Occur Goes Global - The Music of Afghanistan


Welcome to our new feature where we explore music from around the world. It was partially inspired by eye-opening travel shows such as Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and by the continuing efforts of artists such as Pussy Riot to give voice to crises in their countries.

We’ll be posting these on a sporadic basis, going in alphabetical order. Today, we explore emerging and heralded performers from Afghanistan.


Kabul Dreams



Touted as Afghanistan’s first modern rock band, the multiethnic trio have performed for the British Embassy in their home country and have aptly covered alternative staples such as Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” Their sound is reminiscent of Placebo and other Anglo groups that emerged in the late 1990s, with a Middle Eastern lilt. They currently live in the United States and released an LP, Plastic Words, in 2013. (Seen above. Image by BH Neely [U.S. Department of State] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)



Soosan Firooz



Underneath the catchiness of her rhymes and the hypnotic take on traditional stringed music is a feminist fire. “Naqisul Aqi” roughly translates to “deficient in mind,’ a slur commonly used against women in Afghanistan. The fearless rapper challenges the misogyny of many in her nation a la Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.” Because of her outspoken lyrics and refusal to shy away from her truth, she’s been threatened with acid attacks, kidnapping and death.



White Page



“I can’t be alive without music,” says guitarist/violinist Hojat Hameed in a promo video. He and his White Page band mates bleed for their art. The hard rock group were heavily inspired by Metallica, with hints of Soundgarden shining through. And the drum fills of Reshad Afzali rival those of former Smashing Pumpkins skins man Jimmy Chamberlin. White Page were raising funds into 2013 to record an album or EP, but there’s been no indication they reached their goal or remain together.



Latifa Azizi



A former Afghan Star contestant, the ululating pop artist just released “Laili-e-Dil Ha.” The video sees Azizi made up and dressy, much to the ire of strict Islamists who were outraged at her participation in the Star talent show. (As with Firooz, Azizi was lambasted for being a female daring to create music, which is frowned upon by conservative hardliners in Afghanistan.) But the beat and her cooing delivery trump the taboo.



Habib Qaderi



This international pop sensation has been influencing the modern bent of Afghan music since the mid-1990s. Many have credited Qaderi for bringing the global spotlight to the country’s developing scene, skillfully blending time-honored instruments like the tabla with electric guitars.

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