Culture, Asia - Pacific

Musicians, singers face challenges in Afghanistan

Music market at Shor Bazaar empty since Taliban seized power, declared Shariah

Shafiq Ahmad   | 27.09.2021
Musicians, singers face challenges in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan

Abdul Qadeer was waiting for customers on a street in Kabul's bustling Shor Bazaar, where he recently set up a small roadside electric motor repair shack after quitting his profession as a folk singer.

Since early morning, no one has come, he said, and things have been getting increasingly tough financially.

He is not the only Pashto and Dari folk singer who has been struggling financially since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan's capital. Many like him have been forced to leave the entertainment profession and are now looking for new ways to support their families.

A small music market called Sar-e Chowk in Shor Bazaar, which had more than 100 outlets on a 200-meter (656-foot) street, has been depleted of music instruments, musicians and folk singers since the Taliban seized power and proclaimed Shariah.

Buildings that once were known for music-related entertainment have since closed and ground-level shops have been converted to offer a variety of everyday items.

“I am a vocalist and I used to earn by singing at different functions,” Qadeer told Anadolu Agency.

But now he works as a mechanic on the side of the road.

The majority of artists have left the country, and those who were unable have found alternative work, he said. “Some now sell vegetables, while others make Bolani,” alluding to a famous Afghan street cuisine of fried bread sandwiches.

A young adolescent on the street who seemed to have been in the entertainment business for some time before starting a cell phone top-up shack, said music instruments manufacturing and selling shops on both sides of the road, where singers were also sitting, have either been abandoned or converted into daily-use items.

When asked about what happened to the music outlets, Jamshed, who introduced himself with a single name, chuckled and responded: "You don't know, everything has gone," while pointing to multiple shops selling various culinary products.

On this busy street, voices can now be heard selling food items but hymns in human voices without music extolling the Taliban appear to be the only permitted listening entertainment in Shor Bazaar.

Taliban security was spotted everywhere, wearing a white ribbon on their forehead with "Islamic faith" written on it, making local shops fearful of discussing music.

“I am a butcher, waiting for customers, and this is my business,” Rais Mohammad claimed, denying that he ever worked in the entertainment business, despite Jamshed's assertion that the artist is now selling meat at his shop, where he previously made and sold musical instruments.

From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban forbade music, kite flying and other recreational activities, enforcing Islamic laws through a department called Amre Bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munkar, or Promote Virtues and Prohibit Vices.

On Sept. 17, the interim Taliban administration disbanded the ministry of women's affairs, and its buildings were given to the interim Ministry of Promote Virtues and Prohibit Vices.

Sherin Gul, a cab driver in the area, said the Taliban smashed several musical instruments, prompting musicians to abandon making and selling musical instruments.

People used to come here to buy different musical instruments and hire vocalists and musicians for weddings and other celebrations, he said. "But not know."


Taliban allow ‘Attan’ dance

Recently, a video posted on the Taliban’s social media platform showed members dancing "Attan" to the tune of a traditional Afghan drum beat, indicating it may be permissible under Shariah, said an Afghan journalist covering culture and entertainment for a local news outlet.

“There is a hope that Attan may be allowed,” said Pervez Khan Karokheil, referring to the traditional Pashto circle dance.

Hundreds of workers in the music industry are now facing hardships and considering other possibilities for their and their families' survival.


Singers, musicians escape

Popular Afghan artists and musicians began fleeing the country even before the Taliban seized power and established their interim government. They were cognizant that the situation could change at any time, they secured dual nationality.

When the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15, Aryana Sayeed, a well-known female vocalist who is also a Canadian citizen, was in the city. She was fortunate to get a flight out with her fiance that day.

At least six folklore traditional singers fled to neighboring Pakistan with their families in recent weeks, fearing persecution following the execution of Fawad Andrabi in northern Baghlan province, according to media reports.

His son Jawad Andrabi, though blamed the Taliban directly for his father’s killing. The local council of the Taliban denied involvement and promised to prosecute his killers.



Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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