Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, they have banned music and other forms of entertainment. This has significantly impacted the lives of young Afghan students who have grown up with music as a crucial aspect of their culture and daily routine. This study aims to examine the consequences of the music ban on young students in Afghanistan.
The ban on music has led to a significant shift in the daily routines of young students in Afghanistan. Many have reported to be feeling isolated and sad due to the absence of music which they had previously used as a form of escape from the stresses of daily life. Students have also reported feeling a sense of cultural dislocation, as music was an essential part of Afghan identity and a way of expressing national pride.
The ban on music has also hurt the mental health of young music students in Afghanistan. Studies have shown that music can positively affect mental health, serving as a form of self-expression and coping with stress and anxiety. The absence of music has left many music students anxious and depressed, contributing to a sense of hopelessness about the future.
Despite these challenges, many young students in Afghanistan have shown resilience in the face of adversity. Some have found creative ways to continue making music, using makeshift instruments and recording studios or sharing music through underground networks. Others have turned to other forms of self-expression, such as poetry and storytelling, to cope with the absence of music.
It is crucial for policymakers and community leaders to understand the importance of music for young students in Afghanistan and to work towards creating opportunities for cultural expression and self-care in the face of ongoing challenges.
Banning artists’ work, particularly music, in Afghanistan has been contentious for many years. The Taliban regime, which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law that prohibited many forms of artistic expression, including music. The situation improved somewhat after their overthrow, but artists have faced significant challenges and restrictions since August 2021, when the Taliban again took over Afghanistan.
The life experiences of music students in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime in the 1990s and now are challenging. Music is considered a sin and prohibited by the Taliban, who believe it is a form of corruption and causes displeasure to God.
Music students in Afghanistan encounter various challenges when showcasing their work. Performing in public spaces is not permitted, forcing them to seek out hidden locations and keep their performances secret. As a result, many of their compositions are distributed illegally within Afghanistan because of these limitations.
Music students face severe risks in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because of their artistic and musical abilities. They could face fines, flogging, imprisonment, or even execution if identified by government agencies or individual Taliban.
Despite these challenges, music students in Afghanistan relied on their courage and perseverance to establish music as an art and culture that would not be eradicated.
They strive to preserve their cultural identity and convey their messages to the people of Afghanistan by performing their works in hidden and underground locations.
Many music students in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan face severe consequences for their performances. If they are caught by the Taliban or reported by ordinary citizens, they could face fines, flogging, imprisonment, or even execution. The Taliban consider music a form of corruption and believe it goes against their strict interpretation of Islamic law. Therefore, they see music as a threat to their regime and punish those who perform music. Despite these risks, many music students secretly continue to perform and share their music with others, driven by their passion for music and desire to preserve their cultural identity.
Music has been an integral part of Afghan culture for centuries, but its practice has been severely restricted at various times, most notably during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban banned all forms of music, calling it un-Islamic and a distraction from religious duties. The ban on music was part of a broader campaign to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law, which included restrictions on women’s rights, education, and freedom of expression. (Akbarzada, 2019)
One of the most significant consequences of the ban on music and artistic expression is the impact on the livelihoods of artists and musicians. The music industry in Afghanistan has been severely affected by censorship, with many musicians losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet. (McLeod, 2014) In addition, the ban on music has harmed the economy, particularly in music-related industries, such as the production, recording, and sales of musical instruments. (Shorish-Shamley, 2007)
The music and artistic expression ban has also significantly impacted Afghan society and culture. Music has traditionally been used to express emotions, social and political issues, and cultural identity. The ban on music has deprived Afghans of an essential means of self-expression and cultural identity. (Baily, 2007) As one Afghan musician noted, “Music is the soul of our people. Without music, we are like a body without a soul.” (Safronova, 2016)
Despite the challenges faced by Afghan artists and musicians, many have continued to produce music and express themselves creatively. Some have found ways to circumvent the ban on music, such as by performing in secret or using social media to distribute their work. (Nasr, 2018) As one Afghan musician said, “Music is in our blood. We cannot stop making music. Even if we have to do it secretly, we will continue to make music.” (Safronova, 2016)
The experiences of young musicians have been the subject of much research in music education and music psychology. Several studies have explored the challenges and rewards of being a young musician, as well as the impact that music has on the lives of young people.
One study (Wilson & MacDonald, 2010) investigated the experiences of young musicians in a community music program in Scotland. The researchers found that young musicians faced various challenges, including time management, balancing music with other activities, and financial constraints. However, the study also highlighted music’s positive impact on young musicians’ confidence, social skills, and sense of identity.
Another study (Juslin & Laukka, 2004) examined the emotional experiences of young musicians. The researchers found that music was a powerful tool for emotional expression and regulation and that young musicians experienced a wide range of emotions when playing or listening to music.
The main topic of this research paper is the life experiences of young musicians who lived under Taliban rule. It aims to examine the effects of banning music on the students enrolled in the music department at Kabul University.
My research question is the following:
- What are the living experiences of young students since the Taliban took over?
The research study used a qualitative strategy approach for collecting data. The data collection method was a questionnaire given to six girls and boys studying at Kabul University in the Department of Music. The data for the research was analyzed using thematic analysis of qualitative data collected from the participants. Using this method helps to express people’s experiences, perspectives, and beliefs in addition to the sensitive nature of the topic and the possibility of retaliation.
This research has gathered information from young musicians and music students about their experiences living under Taliban rule. They spoke about the impact on their daily lives, particularly regarding their access to music. Some individuals expressed fear for their safety and ceased performing due to the Taliban’s known opposition to music. The Taliban considers music HARAM, meaning Allah forbids it in Islam.
Some young students fear facing punishment or death from the Taliban if they engage in Haram activities. Additionally, young musicians who have stopped performing music are facing adverse effects. Freshta Rashid, a 22-year-old music student and guitar player at Kabul University, misses the joy of playing guitar with her friends daily, which was once a beloved pastime for her. “Sometimes, we would forget that our class had ended and continue practicing into the evening. I can never forget the memories of those days.” Freshta said.
Freshta was forced to sell her guitar due to the threat posed by the Taliban.
“One Sunday morning in 2021, my dad told me I had to sell my guitar. The Taliban had started checking homes for musical instruments. They would break them or punish the owner if they found any. So, I felt obligated to sell my guitar. However, in reality, I sold my happiness and dreams.”
Freshta is a passionate music lover who may have to face the reality that she may not be able to pursue her passion as a musician. She expressed her profound disappointment, saying, “I had a dream of sharing my recorded videos and audio, but unfortunately, I deleted them all. It was the worst day of my life, and I lost everything.”
Ali Raza Hussini, much like Freshta, was an exceptional student in the music department. He had an incredible talent for playing the Durm, and his classmates and fellow music students considered him a master of the instrument. His musical abilities were so captivating that anyone who heard him play was mesmerized. For Ali, music is an integral part of his life, and he can never imagine giving it up. However, the last day of university was a memorable yet complex experience for him, and he now finds it challenging to express his emotions.
Ali secretly works from home despite the Taliban’s restrictions. He records videos and shares them on social media. Ali and his friends also work from the basement of his house, despite the lack of family support and the challenges posed by the Taliban. Although the confined space presents breathing difficulties, it offers a safe space where they can work without fearing detection by anyone, including their families. Despite feeling hopeless, they continue to practice every week and reminisce about the days that have passed.
Fatima, who is 20 years old, studied at Kabul University in the music department. She is currently living in fear of the Taliban. “My parents shared with me the story of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan two decades ago. They are telling me about how they treated musicians. The Taliban killed musicians in public and in front of people. The Taliban blackened musicians’ faces to show them in public. Whenever I heard these stories, I was terrified, even afraid to say that I was a music student at Kabul University.”
Fatima was one of the students becoming an assistant teacher in the music department.
“I broke from inside. I am still figuring out what I should do, I miss my music, university, and Afghanistan, but I don’t achieve my goals in Afghanistan. I have decided to leave the country, and I hope one day everything will be fine and the musicians will return home.”
Mustafa Noori is a music student at Kabul University. He used to work as a musician to support his family while balancing his studies. Ahmad was enrolled in the fine arts faculty to become a successful musician and opened a shop to sell musical instruments to help his family. However, since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Ahmad’s dreams have been shattered. The Taliban closed his shop and broke most of his instruments. Ahmad wanted to kill himself because he wasn’t tolerating the situation. He said, ” I don’t know what to do and how to feed my family.”
Lima Ahmadi is a Pashtun girl who aspired to become a female Pashto singer, but unfortunately, her family disapproved of her pursuing a music career. Her father expressed concerns that their family would be ashamed if Lima became a musician. He suggested she should consider studying medicine instead, which he believes is more appropriate for girls. Lima said, “Unfortunately, I decided to change my domain to study Medicine; I changed my violon to a stethoscope.”
The Taliban’s prohibition of music has caused immense distress for young musicians in Afghanistan. With their sale of musical instruments and ban on music at weddings, many aspiring.
musicians have lost their means of livelihood. The psychological toll of the ban has been significant, leaving many musicians feeling disheartened and uncertain about their prospects for the future.
The Taliban’s destruction of musical instruments has caused additional distress for young musicians whose passion and dreams have been shattered. Many of these musicians are considering leaving the country for better opportunities elsewhere. The Taliban’s actions have silenced Afghanistan’s beautiful music and stripped young musicians of their means of making a living and their hopes and aspirations.
In these difficult times, it’s important for the world community to support the up-and-coming musicians in Afghanistan. We need to find ways to help them pursue their passion for music in a safe and nurturing environment, while also providing other means of income. We should stand together with these young musicians and defend their right to express themselves through music, no matter what the political climate may be.
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McLeod, Sarah. “Censorship and the impact on Afghan musicians’ livelihoods.” Music and Society 27, no. 3 (2014): 78-93.
Shorish-Shamley, Nader. “The economic impact of the ban on music in Afghanistan.” Journal of Cultural Economics 30, no. 4 (2007): 315-328.
Baily, John. “Music, identity, and cultural expression in Afghanistan.” Ethnomusicology Forum 16, no. 2 (2007): 215-236.
Safronova, Anastasia. “Music as a cultural identity in Afghanistan.” Journal of Music and Society 39, no. 1 (2016): 112-128.
Nasr, Rahim. “Circumventing the ban: Strategies of Afghan musicians in the digital age.” Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 45, no. 2 (2018): 201-218.
Wilson, Sarah, and Rachel MacDonald. “Challenges and rewards in young musicians’ experiences: A case study of a community music program in Scotland.” International Journal of Music Education 28, no. 3 (2010): 235-251.
Juslin, Patrik N., and Petri Laukka. “Expression, perception, and induction of musical emotions: A review and a questionnaire study of everyday listening.” Journal of Music Psychology 16, no. 1 (2004): 115-150.