By Ahmed El Jechtimi
By Ahmed El Jechtimi
Rabat, May 27, 2012 (MAP)
The Icon of Afghani song, Ustad Farida Mahwash, gave a concert in Rabat during the Mawazine festival (May 19-26), exhibiting the deep-rooted musical traditions in her country, thus eclipsing the widely depicted image of Afghanistan in international media as a country racked by violence and instability.
On a stage amid breath-taking natural landscapes in the archeological site of Challah, Afghanistan’s best-loved singer enchanted the audience with a bunch of singles from her rich repertoire that delves deeply into her country’s rich musical heritage.
Mahwash, who was performing along with musicians including the player of Afghanistan’s national instrument “the Rubab”, delighted the public with songs about love from her albums “Ghazal Afghan” which was recorded in 2007 and Radio Kabul (2003).
In an interview with MAP before the concert, Mahwash lamented the heyday of music in her country, when Kabul was a cultural destination, with the local radio playing, at the time, a key role in promoting Afghani artistic creation and music.
According to her experience, preventing a people from singing and listening to music amounts to the most hideous forms of oppression.
She explained that the flourishing of music in her country largely depends on the improvement of the general situation.
With deep nostalgia, the diva of Afghani music spoke about her debut in the musical world, saying that her husband was the first to encourage her to take lessons in Indian classical music in “Kharabat”, traditional music teaching centers in Kabul.
Later in her life, Mahwash joined as a typist in Kabul’s radio station, where her vocal talents were discovered by the radio’s director of music who propelled her into a professional singing career.
In 1968, she performed her first song for the radio, followed by other singles that reflect the diversity of Afghanistan’s musical traditions.
Mahwash’ contributions to the bloom of her country’s music earned her the title of “Ustad”, which means master, an honor which was reserved for men and conferred by the ministry of culture.
Mahwash also sounded the alarm about the need to preserve her country’s music, speaking with deep regret about the masters of Afghani music who were killed or stigmatized.
At her age, Mahwash expresses enthusiasm to continue touring the world bringing her country’s music and songs under the spotlight.
Mahwash stayed in Kabul until 1991, the year when she took refuge in Pakistan with her family. Even there, each of the two warring sides in Afghanistan blackmailed her to sing for them.
She was granted political asylum in the United States after her plight was recognized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
Being away from her motherland didn’t prevent her to continue singing. She joined exiled Afghani band, Ensemble Kabul, with whom she embarked on international tours. In 2003, she won the BBC’s World Music Award for the Asia and the Pacific for her distinguished musical career and her commitment to help orphans.