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


Fazl-u-Rahman Nairez is a famous singer in Afghanistan, mostly known from national tv performances.

Nairez was one of the singers who were forced to sing praisal songs for the Taliban regime in 1996-2001.

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In this interview Nairez speaks about his problems with music censorship during the Taliban period and up til now. In particular he explains about one song which was the reason he got fired from his job in Radio Television Afghanistan, together with 50 of his colleages.

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Video interview duration: 4:37 minutes, followed by a music performance: 0:33 minutes.

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.

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Click to read more about music censorship in Afghanistan

Transcription of the video interview

“My name is Fazl-u-Rahman, and my stage name is Nairez. Since 1963, I have been working for Radio Afghanistan. And ever since its start day, I have been working for Afghanistan’s National TV as a singer.

Censorship of music and lyrics has a long history in Afghanistan. It was enforced from the very beginning. I remember singers who started before me who had to get their lyrics checked and approved before they were allowed to make a recording of it.

When the Mujahidin came to power in Afghanistan they started to implement a principle kind of music censorship. They differentiated between instrumental music and vocal music. In the beginning, they only allowed singers to perform without instruments. After a period, then they allowed the use of the traditional instruments. Music was said to be ‘haram’ (‘forbidden according to the religion’). And lyrics had to be checked.

Every regime allowed only lyrics which supported their policy. At that time, I sung a lyric – actually, as a commitment, an artist should reflect the objective realities of the society… At that time, while our people was completely depressed from the persecutrion and censorship,  I found a lyric, and sang it:

    ‘Be aware that this people has a God
    And eventually, the groan of
    created beings will get a voice
    Soon the sigh of oppressed
    people will affect the oppressor
    Every action has a reward, and every
    behaviour has a judgement’

So, after I had sung and recorded these lyrics, the song was broadcasted for about six months or one year. A part of the song was brought to BBC Radio and they broadcasted it. After six months I faced several problems because of that song. What kind of problems they were? …well, they just passed.

I was fired from my job – together with 50 of my artistical colleagues whom I had organised to sing ‘tarana’ (a capella) during the Taliban period. Both singers and music players were singing ‘tarana’. While we were singing tarana, they asked me about the lyrics: For whom I had sung these lyrics? Of what the people should be aware?

I replied: ‘These are not my lyrics…’

I made a fake accusation and said: ‘This is Rumi’s poetry.’

Therefore, I was fired from my job and all my 50 colleagues also lost their jobs.

After that I was again employed in radio, but I shifted from the song recording department to the song broadcasting unit as a music implementation officer.

In every regime there has been censorship of lyrics as well as oppression of freedom of expression, and it is still existing [in 2007]. Recently I wanted to reflect the realities of our society in a song but they didn’t allow that. They didn’t approve of my lyrics. So the lyrics were like this:

    ‘Oh God, help us! This is the end of time!
    Both the colour of a healthy and an ill
    person is like the colour of autumn’

So it was continuing like this:

    ‘One is thinking of a loaf of bread,
    and the other is wondering’

So the lyrics were like that, and they didn’t approve that.

To finish these censorships… If you want to reconstruct our society there must be… Hmm… We hope that there will first of all be freedom of expression for singers, musicians, poets, and others. It is the artists whose voices cross the borders and bring messages to the world. But even now, in the National Radio and Television of Afghanistan, lyrics are being checked as to whether they can be approved for broadcast.”

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

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