A Revival of Afghan Culture

Dominic Patten, CTV News Cultural Correspondent

  The Taliban ruled Afghanistan for years by terror and fear. It seems fitting that the liberation of the Afghan people and a new era of life would begin with a song.

And not just any song, but one in particular -- "Beloved Kabul" by Farhad Darya -- an underground hit recorded by one of the country's exiled heroes.

In a country with no television or Internet news, the Northern Alliance decided this would be the quickest and most efficient way to let the people know they were finally free of the rigid rule of the Taliban.
The song was aired on Radio Afghanistan and across public address systems, and it served as an immediate news flash to the people of Afghanistan.
As the eight-month anniversary of the liberation of Kabul by coalition forces approaches on June 13, Darya, who has been in exile since 1990, remembers learning about his country's new freedom -- and his role in that historic day.
Darya opened up hundreds of e-mails from people describing how people in Kabul heard the voice of one of their favorite singers, and they knew the Taliban were gone.

"It was a special moment for me," says Darya, "I can't explain the feeling I had in that moment."
Darya's music, a mix of folk, pop and classical, was banned for many years in Afghanistan.
"People had to listen to it underground," he says. "I've heard from many people that they break the cover of the tape. They put the tape inside, between, they stuck it inside the women's hair to hide it from the authorities," relays Darya. Years of war have made Afghans very canny.
An exile since 1990, Darya finds that his popularity extends beyond borders -- to Europe, the U.S. and Canada -- wherever there are other communities of exiles and émigrés from Afghanistan.
A recent Toronto appearance, part of a tour to raise funds for Afghan children, brought out more than 2000 fans. The crowds were on their feet as soon as Darya entered the ballroom. And to familiar tunes like "Beloved Kabul," that's where they stayed for almost the next three hours.
"Afghan people couldn't live without music," Darya remarks, "like all other human beings Actress and journalist Niloufar Pazira, born in Afghanistan and now living in Canada, has lived the power of art. Pazira, who starred in last year's critically acclaimed film Kandahar, thinks Darya's music has meaning for more than just Afghans.
"Afghanistan is known as a political problem for the world," she says. "Not as a full country with human beings, with arts, and music, and colors, and beauty. Artists like Farhad Darya can help change that. With the music, now it will help give Afghanistan a more human face."

"We are a very age-old culture," adds Darya. "We are not only 23 years of war. And the world needs to know more and more about our art, especially the music. We need to give the world a new definition of Afghanistan."
On his current tour, Darya will be bringing that message to the world. He's playing in Europe, the United States and, on June 29th, in Montreal. The grand plan is to end the tour, and 12 years of exile, with a series of concerts in Afghanistan.
"As soon as I get the chance to live and to perform as a free human being and as a free musician, I will be there."
And Kabul will hear "Beloved Kabul" live, something that would have been impossible less than a year ago.

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