Afghanistan’s rich musical culture under the growing humanitarian crisis, is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year.
The Taliban clampdown is a repeat of the hardliners’ previous time in power between 1996 and 2001, when they banned music as sinful, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Musical instruments are reported being smashed and burnt. According to Adib Rostami, a tabla player, most Musicians have fled the country.
“You cannot be a musician in Afghanistan, and you cannot play music, music is banned, and you saw the pictures and video that they burn the instruments. So as far as I know, most of the musicians they are trying to get out of the country. And that’s not a scenario, it is really hard to get out of the country. And them where to go? And then how to continue their careers? So it is really a difficult situation yeah.”
Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
He is jet-lagged after flying in from California to perform at London’s Barbican concert hall to raise funds for emergency medicine and education in his homeland.
He says playing the national musical instrument takes him back home.
“This is national instrument, each time I am playing with it, I feel like I am in Afghanistan, and everybody feels the same. I love all instrument but rubâb, I feel like I have my Afghanistan with me in my hand.”
Music including pop was allowed a free rein during the past two decades in Afghanistan, with local television even showing a “Pop Idol” talent contest equivalent.
But following the Taliban’s return to power, traditional Afghan music now relies on devotees overseas.