Young singer becomes symbol in
the struggle for music freedom
18-year-old Lima Sahar has placed herself in the middle of Afghanistan’s continous gender and music struggle. She could become the winner of the tv show ‘Afghan Star’ – the war-torn country’s answer to ‘American Idol’ which is drawing millions of viewers despite being condemned as ‘un-Islamic’ by Kabul’s Islamic council of clerics.
She beat out 2,000 other hopefuls who auditioned for the third season of ‘Afghan Star’, wearing a headscarf and glitter in her hair, while she sang Pashtun oldies, though without any dance moves.
Lima Sahar is the first member of the Pashtun ethnic group from southern Afghanistan to reach the finals of the popular ‘Afghan Star’ show. The town she lives in, Kandahar, is considered to be the birthplace of the Taliban, which banned music and tv in Afghanistan until being driven from power in late 2001 – in other words a place where trying out for becoming the winner of ‘Afghan Star’ is seen as an act of defiance, a political statement in song.
The Pashtun traditionally keeps women at home or requires them to wear the all-encompassing burqas. Lima Sahar is not only Pashtun, she is also the first Afghan woman to reach this far in the tv show competition, and as such, the news of her success has reached newspaper, blog and website readers around the world.
‘Rejected by Islam’
Sayed-ur-Rahman Niazi, the cleric at Kabul’s central mosque which attracts 50,000 worshipers during weekly Friday prayers, was quoted by Chicago Tribune as having said this very strong anti-music statement:
Ali Ahmad Jebra-ali, a member of the Kabul’s Islamic council of clerics, said:
Haji Baran Khan, a farmer from Kandahar said a Pashtun girl singing on tv goes against the country’s culture:
Sediqi, the host of the tv show, told newspapers that he is well aware that .
It is filmed in the Afghan Markopolo Wedding Hall, which resembles a layered peach-and-cream wedding cake with mirrored icing, in front of a live audience of about 300 people.
In one recent show, after a judge said she was surprised Sahar had succeeded because she was the weakest contestant, Lima Sahar confronted the judge and said she had faced many difficulties in her life, and that she was from Kandahar and “survived dangers to come to Kabul and sing”.
Her family was reported to appear aware of the potential trouble Sahar’s tv appearances could cause them, but did not want to discuss it. Lima Sahar said her family would move to Kabul because of the show, but said all of her six brothers supported her.
“She’s the sacrifice of our family,” Sahar’s mother said.
Google News – continously updated:
Search: ‘Lima Sahar’
Official home page of the ‘Afghan Star’ tv show:
International Herald Tribune – 13 March 2008:
‘Woman climbs to top of singing contest, irking some conservatives in Afghanistan’
|Times Online – 12 March 2008:
‘Teenager wants to be Afghan pop queen’
|Related reading on freemuse.org|
|Pedro, have you ever experienced any kind of music censorship?
Interview is in Spanish! Please find English transcription below
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