Aiab Gul Delshad

Farhad DaryaAiab Gul DeishadAziz GhaznawiBaktash KamranFazl-u-Rahman WahdatGhazal AhmadiNairezSafdar TawakoliSahar AfarinZhakfar HussainiClick to go to main page of 'The cage is singing'

Aiab Gul Delshad

Aiab Gul Delshad is the head of Afghanistan’s Music Union, and also a famous folk singer. He started working with Radio Afghanistan in 1950.

Aiab Gul Delshad was arrested once, and imprisoned and tortured another time, because of a few words in two song lyrics.

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In this interview Aiab Gul Delshad speaks about his personal experiences with music censorship and self-censorship in King Zahir Shah’s period (1933-1973) and Hafiz-u-Llah Amin’s period (1979).

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Video interview duration: 4:48 minutes, followed by a music performance: 1:20 min.

The interview was prepared and edited by Samay Hamed in Kabul in Afghanistan in 2006-2008. Post-editing by Mik Aidt/Freemuse.
Signature music: Safdar Tawakoli.

Click to listen to the audio track from this videoTo download: Right-click and choose 'Save Target As'

Click to read more about music censorship in Afghanistan

Transcription of the video interview

    “All my youth I spent on you
    But through–out my whole life
    I never felt comfortable
    The burned wound of your love
    is nested in my heart
    My heart was full of blood
    Oh, my beloved
    There will be tulips and humble plants
    growing on my grave

My name is Aiab Gul Delshad. I was born in 1935 in the Logar Province in Afghanistan. I started working with Radio Afghanistan in 1950.
Songs used to be performed live in the radio at that time – without any pre–recording. It was all live performance. We just sang the lyrics.

Once I sang a song:

    ‘I have heard that The Best Ones
    (beautiful sweethearts) are not loyal
    I have heard from my heart
    that they have no friendship
    Oh, youthful ones! Admonition
    has no impact on lovers!
    The heart will not be separated from
    tulip–faced sweethearts
    It is not good to look
    at beautiful ladies
    because the colour of youth
    is not permanent’

After that, a person came and asked me:
‘Do you know the meaning of this song? Do you know who is The Best Ones (Khuban)?’

I said: ‘No, I don’t know!’

What time was this?

It was in King Zahir Shah’s period. Khuban (The Best Ones) is the royal family.

Who was the man that came?

He was from the ‘Khad’ (slang for ‘intelligence service’).
I could be imprisoned, he told me. There was an intelligence representative at Radio Afghanistan. I then changed the word ‘khuban’ to ‘ashiq’ (lover), and recorded the song again. After a period of time I sung another song from Bai Jan:

    ‘How strange is my crazy beloved!
    She is thinking that the Best Ones are loyal’

The intelligence representative came to me again…

The intelligence man?

Yes! I replied that the poet had written these lyrics, not me!
And I said: I don’t care about your radio. I can go back to my village

What was their interpretation of the poetry?

It was only because of the use of that one word, ‘khuban’ (the best ones)


Because it was considered to be against the royal family. There is no one who can call themselves “the best” in this country except the royal family. Again:

    ‘How strange is my crazy beloved!
    She is thinking that the best ones are loyal’

I changed this line to:

    ‘How strange is my crazy beloved!
    She is thinking that the lover is loyal’

So I changed it again:

    ‘Why has the Charkh of Logar hit me?
    I should not be accused.
    My sweetheart is separated from me’

After that, I always made sure to self–censor my lyrics in order to avoid imprisonment a third time. I decided never to use that word, ‘khuban’, anymore! And then the regimes were changed.

When Hafizulah Amin came to power (in 1979) I was tortured for not singing pro–regime propaganda songs – not singing lyrics that praised the Party. I told them: I am a national singer, and I sing for my people. I said: If I were to sing pro–regime songs… If I travel to perform in Charikar for a
wedding, then people will kill me or if I travelled to Paghman…People would kill me!
Then the nephew of Hafizulah Amin put me in prison – and then somebody helped me, and I was released.

Did they give you specific lyrics that they wanted you to sing?

No no! They just said: You must find some pro–regime lyrics yourself – and sing in favour of the (Communist) Party and the regime. I told them that I am not a poet, and I can’t find any such poetry. They said: “We don’t like you! Put this man in prison!”
Somebody helped me, and got me out of the prison. I was imprisoned 25 days, and I was slapped and tortured. Then the regimes were changed, and changed. . .

Where were you imprisoned?

In the Sadarat (the building of the Prime Minister). Instead of giving plates of food to us, they ‘slapped’ us. Instead of encouraging us, they kicked us. It was very difficult for us, and I wished that I become a porter or garbage cleaner – instead of being a musician. At least then I could just clean the garbage and be a free person. The memory of all this is really very painful for me.

About the Taliban period:

“When the Taliban came to power, I had to quit music, but in order to earn a living, I opened a pharmacy. Some people reported to the Taliban about me. They came to my house and broke all my musical instruments into pieces.”

This interview is a part of the Freemuse Special Report, ‘The cage is singing’

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