By: Heather Sokoloff
November 14, 2001


Once-banned pop star makes a comeback

'Beloved Kabul': Exiled singer's songs have been played before by rulers trying to win favour
Farhad Darya awoke early yesterday in his home in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. to check his e-mail for news on the war in his homeland, Afghanistan.

Instead of war news, the inbox was flooded with hundreds of messages from around the world. They came from friends and fans, congratulating him that his song Beloved Kabul had been played over the radio in the newly liberated Afghan capital as a symbol of freedom from the fundamentalist restrictions of the fleeing Taliban.

Mr. Darya, one Afghanistan's most popular singers, fled the country in 1990 because the Soviet-installed government would not permit his songs to play on the radio.
Living in Paris and homesick, he recorded the music for Beloved Kabul in a French studio in 1991.

The song was released in Germany one year later. It quickly became a hit among exiled Afghans around the globe.

Yesterday, the ballad was the first to drift out over the airwaves after Kabul was captured by the Northern Alliance.

Instrumental music was banned by the Taliban and musicians were routinely jailed, their confiscated instruments hung from lampposts.

"Let me sing limitless songs/ Limitless songs for the agony of the Afghans/ For my homeless wandering people/ Let me sing from Iran down to Pakistan," Mr. Darya sings in the song.

"The return of music to Afghanistan means a new day. It is the return of life to Afghanistan," he said yesterday.

He describes his musical style as a mixture of classical, folk and pop.

His career began with a university band that, he says, "Rocked routine Afghan music."

He released 15 albums in Afghanistan, and another 13 since he fled. His mother, youngest brother and father-in-law remain in Kabul.

"The people of Afghanistan love music," said Mr. Darya. "They have big hearts, and they love to smile. I feel so honoured to be their trusted one. It is a wonderful feeling. I do not have the words to explain it."

Mr. Darya
does not know why the Taliban rulers banned instruments. A Muslim himself, he says there is nothing in the Koran to support it.

He suspects the Taliban understood the power of music. Though Afghans became numb to successive governments blaring propaganda songs over the airwaves, sorrowful ballads of dissent caught on quickly.

"Music is the most powerful weapon. The Taliban are afraid of it, because it's going easily around the world. You can send your messages in music, so music was and is the most trusted thing in the lives of Afghans compared with politics."

Mr. Darya's lyrics tell love stories, but he says his lover is always Afghanistan.
"Do you want to make a journey towards your lover or not, O, my beloved? / Do you have any news of the miserable state of mine or not, O, my beloved?" his lyrics go.

Though Mr. Darya is optimistic about the future of his homeland after Monday's events, he said it is too early to be celebrating the fall of the Taliban.

He has good reason to be wary. Over the years, his songs have been played by new governments trying to win favour from the people, only to be censored as the regimes turn repressive.

"We have to be careful to cheer about this immediately. Our history is telling us something else. We do not want to make the same mistakes. This is a critical situation. We need the rest of the world to stand with us and help us in a proper way.

"It is not the first time that my song is broadcasted after a political situation."

He said he plans to return to Afghanistan with his wife and five-year-old son when the country is stable.

National Post newspaper. Toronto, Canada


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