Afghan notebook: Kabul glitterati

By Kawoon Khamoosh
BBC Persian

Media caption,
Hard hitting rap at Kabul music festival

Afghans were treated to a dash of celebrity stardust recently as Kabul hosted a glitzy music awards ceremony.

The Rumi awards, named after the 13th Century Persian mystic poet, aim to encourage and honour Afghan singers and musicians.

The awards were set up by Afghans living in the United States but this was the first time the event had been held in Afghanistan.

The open air event in the Babur Gardens on a hillside overlooking the city was attended by a glamorous array of pop stars, film stars and journalists.

What it occasionally lacked in technical precision and timing, it more than made up for in the enthusiasm and sheer novelty of the occasion.

One of the organisers, Nessar Bahaduri, told the BBC the ceremony was designed "to show a different face of Afghanistan to the world". As a succession of stars in glittering evening dress hit the red carpet, it was clear that they had succeeded.

One of the performers who attracted the biggest buzz at the September awards was the female rapper Paradise.

Dressed in a revealing black gown and diamond necklace, she posed for photographs with her husband and fellow rapper Diverse.

The couple have been dubbed the Brangelina of Afghanistan and their latest song is an impassioned denunciation of violence against women.

The hard-hitting lyrics cover taboo subjects like rape, domestic violence and self-immolation.

"Unfortunately women in Afghanistan face lots of troubles and we sing to give them a voice," Paradise told the BBC. "I hope one day we won't be singing about troubles but about the power of women instead."

Image caption,
The audience braved security concerns to attend the evening event

The awards had 17 different categories ranging from best male and female act, to best song writer, best music director and best patriotic singer.

Afghans were able to vote for their favourites online or via text message before a jury picked the winners from a shortlist.

Victors this year included Aryana Saeed who won the award for best female artist and Obaid Joianda, who picked up the same award in the male category.

Aryana is a judge of the Afghan version of TV talent show The Voice, and she's well known for her ground breaking appearances on another music show Afghan Star, where she attracted much criticism for performing without a headscarf.

Her most famous song, Banoy E Atashneshin (Women of the Fire), is about lives of ordinary Afghan women.


Unusually for Kabul the Rumi awards were an evening event.

With the security situation still fragile, most Afghans prefer not to venture out after dark.

Image caption,
Tight security at the event encouraged people to venture out after dark
Image caption,
The Rumi awards were held in the Barbur gardens overlooking Kabul

But for one night only it seemed that the assembled guests were prepared to put their fears behind them and the party went on until two in the morning.

Although there were noticeably more men than women in the audience, some Afghan women did come along, reassured in part by the heavy security at the event.

"I came here to take part as a woman," one young spectator called Attia told the BBC. "But it was scary."

In recent years religious conservatives have tried and often succeeded in preventing high profile music events from taking place in Kabul and other cities across the country.

Just last year religious groups in the western city of Herat intervened to prevent the Afghan pop singer Shafiq Murid from holding a peace concert.

But the Rumi awards have the firm backing of the government which sees them as an important way to revive art and culture in Afghanistan.

BBC Afghan notebook

This is where our reporters share stories beyond the daily conflict and politics of a country going through the most important election in its recent history as foreign troops withdraw.

We'll focus on the surprising while treating the familiar from fresh angles, combined with a street-level view of a country in transition.

Most of the posts will be written, photographed or filmed by our journalists across Afghanistan.

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