A studio in central Kabuls Taimani has been throbbing with drumbeats and poetry for over a month now. Five musicians of the band Pardis have been rehearsing pieces for the seventh edition of the South Asian Bands Festival that opens in the Capital today. The bands lead guitarist Abdul Basir begins with a no frills riff followed by a backbeat by 29-year-old Ahmad Zaki on drums. An array of nuanced harmonics by Muhammad Aref gives a pulsating tone to the song sung by Abdul Nasir Pardis. The track of love and peace,a ghazal by famous 14th century poet Persian poet Hafez Shirazi,has been set to pop rock melody and rhythms that they will play on Sunday,against the Purana Qila backdrop.
One has always thought of rock bands as something of an anomaly in Afghanistan,a country where the diplomatic mood governs what people can and cant do. But according to Zaki,things are changing. There are issues in other provinces where the Taliban is present. But we in Kabul have not faced any restrictions in the last few years, he says in broken Hindi.
But back in the 90s,when the band was in its nascent stage,its passion for music did not matter to Taliban,who has always considered it haraam or un-Islamic. Under them,the assault on the arts continued through the years,especially in 90s,as tapes and musical instruments were burnt and musicians beaten up. It was shoot at sight for all artistes. It didnt matter who you were and what music you played, says Zaki,who grew up in a family of musicians and began learning the tabla from his father,who was also a vocalist.
The blows came down harder and the band decided to shift base to Pakistan. There were many bands who stayed on,doing underground concerts for years but we felt it was important to reach out. And Pakistan gave us that opportunity and we took it, says Aref. But after a few years there,the band returned home. Kab tak pardes mein rehte. Making music at home has a different charm and makes us happy, says Zaki.
He also maintains that Afghan rock musicians are now in a very unique position and things are looking up. Pardis registered with the Ministry of Information and Culture of Government of Afghanistan in 2000. This paves the way for more artistes to come forward and feel protected, says Zaki.
The South Asian Bands Festival,a collaboration between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Ministry of External Affairs,will bring bands from nine countries together. It opens with a performance by Delhi-based four-piece classic rock outfit Barefaced Liar followed by Love Runs Blind,one of the pioneers of rock music in Bangladesh. Other bands include Biuret (Korea) and ZnG (Bhutan),Stigmata (Sri Lanka),Emans Conspiracy (Maldives) and Albatross (Nepal). All eyes and ears will be on Susmit Sen Chronicles,the band created by the Indian Ocean lead guitarist after parting from the countrys more famous fusion act.
The festival begins today and will be held at Purana Qila,
6.30 pm onwards. Entry is free