The Music of Afghanistan comprises many varieties of classical music, folk music, and modern popular music. Afghanistan has a rich musical heritageand features a mix of Persian melodies, Indian compositional principles, and the sounds from ethnic groups such as the Pashtuns, Tajiks and Hazaras. Instruments used range from Indian tablas to long-necked lutes, and its classical music is closely related to Hindustani classical music. Lyrics throughout most of Afghanistan are typically in Dari (Persian) and Pashto. The multi-ethnic city of Kabul has long been the regional cultural capital, but outsiders have tended to focus on the city of Herat, which is home to traditions more closely related to Iranian music than in the rest of the country.
Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in South-Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and in the far northeast, China. Much of its 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi) is covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range at the western end of the Himalayas, separating the Amu Darya and Indus valleys. Kabul is the capital and largest city.
The classical music of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental and vocal forms (ghazals). Many ustad, or professional musicians, are descended from Indian artists who emigrated to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s upon the invitation of Amir Sher Ali Khan.
Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.
The Afghan concept of music is closely associated with instruments, and thus unaccompanied religious singing is not considered music. Koran recitation is an important kind of unaccompanied religious performance, as is the ecstatic Zikr ritual of the Sufis which uses songs called na't, and the Shi'a solo and group singing styles like mursia , manqasat , nowheh and rowzeh . The Chishti Sufi sect of Kabul is an exception in that they use instruments like the rubab, tabla and harmonium in their worship; this music is called tatti ("food for the soul").
Mursia is a genus of crabs in the family Calappidae, containing the following species:
Rubab, robab or rabab is a lute-like musical instrument originating from central Afghanistan. The rubab is mainly used by various ethnic groups in Western Asia. Rubab is one of the national musical instruments of Afghanistan. It has "proliferated throughout West, Central, South and Southeast Asia."
The tabla is a membranophone percussion instrument originating from the Indian subcontinent, consisting of a pair of drums, used in traditional, classical, popular and folk music. It has been a particularly important instrument in Hindustani classical music since the 18th century, and remains in use in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The name tabla likely comes from tabl, the Persian and Arabic word for drum. However, the ultimate origin of the musical instrument is contested by scholars, some tracing it to West Asia, others tracing the evolution of indigenous musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent.
Many patriotic songs for Afghanistan have been made. One of the best known songs is "Da Zamong Zeba Watan" (This is our beautiful homeland in Pashto) by Ustad Awalmir, sang sometime in the 1970s. Another very popular song is "Watan" (Homeland) by Abdul Wahab Madadi, in Persian. Recorded in 1980, the song samples a Greek song called "Antonis" composed by Mikis Theodorakis.The first line, Watan ishqe tu iftekharam, translates to "My country, my love for you is my honour". Its tone sounds very similar to a national anthem.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
Michael "Mikis" Theodorakis is a Greek songwriter and composer who has written over 1000 songs.
A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America, Central Asia, and Europe tend towards more ornate and operatic pieces, while those in the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean use a more simplistic fanfare. Some countries that are devolved into multiple constituent states have their own official musical compositions for them ; their constituencies' songs are sometimes referred to as national anthems even though they are not sovereign states.
There is no single, but many musical traditions and styles in Afghanistan. These different traditions and styles evolved over centuries in the context of a highly diverse ethnic, linguistic, regional, religious, and class distinctions which characterized Afghan society. Afghan music can be classified in a number of ways. Although it is common practice to classify Afghan music into linguistic & regional lines (i.e. Pashtu, Persian, Logari, Shomali etc.), a more technically appropriate classification would be to distinguish various forms of Afghan music purely by their musical style. Thus, Afghan music can be mainly divided into four categories: Indian classical, Mohali (folk & regional styles), Western, and another style unique to Afghanistan itself (however, mainly adopted by Persian-speaking musicians) simply called Afghan music.
Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. It is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in three mutually intelligible standard varieties, namely Iranian Persian, Dari Persian and Tajiki Persian. It is also spoken natively in the Tajik variety by a significant population within Uzbekistan, as well as within other regions with a Persianate history in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran. It is written officially within Iran and Afghanistan in the Persian alphabet, a derivation of the Arabic script, and within Tajikistan in the Tajik alphabet, a derivation of Cyrillic.
The Indian classical tradition was a hugely influential strain. The vast majority of the elite artists in Afghanistan until the 1980s were trained in the Indian classical tradition. Ustad Sarahang, Rahim Bakhsh, Ustad Nashenas and many other singers were prominent adherents of this style. This style emphasized compositions in the Indian raga style & the singing of Ghazals in melodies very similar to Indian classical & court music. The classical musical form of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental and vocal and belly dancing ragas, as well as Tarana and Ghazals.Many Ustads, or professional musicians, have learned North Indian classical music in India, and some of them were Indian descendants who moved from India to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s. They maintain cultural and personal ties with India—through discipleship or intermarriage—and they use the Hindustani musical theories and terminology, for example raga (melodic form) and tala (rhythmic cycle). Afghanistan's classical singers include the late Ustad Mohammad Hussain Sarahang (1924-1983), who is one of the master singers of Patiala Gharana in North Indian classical music and is also well known throughout India and Pakistan as a contemporary of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. His composition "Pai Ashk" was used in the theme song of the Hindi film Mera Saya. Ubaidullah Jan Kandaharai is regarded as the king of Pashto music in the southern Afghanistan region. He died in the 1980s but his music is still very much enjoyed by the Pashtun diaspora around the world, mainly by the Pashtuns in the Kandahar-Quetta regions. Other classical singers are Ustad Qasim, Ustad Rahim Bakhsh, and Ustad Nato.
Rahim Bakhsh, commonly known as was an ustad (maestro) of Hindustani classical music and classical music culture from Afghanistan. He is also well renowned and popular in a few neighboring countries. He was born in Kharabat into a well-known Tajik family, a traditional part city of art in Kabul and was the creator of a new classical music in Afghanistan. With his work he represented the more than 4500 years old Tajik culture of Central Asia. He was counted as leading authorities of classical music in Afghanistan. Like virtually all classical vocalists of Afghanistan, he belonged to the Patiala Gharana of Hindustani classical music. The Ustad died in 2002. His last wish was to have his grave beside his teacher Ustad Qasim. Ustad Rahim Bakhsh's grave is situated in Kabul on a place called Showda where every Friday night Sufis are praying.
Tarana is a type of composition in Hindustani classical vocal music in which certain words and syllables based on Persian and Arabic phonemes are rendered at a medium or fast or very fast. It was invented by Amir Khusro, and is similar to the Qalbana form of Sufi poetry. In modern times, the tarana is most commonly associated with the singer Amir Khan, who helped popularize it and researched its origins and the syllables used. Nissar Hussain Khan was also well known for tarana singing. Tarana was also used by Sikh tenth Guru Gobind Singh in his compositions.
The ghazal is a form of amatory poem or ode, originating in Arabic poetry. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.
The second group, Mohali (folk) music was more diverse. It contained various folkloric & regional styles which had evolved indigenously without outside influence. These styles include Qataghani, Logari, Qarsak etc. which are specific to a region & linguistic group in Afghanistan. Some prominent artists in this category were Hamahang, Beltoon etc. Many other singers, however, who do not belong to this genre, have dabbled in recording songs in the Qataghani, logari, qarsak etc. styles. Each of these forms had its own scale (they did not use the classical Indian raga scale, nor did they use the western major/minor scale) and mainly consisted of well known songs whose composition and lyrics had evolved organically over centuries. These lyrics, though deep, were often simple and lacked the poetic sophistication of the great Persian & Pashtu poetical traditions.
Momin Khan Biltoon was an Afghan Pashtun singer from Kabul Province, Afghanistan. He was born in Chakari village of Khaki Jabbar District, Kabul. However, he spent most of his life in Logar Province of Afghanistan. Biltoon sang in both Pashto and Dari languages. His style of music reflects the Kharabat style of Kabul. Biltoon's father died before he was born, and his mother did so when he was young. He was raised by his sister in Logar Province of Afghanistan. Biltoon learned the rubab and tanbur at a young age. He started singing at the age of 15. His first song was in both Persian and Pashto.
The third and most popular musical traditions in Afghanistan are the Pashtu (which belongs to the folk & Indian classical tradition simultaneously), and the pure Afghan musical style. The pure Afghan musical style was popularized by the immortal Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir. This style is primarily popular with the Persian/Dari-speaking audience and it transcends any regional and class barriers. The style borrows from many other musical traditions such as the Indian, Iranian, Middle Eastern, folkloric Afghan traditions etc., but it fuses all these styles into a sound that is unique to Afghanistan and suits the lyrical, poetic, rhythmic, and orchestral tastes of the Afghan Persian/Dari speaking-audience. The vast majority of Persian-speaking singers since the 1970s belong to this genre. Apart from Ahmad Zahir, the most successful contemporary proponent of this style of Farhad Darya. However, the progenitor of this musical tradition was another Afghan singer named Abdul Rahim Sarban. Sarban's songs set the template for the unique Persian-language Afghan musical sound that characterizes the most popular Afghan musical genre today. Sarban chose poetry from the great classical Persian/Dari poets & set them to compositions which incorporated elements of the western jazz and belle chanson with the mohali (regional) traditions of Afghanistan. Up until then, Afghanistan had been mainly a borrower of styles from Iran, India & other countries. With Sarban's arrival, Afghan music reach such a height that renown artists from major cultural centres such as Iran borrowed his songs & covered them for their audiences (for instance Iran's immortal singer Googoosh covered a number of Sarban's songs most famously his "Ay Sarban Ahesta Ran").
Sarban's musical style was effectively adopted by Ahmad Zahir, Ahmad Wali, Nashenas, Afsana, Seems Tarana, Jawad Ghaziyar, Farhad Darya, & numerous other Afghan Persian-speaking singers & transformed into a genuine recognizable Afghan musical style that is as easily recognizable as Flamenco is as a Spanish musical style, & Mariachi is a Mexican musical style.
This form, Western music (mainly consisting of pop, and nowadays rap etc.), is influenced mainly by the western musical tradition. However, in spite of its modernity, it is not the most popular musical genre. Many singers including Ahmad Zahir have sung in this tradition (pop, rock n roll etc.). Most recently, there has been a blooming of rap & hip hop scene in Afghanistan as well. However, the western musical influence on Afghan music continues to be only in the fields of instrumentation & orchestration; Afghan musicians tent to choose musical language & compositions which belong to indigigenous Afghan musical forms but they use western musical instruments (such as drums, percussions, guitars etc.) to orchestrate their music. there are very few musicians who compose in the western musical tradition as well.
The rubab is a common lute-like instrument in Afghanistan, and is the forerunner of the Indian sarod.The rubab is sometimes considered the national instrument of Afghanistan, and is called the "lion of instruments"; one reviewer claims it sounds like "a Middle Eastern predecessor to the blues that popped up in the Piedmont 100 years ago". The rubab has a double-chambered body carved from mulberry wood, which is chosen to give the instrument its distinct timbre. It has three main strings and a plectrum made from ivory, bone or wood.
Famous players of the rubab are Mohammad Omar his famous student Sardar Mado of Qargha-Kabul, now is Sardar Mado, while modern performers include Essa Kassemi, Homayun Sakhi, and Mohammed Rahim Khushnawaz.
The dombura, dambura or dambora is a popular folk instrument, among Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens and the northern Tajiks. Notable dombura players in Afghanistan include Dilagha Surood, Naseer Parwani, Dawood Sarkhosh, Mir Maftoon, Safdar Tawakoli and Rajab Haideri. The dombura is played with much banging and scratching on the instrument to help give a percussive sound. The two strings are made of nylon (in modern times) or gut. They cross a short bridge to a pin at the other end of the body. There is a tiny sound hole in the back of the instrument, while the top is thick wood. It is not finished with any varnish, filing or sanding of any kind, and as with all other Afghanistan instruments there is some decoration.
Ghichak is a string instrument made by the Hazara people of Afghanistan
In 1925, Afghanistan began radio broadcasting, but its station was destroyed in 1929. Broadcasting did not resume until Radio Kabul opened in 1940.As Radio Afghanistan reached the entire country, popular music grew more important. In 1951, Parwin became the first Afghan woman to sing live in Radio. Farida Mahwash, one of the famous female singers who then gained the title of Ustad (Master), had a major hit with "O bacheh" in 1977; she was "perhaps the most notable" of pop singers.
Modern popular music did not arise until the 1950s when radio became commonplace in the country. They used orchestras featuring both Afghan and Indian instruments, as well as European clarinets, guitars and violins. The 1970s were the golden age of Afghanistan's music industry. Popular music also included Indian and Pakistani cinema film and music imported from Iran, Tajikistan, the Arab world and elsewhere.
Pop music emerged in Afghanistan during the 1950s, and became very popular until the late 1970s. What helped the emergence of pop music in Afghanistan were amateur singers from non-traditional music backgrounds who wanted to showcase their talents in the studio Radio Kabul. These singers were from middle- to upper-class families and were more educated than singers from traditional music backgrounds.
These amateurs innovated in Afghan music and created a more modern approach to the traditional folklore and classical music of Afghans. Amateur singers included Farhad Darya (the legend of Afghan's today music), Ahmad Zahir, Nashinas (Dr. Sadiq Fitrat) Ahmad Wali, Zahir Howaida, Rahim Mehryar, Mahwash, Haidar Salim, Ehsan Aman, Najim Nawabi, is Salma Jahani, Sharif Ghazal, Dawood Vaziri Hangama, Parasto, Naghma, Mangal, Farhad Darya, Sarban, and others. Ahmad Zahir was among Afghanistan's most famous singers; throughout the 60s and 70s he gained national and international recognition in countries like Iran and Tajikistan.
During the 1990s, the Afghan Civil War caused many musicians to flee, and subsequently the Taliban government banned instrumental music and much public music-making.Taliban's punishments of being caught playing music or being caught with cassettes ranged from confiscation and a warning to severe beatings and imprisonment. Many people continued to secretly play their instruments. Exiled musicians from the famous Kharabat district of Kabul set up business premises in Peshawar, Pakistan, where they continued their musical activities. Much of the Afghan music industry was preserved via circulation in Peshawar and the holding of concerts for Afghan performers there helped to keep the industry alive.
Since the 2001 US intervention in Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban, the music scene has begun to re-emerge. Some groups, like the Kaboul Ensemble, have gained an international reputation.In addition, traditional Pashtun music (especially in the southeast of the country) has entered a period of "golden years", according to a prominent spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Interior, Lutfullah Mashal.
Rock music is slowly gaining a foothold in the country, and Kabul Dreams is one of the few Afghan rock bands; formed in 2008 by ex-pats, they claim to be the first one.Additionally, singing competition television series such as Afghan Star have become popular in recent years, with singing contestants performing songs, including those formerly banned.
Afghan hip hop is a type of music popular among Afghanistan's youth and immigrant community.It inherits much of the style of traditional hip hop, but puts added emphasis on rare cultural sounds. Afghan hip hop is mostly sung in Dari (Persian), Pashto, and English. One popular hip hop artist is DJ Besho (Bezhan Zafarmal), a resident of Kabul. Another is 'Awesome Qasim', who is known in Canada and raps in Persian, Pashto, and English. Qasim's most recent album came out in February 2013 in Canada. Kabul musician Soosan Firooz has been described as Afghanistan's first female rapper. Sonita Alizadeh is another female Afghan rapper, who has gained notoriety for writing music protesting forced marriages. The country's rapping scene has become increasingly prelavent in recent years. In 2017, Sayed Jamal Mubarez became the first rapper to win the annual Afghan Star musical competition.
Radio Kabul is the public radio station of Afghanistan. The name Radio Kabul has been given to many different incarnations of the state-run radio station since the first radio transmitters were installed in Kabul in the 1920s.
The Music of Pakistan includes diverse elements ranging from music from various parts of South Asia as well as Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and modern-day Western popular music influences. With these multiple influences, a distinctive Pakistani sound has emerged.
Mohammad Hashem Cheshti, also known with surname Chishti and as Ustad Hashem, was a contemporary classical musician and composer born in Kharabat area of Kabul, Afghanistan, who died in 1994 in Germany under unclear circumstances.
Ahmad Zahir was an Afghan singer, songwriter, and composer. His songs are in Dari Persian. Zahir was the first and only superstar in Afghanistan as his appeal crossed all boundaries of age, class, language, and regions. Besides being a pioneer of rock and pop music in Afghanistan, he experimented and performed almost all styles of music, including Indian classical music, Iranian, English, Qarsak, Qataghani and Logari.
The culture of Afghanistan has persisted for over three millennia, tracing record to at least the time of the Achaemenid Empire in 500 BCE. Afghanistan translates to "Land of the Afghans" or "Place of Afghans" in the nation's official languages, Dari and Pashto. It is mostly a tribal society with different regions of the country having its own subculture. Nearly all Afghans follow Islamic traditions, celebrate the same holidays, dress the same, consume the same food, listen to the same music and are multi-lingual to a certain extent.
Durrani or Sadozai is a Sarbani Pashtun tribal confederation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have been called Durrani since the beginning of the Durrani Empire in 1747. Durrani are found throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan; although large concentrations are found in southern Afghanistan, they are also found to a lesser extent in east, west and central Afghanistan. Many Durranis are found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, as well as in Azad Kashmir provinces of Pakistan. The Durrani Pashtuns of the Afghan capital Kabul are usually bilingual in Pashto and Dari Persian. The ruling Sadduzai and Barakzai dynasties of Afghanistan were from the Durrani.
Pashtun culture is based on Pashtunwali, which is an ancient way of life, as well as speaking of the Pashto language and wearing Pashtun dress. The culture of the Pashtun people is highlighted since at least the time of Herodotus or Alexander the Great, when he explored the Afghanistan and Pakistan region in 330 BC. The Pashtun culture has little outside influence, and, over the ages, has retained a great degree of purity.
Ustād Mohammad Hussain Sarāhang was an Afghan ghazal singer and an exponent of Indian classical music from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Dr. Mohammad Sadiq Fitrat, born as Sadiq Fitrat Habibi,, known professionally as Nashenas, is one of the oldest surviving musicians from Afghanistan. His fame began in the late 1950s, and since then he has produced many albums consisting of Pashto, Persian, and Urdu songs. He is known as "the Afghan Saigal".
Abdul-Rahim Mahmoody Sārbān, known simply as Sarban, was an Afghan singer Born in Kabul, Afghanistan he is known for his unique voice and music style that no other singer from Afghanistan has been able to surpass. Sarban's songs are unrivalled for their choice of poetry, originality of composition, and sophisticated orchestration. Known as the Frank Sinatra of Afghanistan, he was the first Afghan artist to break away from the prevalent musical forms in Afghanistan at the time, namely the Indian inspired pure classical tradition, and the 'mohali' musical traditions exemplified by the Pashto music, logari, qataghani, qarsak etc. In partnership with the legendary composer Salim Sarmast, Sarban's music fused elements, rhythms and orchestration of the western musical traditions of jazz and "Belle Chanson" with the prevalent Afghan musical tradition to create a unique and lasting style which became an inspiration for all ensuing artists including the great Ahmad Zahir.
Afghanistan is a multilingual country in which two languages – Persian and Pashto – are both official and most widely spoken.
Zahir Howaida (Persian:ظاهرهویدا) was a popular Afghan musician. He had been active since the 1960s and his popularity peaked with the hit songs "Kamar Bareek-e-Man" and "Shanidam Az Inja Safar Mikoni." Howaida was renowned for his deep, soulful voice. Almost all his songs were in the Dari Persian language. Aside from singing he also worked as a radio news anchor, poet, and as an actor on Afghanistan's television. In his later years, he lived a secluded life in Germany and seldom performed until his death there.
Parasto is an Afghan singer. She has been a singer since the 1970s and rose to fame with her former husband Rahim Mehryar.
Pashto music is commonly performed in Afghanistan, mostly in the eastern parts and among the Pashtun diaspora, Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, northern Balochistan province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The major center for Pashto music and arts is found in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Kharābat, is a neighborhood in the old city of Kabul, Afghanistan. It is a historic area near Hinduguzar, the quarter of Hindus and Sikhs. It has long accommodated musicians. Kharābat has educated many famous musicians of Afghanistan in the Indian Patiali school.
Ghulam Dastagir Shaida Ustad Ghulam Dastagir (1916–1970) was an Afghan singer and musician. Ustad Shaida was born in the Kharabat neighborhood of Kabul, home of Kabul musicians who sung in classical Indian tradition. Ustad Shaida is considered as one of the great Ustads of Afghan classical music along with Ustad Sarahang and Ustad Rahim Bakhsh. His unique voice and style of singing resulted in fellow Kharabat musicians bestowing upon him the title of Shaida, which in Sufi tradition means one who has sacrificed himself for divine love.
Mangal, born in Laghman is a prominent Afghan singer who started in the early 1970s. He and his ex-wife, Naghma, were a popular musical duo who dominated Afghan music scene during the 1970s and early 1990s. Mangal sings in Pashto and Dari. His music is popular in Afghanistan, and Pakistan.