Turbans, Kebabs and Rock N’ Roll

3 Oct

I thought it would be cool to discuss arts and music in the Middle East this week, mostly because I never hear anything in the news about it- the media usually sticks to violence, war and religion when it comes to these countries.

And now I know why. I saw in an Al-Jazeera news video (below), that Afghanistan had a small rock festival this past week. This rock concert was the first live concert in Afghanistan in about 30 years. THIRTY YEARS.  This may highlight my American ignorance of the Middle East, the idea is so foreign to me. In Gainesville alone you can’t go a day without hearing about some venue showcasing live performances or various concerts happening during the weekend.

According to TheCelebrityCafe.com, bands from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and even Australia played in the six-hour music festival called Sound Central. There was a lot of variety- blues, indie electronica  and death metal played to a crowd of about 450. For many attendees, it was their very first live concert. Travis Bear, an Australian photojournalist who joined a band when he moved to Kabul came up with the idea for a concert after he was inspired by the talent and dedication of a handful of underground local musicians.

Although Afghans were given temporary relief from an otherwise violent atmosphere, this concert was not like ones in the Western world. Alcohol was banned and the only food allowed was kebabs. The festival was also stopped twice so that those praying at nearby mosques wouldn’t be disturbed. So while it was a big step for Afghanistan, the concert was still able to hold on to its own cultural identity.

The festival also remained sensitive to the tension and unrest in the country. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the concert was under tight security and the venue was kept secret for as long as possible to prevent possible protests or acts of violence. Even though this was a big step forward, music still has a long way to go. Many music shops have been attacked in cities throughout the country and most musicians stay under the radar – both effects of a Taliban regime that outlawed music.

The overall mood and effect was positive as it mirrors a movement of young Afghans embracing modern music. This is a direct effect of globalization, and in this case, a good effect. The whole theme of the festival was to encourage the conservative Muslim country to “pick up a guitar, not a gun.”  I thought the concert did a great job of bridging the gap between traditional culture and new outlets for creative growth in a war-stricken community. I also like how this incident doesn’t seem like the effects of a core country completely taking over a peripheral county’s culture. For example, although I couldn’t figure out what language the concert was in- it definitely wasn’t in English.

Hope you enjoyed the video!

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