The Talibanned Sounds of Young Pakistan

[caption id="attachment_820" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Zeek Afridi"]Zeek Afridi[/caption] In November 2001, the sounds of rubabs, dutars, and other musical instruments were heard in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, for the first time since the Taliban's draconian regulations were installed in 1996. The Taliban, through its Ministry of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, had been arresting musicians, destroying instruments, shredding tapes, smashing VCRs, and preventing both private and public musical performances. Their justification? Muhammed's threat that, "Those who listen to music and songs in this world, on the Day of Judgment, molten lead will be poured into their ears."

When I wrote about the Taliban's battle against most music in the Village Voice, the Northern Alliance had recently marched into Kabul to roust the fundies. Unfortunately, the Taliban's currently back to its old wickedness in Pakistan, where a new generation of young performers, and their families, are being targeted. The popular young Pashtun singer Zeek Afridi, for example, is being harassed via text messages, according to Radio Liberty.

Zeek's big hit is "Khyber Zalmi," whose 70-year-old lyrics celebrate patriotic "brave youth" opposing those with "bad intentions." The "Khyber Zalmi" video juxtaposes a sentimental melody sung by earnest young men bearing machine guns.

Freemuse, an online journal devoted to "freedom of musical expression," regularly reports on other examples of music censorship in Pakistan and elsewhere. In April, Taliban members shaved the heads and mustaches of four men in Buner (near Islamabad) for listening to music. The same month, the Lahore High Court banned songs by Lahore singers Naseebo Lal and Nooro Lal, deeming them "indecent, immoral" and "against the values of a Muslim society." As Zeek Afridi told Radio Liberty, "We are all at risk."