Afghanistan’s Version of American Idol: Challenges, Successes (+Video)

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
August 5, 2013 Updated: August 5, 2013

A popular television show is helping to revive music in Afghanistan as the country comes out of three decades of violence and cultural suppression.

Afghan Star, or Sitara-e-Afghan as it’s called in the local tongue, is a television program that has helped a great deal in reviving the essence of music and its culture in Afghan society.

“As part of a cultural genocide, the art of music was heavily suppressed during the Taliban regime,” explains an article in the Afghanistan Express Daily. “The Afghan society had lost the track of its own musical culture and the flavor of local music was replaced by the imported music from the neighboring countries,” the article continues.

When Taliban rule ceased, efforts were made to revive television and radio programs in Afghanistan. Afghan Star was started in September 2005 by Tolo, a widely watched television channel. The show’s website has about 74,000 Facebook “likes,” having completed its eighth season.

The risk for contestants and organizers remains high in the country, which still faces bomb blasts and suicide attacks. The annual tour of celebrity judges through the key provinces to choose contestants and view auditions comes with greater security concerns than any American Idol auditions.

Last year’s winner, Navid Forogh, was attacked by masked gunmen and left for dead while returning from a show in Kabul. Forogh survived, but stopped performing and singing due to a fear of more attacks.

Forogh received anonymous threats online shortly after winning the title, according to ABC News.

Local media reports suggest, nonetheless, that the show is continuing to encourage young music lovers in Afghanistan, and that it is becoming a great platform for women who were relegated to the house during the Taliban regime.

“During the past eight seasons of Afghan Star, different female contestants took risks of their lives, but still stood on the stage of Afghan Star, and competed even from Kandahar province, the stronghold of Taliban,” states the Afghanistan Express Daily.

Sajid Hussain Jannaty, Afghan Star‘s 2013 Winner

Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.