IMAGINE A world without music. It’s like something out of a soul-deadening, dystopian future. And yet the people of Afghanistan living under Taliban rule in the 1990s were forbidden to sing, play an instrument, or listen to music except for prescribed religious or patriotic chants. Anyone in violation, the mullahs decreed, would have molten lead poured into their ears on Judgment Day – and be subject to jail or beatings here on earth.
The Taliban smashed instruments, burned recordings, and destroyed the archives of traditional Afghan folk songs at Radio Kabul. Even after they were routed from power in 2001, and fatwas gave way to the secular depredations of war and poverty, music has been treated with suspicion. Playing Mozart in Kabul can be a little like reading Lolita in Tehran. So it was an act of bravery as well as hope when the Afghanistan National Institute of Music opened last summer.Read More