Nepali Times
Rocking out in Afghanistan


At the American University in Kabul around 500 people are watching Kabul Dreams Afghanistan's only rock band play live on stage. The band is going wild and a group of fans are shouting and raising their hands in excitement. Rock music is still nascent in Afghanistan, but that hasn't stopped the band from dreaming big.

"One of the main goals of this band is to show a different side of Afghanistan to the world, to show that Afghanistan is not just the home of war, violence, killings, political debates and explosions. The rock band has got people interested and helps create a positive image of Afghanistan. Things are going really well," says Mujtaba Habibi, the band's drummer.

The three members of Kabul Dreams are from different parts of Afghanistan and speak different languages, so many of the songs on their first album are in English. However, 20-year-old lead singer Sulaiman Qardash says the band plans to use local languages on the next album.

"We are working on another album where the songs are in our national languages Pashto, Dari and Uzbeki, and it will be released in the next two months. Most of our lyrics are very positive, we sing about love love of your country, love of your mother and friends, and love for everyone," he says.

One of their songs, in Persian, talks about the need for unity among Afghans and it is often heard on the airwaves. Kabul Rock Radio, Afghanistan's only FM station dedicated to rock, has been particularly supportive of the band.

"We felt Afghans needed to be cheered up after 30 years of war so we established Kabul Rock Radio in March 2009. Later, the members of Kabul Dreams started working for us. They are producers and presenters at the station and they also fully run the station now," says Najiba Ayubi, managing director of The Killid Group, which owns the station.

"In my free time I like listening to rock music, especially Kabul Dreams, because they are really different from other Afghan bands," says fan Rohullah Samadi. "They are original and have a great style of singing that's unique. We also hear foreign rock bands but now we have our own and it feels great to be listening to Afghan rock singers."

Nasir Ahmad Sarmast is the president of Afghanistan National Institute of Music and he says rock music is something very new to Afghanistan. "Rock music made its way to Afghanistan around 2001. One of the best things about Afghanistan when it comes to music is that our society is very open to accepting different types of music. We are seeing a strong interest in rock music among young people, but we will have to wait and see whether it will find a long-term place in Afghanistan," he says.

For Sediq Ahmad, the guitarist and third member of Kabul Dreams, it's not easy being the country's only rock band.
"To keep the band going is not an easy task. The first challenge that we are facing and we have faced since the beginning is financial. Not a lot of people are interested in sponsoring us and there are not many venues or facilities for recording," he says. However, he adds, there's no doubt it's the start of something great.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)