent female
singer from the preceding generation, also saw the light during
these hard years of his professional life. All songs, both lyrics
and music, were entirely of Darya’s creation. Although this
album attracted substantial attention from all circles of music,
it was not considered a hit. Following that, Darya and Mahwash released
duet singles, which found a place in the heart of Afghan TV and
Radio archives, of which “Maikhaana” (“Tavern”)
was their first hit duet.
first hit solo singles were “Alam Ganj,” “Laila
Lakhta Da,” and “Laila Nawroz As,” all folk songs,
which pushed the nineteen-year old Darya’s fame to the remotest
the midst of silence and political negligence, Darya raised his
voice and tried to remove the ashes of filthiness from the Afghan
music context. No one can deny the role and influence of Farhad
Darya and his companion Qahar Asi on the formation of Afghan resistance
music and poetry. These two voices of sincerity and affection deserve
real appreciation. Not a single stanza in any of Darya’s songs
has benefited any government; furthermore, most of his songs written
and released inside Afghanistan opposed the communist regime.
studying literature at the University of Kabul, Farhad formed “Goroh-e-Baran”
(“The Rain Band”) with three other university students,
and rocked the routine in music and Afghan tunes (1982). By creating
“Baran,” he initiated a new genre in Afghan music, known
today as Folk-Pop.
"Baran" or Rain descended with sincerity from the sky
with a breath of life to soil and ash sprouting to flower and plant.
Baran's reputation spread beyond boundaries increasing the numbers
of fans thirsting for its genuine chants. It reached the peak of
its career at a crucial time of Afghanistan history--the government
of the communist regime. More vocalists’ careers were established
through Baran and Darya's compositions exposed to public.
However, Darya’s passion for creativity and innovation didn’t
limit itself to the folklore arena, which was never his intentional
destination. He started to revitalize the original and unique Afghan
melodies; he initiated a new showing of creativity in this area
of music and led rural music to arrive in urban areas. The works
of Baran were delivered in image clip format to fans through the
national TV. Baran became a household name in a short while and
became the most famous Afghan band ever in Afghanistan. On the day
it was released, their first album, titled “Baran,”
reached the hit position in the market. Two more albums from Baran,
recorded live, went to the market and were outsold the market and
achieved hit positions. Baran’s single hits such as “Aay-e-Mano
Aay-e-Mann,” “Roz-e-Bazar,” “Dokhtar-e-Sardaar,”
“Dokhtar,” “Watan-daar-e-Golom.” and “Baraan
DJ,” which were mostly Darya’s work, were heavily copied
and re-sung by Afghanistan’s major music artists, and a number
of other artists achieved fame by this opportunity. Besides vocal
music, Darya also left strong and unparalleled instrumental pieces
for Baraan, a major portion of which are played by most Afghan radio
stations throughout the world.
Baran’s life was very short, and during the first few of their
concerts outside Kabul city in the summer of 1985 in Mazaar-e-Shareef,
they split up. The last TV album by Baran was sung in the absence
of the band’s singers and then sent out for distribution.
Baran’s split was never publicly announced and the reason
for this split remains a mystery for millions of Baran’s fans
everywhere to date. After disbanding Baran at the peak of their
popularity, Darya continued to establish himself as a viable solo
artist, one obsessed with expanding the boundaries of Afghan music.
spent some time teaching classical music theory at Kabul University,
but his creative mind and musical career created hurdles that kept
him from continuing this noble work.
those days when most professional and experienced musicians were
either leaving the country for exile or would disappear from the
scene because of the war and military service, for the very first
time in Afghanistan’s music recording history, Darya introduced
multi-track recording in 1986 in Afghanistan. From that point onwards
till 1990, in addition to singing and arranging, he also played
all his music as a one-man band. Due to the lack of recording facilities
in Afghanistan during the war, he traveled to the Czech Republic
and recorded four of his latest songs in studios in Prague. Upon
his return, Darya had a hit, “Do Kaftar.”
As a “Founder of Afghan Resistance Music”
inside Afghanistan, besides his voice and songs, he insisted, directly
or emblematically, on resistance and struggled in his interviews
and his appearances in the Afghan media. The ruling administration
put pressure on this voice and dozens of his songs were censored.
But the more pressure they applied, the more his voice got louder
and found its way among the people. Darya was discharged from the
university multiple times, and forced to serve in the military.
He started a symbolic mirroring of the life and situation of Afghanistan
in his audiovisual works for Afghan TV, and every now and then,
he would set fire to a rope of execution and stage “Theater
of Fighting Hands” representing the virtuous and victorious
hands of Afghan people, or present the illustration of a nest collapsing
within an autumn season.
In the summer of 1990, after many years of war and delay in selecting
the Afghan Idol, the people finally voted and selected their most
popular singer of the year, and that choice was none other than
Farhad Darya. Finally at the end of that year, Darya left Afghanistan
for Germany and started living in exile. He spent the first one
and a half years of his exile in silence and nostalgia in Germany
and France, always very much hopeful that he would return. At that
time the Mujahedeen government had just come to power in Afghanistan
and music had lost its position.
in the west, music was still boycotted among certain fanatic Afghans,
however a "lady" and a "brother" come to Darya's
assistance. The lady was Sultana Emam, a Sorbonne University graduate
in Paris (a loyal fan and now Darya's spouse and partner in life);
and the brother was Engineer Yama Yamkanesh who shoulder-to- shoulder
with Darya put the winds back into his sails. Thus, after a year
and half of silence, Darya performed for the first time in Hamburg’s
“Musik Halle” and left hundreds of his enthusiastic
fans waiting outside the sold out doors of the hall. His first concert
in Hamburg was seen as a new start for his music career and created
waves among the public.
first album in exile, recorded in Paris and the little German town
of “Wissen Sieg,” was titled “Begum Jaan”
and released in 1992. With this album, computer, experimental, and
a shadow of dramatic music entered the Afghan music stage. “Begum
Jaan” was highly appreciated by the Afghan communities of
artists, enlightened intellectuals, and scholars in the West, due
to the enormous creativity and the fresh breeze that it displayed.
While this album became a hit in Afghanistan, it received a smaller
reception from Afghans living in exile in the West, because of their
nostalgia for their home and their memories, and the thirst they
had for their roots and for folklore music. This album had one big
hit, “Kabul Jan,” whose music was arranged jointly with
a Franco-Algerian musician in Paris.
Farhad Darya’s first video album in
exile, titled “Aatesh Parcha,” was released in 1993
in Hamburg City. It was the first video album from the Afghan artist
community in the West, semi-professionally put together, and it
challenged both the artist and the art lover to search for listening
to better art works. The biggest hit in this collection was “Naway-e-Benawaayee,”
a semi-classical song, which was Darya’s own original work.
1995, Darya’s first hit album in exile titled “Afghanistan”
was released in Hamburg and hit the markets of Afghan music worldwide.
This album became the most public and acclaimed track collection
due to its multilingual and multi-dialect Afghan nature, as well
as its reflection of different tribal and ethnic Afghan music. “Afghanistan”
proclaimed loudly the most beautiful and stunning method of national
unity linking hearts slashed (by politics) with a silken string
of music. The effects of this collection could be notably witnessed
in the works of other Afghan artists as it set the bar for the Afghan
music standards and values. The songs “Golom Golom,”
“Asli Watan,” “Shaakh-e-Nabaat,” “Yanga
Konduz,” “Sarzameen-e-Man,” “Tu Rafti,”
and “Moray” provided a fresh atmosphere to the Afghan
music era all over the world for many years.
had been better known as a recording artist in his country, but
after the release of “Afghanistan” he gained incredible
fame as a successful performing artist as well. He introduced new
concepts in Afghan musical presentation during concerts and brought
a new freshness to the overall atmosphere. Darya performed to sold-out
houses in Germany, The United States, Great Britain, Holland, Sweden,
Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Italy . . . with an aim
toward keeping Afghan culture, music, and the light of hope alive
among the Diaspora.
the fall of 1995, he moved with his wife Sultana Darya to Virginia,
in the U.S., and on March 1, 1996, he became the father to his son,
was another of Darya’s hit albums that hit the market in 1997
in the United States. Most of the songs in this album were based
on upbeat and fast dance music. However, eminent and superior songs
such as “Aay Darya” and “Geria” that are
considered among Darya’s most serious songs, with their unique
and different style of music mixing both Afghan tunes and his new
discoveries, introduced a new school of thought to the Afghan music
industry. He had also written and sung samples of this type in Afghanistan,
such as “Aazadi” (Freedom), etc.
Sarzameen-e-Begaana” (“In Foreign Land”) was Darya’s
other hit audio album that was released in 1999 in California, U.S.
One of its hit songs, “Khosham me Aayad,” became an
unprecedented hit Afghan song in the Iranian community in and outside
Iran, and it further added to Darya’s popularity in that nation.
A year and a half after the release of “Dar Sarzameen-e- Begaana,”
in response to the Iranian reception of the album, this album was
released under the title “Khosham me Aayad” in the States.
And finally, Farhad Darya released “Salaam Afghanistan,”
his top and most successful hit album in 2003. He returned to his
motherland after thirteen years of exile, filmed the album within
Afghanistan and released it worldwide in DVD format. This album
is considered as the most prominent work in Darya’s career
and the crème de la crème of Afghan music today. “Salaam
Afghanistan” not only broke the sales record for any album
in the past few decades of Afghan music history, but also presented
the original and kind face of Afghanistan in a meritorious and deserved
way, and showed that Afghanistan is not just a collection of fire,
war, weapons, and hatred. Messages of unity, beauty, and love were
very strong and obvious in this collection.
was an elaborately conceived video album that revolutionized the
way music videos were made up to then in Afghan music. “Salaam
Afghanistan” became a masterpiece, and after returning to
Afghanistan during a very heated political and social time, Farhad
Darya became one of the biggest idols representing change, unity
and love of the Afghan nation, and is considered as a role model
for the young generation.
launched 15 albums and several singles in Afghanistan. He added
another 15 albums while in exile. He has, time and again, received
the title of “Best Singer of The Year,” both at home
and abroad, and most recently in the summer of 2001 in Copenhagen,
Denmark. Despite inventing a new entity and developing a signature
style in regional music, Darya transformed the lessons learned from
great Afghan music legends such as Ustad Qasem, Ustad Sarahang,
Ustad Awalmeer, Ahmad Zahir, and other pioneer musicians who inspired
him early in his career.
* * *
Farhad Darya, a rebirth of Afghan music has taken place. Darya is
opening fresher, younger, wider, and more beautiful horizons for
musicians and for the music audience. One can say that he is bringing
on the beginning of a new period in Afghan music. Darya's grasp
of literature and the origins of poetry is unique among Afghan musicians.
He has experienced the historic sorority of poem and song, which
has a massive basis in Afghan culture, better and more so than have
his peers. Darya's songs reflect people's agony; within this context
he wants his music to be sensible, responsive, and sincerely emotional
rather than fly-by-night and superficial. In the past he called
on people to struggle against puppet kingpins to achieve freedom.
Today with the golden string of his voice he links disintegrated
Therefore for the last two decades of Afghanistan’s history,
Darya's music has shaken politics. It is interesting that through
his music, politics has been trying to build bridges with people.
The politicians have known that people believe in Darya--in his
voice and his honesty--and listen to him with the ear of their hearts.
During Dr. Najib's time (1986-1992) as a propagandistic step towards
“democracy,” the communist government lifted the ban
on Darya's previously censored songs. Compositions such as "Maulaa
Ali," "Winds are Coming," " Trees of Mountain
Pass,” "The Time of Grief," "My Homeland,"
and others, were broadcast via TV and radio to show the people that
there was no gap or distance between government and people anymore.
After the fall of Najibulla's regime, the Mujahedeen celebrated
their arrival by his songs (1992-1996); when the United States bombed
and dropped aid (including radios) to Afghans, his songs were broadcast
over the radio waves (2001). And finally after the collapse of the
Taliban, Radio Afghanistan announced the revival of freedom (November
13, 2001), awakening the city with Darya's song "Kabul Jaan.”
Darya caught the attention of hundreds of international journalists
who recognized Darya's wounded nation through his voice.
For the last two decades, Darya has tried to mend the war-torn and
disconnected Afghan nation and lead it towards unity, and he has
sought to redefine an isolated people to the rest of the world.
In response to the recent developments in Afghanistan, he launched
a two-year benefit tour, titled “I am Cold!,” to help
the greatly suffering and needy Afghan children.
Darya is the first Afghan musician to have come home from the West
after the current socio-political developments in Afghanistan, and
he has started to motivate and inspire the era of music in Afghanistan
by founding Music Village, a large center for the rehabilitation
and preservation of Afghan music in Kabul. He gave the biggest concert
in the history of Afghan music in Kabul Stadium, exactly where innocent
people used to be mercilessly executed by a regime of terror. After
the largest censorship of music in Afghan history, Darya’s
return illuminated a dawn of hope and promises of return to normalcy
and peace in Afghanistan.