The Silent Music Street of Kharabat
Asmaa Waguih | 7min
Postproduction Script


0’1” VO: While all eyes are focused on the human rights implications of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the country’s economy is facing huge challenges. In Kharabat Street, Kabul’s centre for music for over a hundred years, the economic crisis takes a different shape. For years, musicians and singers in this area have performed at weddings and other celebrations. Until recently, Kharabat street was the place to go to hire musicians, but since the Taliban took over in mid-August, the once lively and musical street has gone quiet and the musicians are jobless.

0’37” Out of fear, the musicians hide their musical instruments from the Taliban, who 25 years ago imposed a ban on live music, punishing anyone caught playing.

1’00 Ashraf Omari: Salaam alaikum, my name is Ashraf Omari and I am a drummer. Since the Taliban's takeover we are not allowed to continue playing our music; hence, we have to play the musical instruments in secret and hide them when we're finished because the Taliban have forbidden us from keeping the instruments. Hashmat is my brother as well as my music instructor. Rafi is my best friend and is a very good singer Hashmat is also a drummer, and Rafi is both a singer and a keyboard player and he can also play the harmonium. Parwiz is another friend who also sings and plays the keyboard.

1’50” Hasmat Omari: I am Hashmat Omari, I am one of the musicians in this group. I am going to play a Tabla drum rhythm now, which is called Dudra.

2’01” VO: Afghan musical culture is eclectic. Ashraf and his group play songs from the country’s many ethnic groups: Pashto, Hazari, Farsi, Logari and Kandahari. Sometimes they mix them into a unique sound. 

2’15” Nesar Rafieh: Hi, my name is Nesar Rafieh, I am a singer. I am going to sing a Qawalib-style song for my friends.

2’44” VO: The history of music in Kharabat stretches back to the mid-19th century, as the street was a hub for the king’s entertainers. Musical skills were passed through generations until much of the neighbourhood was destroyed during the 90s civil war. Kharabat street became a front line between the warring factions in Kabul, and much of the neighbourhood was destroyed by the Mujahideen warlords as they fired from the mountains overlooking the area.

3’32 Even before the Taliban took over, the business of musicians was hit hard by the first Covid lockdown, followed by Ramadan – a slow period for music business – then a harsh winter season, and the second Covid lockdown. And when the Taliban took over, they banned live music and singing in parties.

4’05” Business placards are kept at home in Kharabat Street next to the musical instruments.

4’10” Qais Samady: Hello, I am Qais Samady, a singer. It has been some time that the Taliban have been in power and their presence has affected our business very badly we cannot earn from playing anymore. In our family, everyone, old and young, are musicians and singers since the Taliban have come, we cannot earn from this business. We don’t know anything else but music, it was our only source of income. Now many work as shop keepers, some of us are just jobless and broke.

4’40” VO: Musicians are now forgotten. Some of them found alternative work in shops. Many previously popular musicians cannot afford to rent their homes now.  Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said earlier that music in public is forbidden by Islam. Although music isn’t banned officially, live music won’t be allowed.

5’00” Man: I'm a resident of Shorbazar, Kharabat Street. I have been playing the Tabla drum for the last ten years. I'm part of the family of Ustad Abdad (a music master), my brother is a singer, my father is a keyboard player my uncle and brother are also keyboard players.

5’23” Muhammed Ashraf: My name is Muhammad Ashraf, I'm a drummer (Tablanawaz). I have been playing music for 40 years, but since the arrival of the Taliban I have stayed at home, I have locked my Tabla, harmonium, rubab and all my other musical instruments at home. We can’t use them anymore. My nephew is a Pashto singer, his uncle and teacher, Barialay Samadi, is a well-known singer. They are now all jobless and staying at home. Here also is Mustafa; a jazz musician.

5’57” VO: A group of elderly musicians from Kharabat Street said they visited the spokesperson to speak on behalf of Kharabat Street about this issue, but they didn’t reach a deal, and they might resume these talks.

6’10” Man 2: Everyone you see here are musicians and artists; since the Taliban’s takeover there is no room for artists and musicians to work. They are in a state of fear. Many of them tried to open a shop but artists are not good at doing business! Artists are selling their possessions to feed their children and families. We don’t even have passports to flee, so we are stuck here with nowhere to go.

6’37” VO: Safy plays the rubab, one of Afghanistan’s national musical instruments. He comes from a family of musicians who learned from Altaf Hussain, a famous Afghani singer who moved to the United States. All Afghanistan’s music schools, like the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, have now closed. Jobless musicians still gather on the street that for generations has preserved the country’s musical heritage.

7’12” Until a decision is made on the future of music in Afghanistan, musicians will stay in the shadows.


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