Art & Culture

Afghanistan: World music council calls for end to ‘cultural, musical genocide’

The International Music Council (IMC) has condemned what it calls the cultural and musical genocide in Afghanistan and called for music rights of the people to be upheld.

In a statement issued by the council, the IMC said “the international music community condemns the cultural and musical genocide in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s unrelenting suppression and violation of the Five Music Rights of the Afghan people as upheld by the International Music Council”.

According to the council, they “observe with grave concern” that the people and musicians of Afghanistan have been “denied their music rights as were Afghan girls and women deprived of their basic human rights” in society and their right to education and work.

“Today as during the first reign of the Taliban, the group turned Afghanistan once again into a silent nation and denied the Afghan people, children and adults, the right to enjoy access to music, to learn, experience, create, perform, and express themselves through music in all freedom,” the council said.

According to them, “the artistic soul of the country has faded from public view and its musicians live under continuous threat and hardship not being allowed to make a living through music”.

The IMC said the total ban on music in Afghanistan is a violation of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts”.

The council also stated that these rights include access to music education for every child and adult, adding that the IMC is seriously concerned about the closure of music education entities including the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.

They said they are also concerned about reports of musicians being treated as criminals; of theim being beaten, humiliated, and murdered because of their profession.

“We call on all who love music to raise our collective voices against this systematic destruction and erasure of musical life in the Afghan society and demand the restoration and respect of the Five Music Rights in Afghanistan. We will not be silent,” read the statement.

People of Afghanistan are ‘profoundly musical’

Earlier this year, Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, the conducting fellow of the Oxford Philharmonic orchestra, said in an article for the Guardian that the “people of Afghanistan have been, are, and always will be, profoundly musical.”

She said the country’s music traditions go back thousands of years and have flourished in dialogue with their Persian and Hindu neighbors as well as the people of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In addition, European and American popular and classical music has played a part and that celebrated singer Ahmad Zahir (1946-79) “perhaps most notably epitomizes the prolific blending of these diverse musical influences, inspiring generations of musicians”.

She said the orchestras of Afghanistan also have a rich history stretching back nearly 100 years and until the Taliban takeover, the country’s orchestras were unique in that they usually encompassed a fusion of traditional instruments, such as the Afghan rubāb, the Herati dutār and the Afghan tambūr and the tabla (hand drums), alongside those of European heritage.