Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Taleban Silence Helmand's Musicians

Musicians say they are losing their livelihoods because of Taleban strictures.
By for IWPR
Shah Gul is Helmand’s most popular singer, but these days he only sings at home. He used to sing at concerts and weddings throughout the province. In October this year, however, he didn’t even dare to perform his traditional Eid al-Fitr concert marking the end of Ramadan in Lashkar Gah.

“There’s no security and I am afraid something will happen to the audience, because so many people gather there. My family including my son and grandsons take part. One plays tabla, another harmonium, and a third keyboard,” he said.

In the past, people celebrated Eid with parties and musicians played a large part in the festivities - that’s how they earned their money. But the Taleban have now captured many districts of Helmand and they have banned music.

Shah Gul said he earned more than 100,000 afghanis last year, but the Taleban’s rules have left him with no source of income.

“Our life and art depend on security. If we have our music, we have food. If not, then there is no food,” he says.

Shah Gul’s young son, Habibullah, is also a talented singer and has won his own place in the hearts of many Helmandis. He too is sad that he can’t perform in public any more.

“I have sung many times, especially in Helmand, and also at many parties in Kandahar. It makes me happy to play music with my family,” he says.

Habibullah says he hopes he can still follow in his father’s footsteps.

Other singers were afraid to be interviewed on air. But they told IWPR they would like the security situation to get better so they can bring music to the people of Helmand once again.

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