Playlist | Afghanistan

„I have brought your prophets into the world“

Ever since the Taliban returned, music has been banned and it has been forbidden for woman to sing. Yet a number of female Afghan musicians continue their careers in exile. Introducing a selection of famous singers - and and their songs.

Afghan woman in profile. She has long dark hair and a headband. In her right hand she holds a microphone. The head slightly in the neck, the view diagonally upwards she sings. Her top is colorfully patterned in blue, yellow red, white.

Singer Aryana Sayeed


1. Khumari: „Beltoon vs. Khumari“

„I see you coming from a distance, laughing you come towards me. As beautiful as you look, I want to draw you on the wall...“

The singer Khumari worked in a so-called dance house before she became famous with her love ballads. She often performed at weddings and big parties - traditionally an important stage for Afghan singers. In conservative circles she is known as the „dancer“ - she sparked many rumours and gossip about love affairs. But to this day she is admired for her unconventional way of singing and dancing.


2 Elaha Soroor: „Charsi“ („Stoner“)

„Hey you foreign boy, how beautiful are your eyes. Oh you stoner boy, you have beautiful eyes. You've been smoking weed and shisha, how beautiful are your eyes.“

The singer Elaha Soroor became famous in 2009 through the casting show „Afghan Star“. She now lives in London, where she recorded the album „Songs Of Our Mothers“ with the band „Kefaya“ in 2019. The song „Charsi“ triggered a scandal in the Afghan internet community: in it she sings openly about drug use, and in the video she can be seen smoking pot.


3 Ustad Farida Mahwash: „Awaaze Man“ („My Voice“)

„He should only listen to her voice for a second, then he will recognise the strength of her love in the sound and the melody.“

Farida Mahwash was born in Kabul in 1947. She was given the title „Ustad“, meaning „master“ - an honorary title for respected musicians in Indo-Persia. Mahwash is probably the only woman to have the title. In 1991, she fled to Pakistan. After receiving death threats, she went into exile in California. Today, Mahwash is a singer with the music project „Voices of Afghanistan“.

4. Naghma: „Nawi Engilay Yom“ („I am the new girl“)

„I am the new girl, we have to overcome the old habits! Out of anger, I break my bracelets that hold me.“

Naghma Shaperai is considered the face of traditional Pashtun music. In 1977, she married Mangal, a singer who was already very famous at the time. From the 1970s to the early 1990s, they often performed together. Later, Naghma settled in Pakistan, where she enjoyed further success and was awarded the country's Order of Merit, the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. She now lives in the USA.


5 Aryana Sayeed: „Zan Astam“ („I am a woman“)

„Where would your Mohammed, Rustam and Suhrab be? I am the one who brought your heroes, your prophets into the world. A woman!“

If you deal with current music from Afghanistan, you cannot avoid Aryana Sayeed. She left home with her parents at the age of eight and lived in Pakistan, Switzerland and England. In 2010, she returned to Afghanistan, where she became the country's most successful female pop star. She has appeared in numerous television shows and was a jury member on the eleventh season of „Afghan Star“. Sayeed is committed to women's rights and breaks taboos in her songs. She became the target of hardliners who issued a „fatwa“, a death sentence, against her. In 2021, when the Taliban seized power in the country, she had to flee Afghanistan.


6 Salma Jahani: „Ma Bararand Ke Chon Roye Tost“ („Your face is as beautiful as the moon“)

„Your face is as beautiful as as the moon.“ (Men in chorus:) „No, no, that's not true. Your hair smells beautiful“

Salma Jahani became famous with the song „Bia Ke Borem Ba Mazar“ („Come, let's go to Mazar“), which is sung at Nouruz, the Persian New Year and Spring Festival. Until the song is still sung in Indo-Persian communities. Today she lives in the USA. Her song „Ma Bararand Ke Chon Roye Tost“ is about poetry in which a man is praised by a woman in love.


7 Shuhra Wakili: „Tu Bigu“ („You Say“)

„The moonlight of my heart's nights, the sun of my goals. If you are the sea, I am the shore. Oh you voice of my heart. Say you love me, so that I may return, I love you...“

Shuhra Wakili combines Afghan music with a folk touch. She lives in Tajikistan and is signed to a production company there. There are many cultural overlaps between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Dari is spoken in both countries. The song „Tu Bigu“ was originally written by the Tajik singer Nigina Amonkulova.


8 Khanom Zhila: „Oh Bacha“ („Hey, Boy“)

„Yous hall have eyes full of dreams (literally, „eyes full of drugs“), you shall be bold with your gorgeous hair, hey boy.“

Khanom Zhila became active in the Afghan music scene at the age of 14. For over forty years she was highly regarded as a singer. Since 1982, Zhila has lived in exile in California. In her song „Oh Bacha“ she sings about a man who does not seem to pay any attention to her.


9 Mermon Parwin: „Azadi“ („Freedom“)

„My dears, it's the Afghan celebration, come my child, eat grapes [...], my heart celebrates and laughs, come my child, eat grapes.“

Mermon Parwin is the first singer whose voice was broadcast on Afghan radio in 1951. In doing so, she paved the way for other female singers, presenters and newscasters. In „Azadi“ she addresses the children of Afghanistan. They should enjoy freedom and advance their country. The song refers to the bank holidays that commemorates Afghanistan's independence from the British Empire in 1919.

10 Seeta Qasemie: „Afghani Sada Kon“ („Call me Afghan“)

„You can call me by the name Bamiyani. You can also call me Laghmani. [...] I am the city of dawn, love and existence [...], call me Afghani.“

Seeta Qasemie, born in 1983 in Kabul was born in Kabul in 1983 and is one of the best-known Afghan singers. At the age of 15, she moved to Germany, where she now lives with her family. In „Afghani Sada Kon“, Qasemie personifies Afghanistan. The song calls on Afghans to be proud of their country.


Music selection by Farhot, producer and founder of Kabul Fire Records who was born in Afghanistan in 1982.
With additional reporting by Atifa Qazi