Safdar Tawakoli is a leading Hazara folk singer and dambura player in Afghanistan.
Since the 1950’s Tawakoli’s song ‘We are all brothers’ has been famous as a national unity song. It was re-recorded by the singer Farhad Darya in 2002.
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In this interview Safdar Tawakoli explains about his problems as a musician during the Mujahidin period where power in the capital of Afghanistan was fragmented. It caused not only a lot of fighting in the streets, it also caught musicians in the middle of the cold war.
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Video interview duration: 4:40 minutes, followed by a music performance: 0:20 minutes.
The interview was prepared and edited by Samay Hamed in Kabul in Afghanistan in 2006-2008. Post-production by Mik Aidt/Freemuse. Signature music: Safdar Tawakoli.
‘My head is full of your dreams, my mother It is full of your voice and emotion, my mother’
“I am Safdar Tawakoli. Since 1967, I have been working for Radio Television Afghanistan. I think all the people are familiar with my face and my voice, and the song ‘We are all brothers’ has introduced me to most people.
After the fall of Dr Najib’s government and when Mr Mojadadi came to power we were confronted with certain problems. In the time of Hazrat Sire (Hazrat Sebghat-u-llah Mojadadi) there was a restriction on how lyrics were selected.
The problem was that some lyrics which had been selected by the Governmental Affairs Office were very one-sided. Actually I don’t remember what the lyrics were. They distributed one lyric to each artist and said that ‘you have to sing this one!’. It was kind of obligatory to sing those lyrics. Everyone recieved the lyrics, and I also got one, and they asked me to sing it. But there was a problem for me…
Have you remembered the lyrics?
No, I don’t. The problem I faced was that there was a political problem between the government and the Wahdat Party. Wahdat Party dominated over the western part of Kabul – Dehmazang and Gardan-i-Bagh-i-Balla. And the other parts were dominated by Shorai Nezar. And Mr Mojadadi was the president. Wahdat party wanted a share from the government. The Wahdat Party were from Deh-Masang and Dar-u-aman to Desht-i-Barchi, and Arghandi Mountain Pass.
I was living in the centre of Kabul, in Macrorian, and our daily attendance sheet was in Pul-i-Bagh-i-Omowi. The music production department was there. So I faced the problem because from the opposite side, maybe some… hm… I mean, I was in doubt. If I sing that song maybe I will be threatened from one side, and if not, what will happen… They said: Why didn’t you sing the lyric? So I expressed my apologies to the head of music production department like this:’Mr Head of Department, as a human being, if I sing this lyric, a commander from the Wahdat Party will say that their problem with the government has not been solved yet. And you, who are the cultural and artistic representative of Hazaras (an ethnic group) in the music production department, why sing that song?’
I felt a kind of fear. And I couldn’t sing that song. Because of that problem since I was a married man and had children – I was afraid of their reaction. Naturally, life is precious, especially for one who has wife and children. ”
‘You always sang lullabies for me I adore your voice, my mother My head is full of your dreams, my mother It is full of your voice and emotion, my mother The highest paradise of God is surely under your feet, my mother My head is full of your dreams, my mother (repeats…)
This interview is a part of the Freemuse Special Report, ‘The cage is singing’