Confronting Taliban with music!

   By Vijay Darda | 20-03-2023

Afghan singers, instrumentalists and musicians who took refuge in Portugal wield weapons of their art

Vijay Darda

Just imagine how boring life would be if there was no music in human life. So, imagine what those folks whose lives have been robbed of music must be going through. Life must have been horrible without music! I’m referring to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has outlawed music outright. The National Institute of Music in Afghanistan has been destroyed. But, there is someone who has managed to free 58 of the institute’s teenagers and youths from the clutches of the Taliban. These artistes have turned their talents into weapons against the Taliban.

Ahmed Sarmast is the name of the brave man who rescued these artistes from the Taliban and stood up to resurrect and protect his country’s music. Sarmast founded the ‘National Institute of Music’ in 2010 with the goal of taking Afghan music to new heights. Nobody expected the country to be ruled by the Taliban again at the time. When America fled and the Taliban arrived, Ahmad Sarmast chose to leave the nation, but not alone; he left Afghanistan with his 58 students aged between 16 and 20. They were able to make it to Portugal.

Sarmast and his young students no longer have a music school, but they carry out their activities from Braga Music Conservatory. Zohra Orchestra of girls founded by Sarmast has been established once again. Other troupes are there too! These artistes have taken upon themselves double responsibility. On one hand, they are preserving their music and on the other, they have taken up the cudgels against the Taliban. They have performed in European countries. When Rameez plays the Shaufia tune on Afghani instrument Rabab, the Afghan wind begins to blow in Europe. His voice is eager to reach every corner of the world through music.

You must be wondering why the hell is Taliban chasing after music? Why is the Taliban opposed to music? The answer is that when the music stops, the whole country becomes silent. Music has the power to ignite! I had read a story somewhere that at some point in history, a ruler sitting in the Sultanate of Delhi had a strong dislike for music. One morning, he saw some people in a funeral procession and asked as to who had died. The servant said, “Huzoor, music has died.” The King said disdainfully, “Go bury it so deep that it will never rise again!” That monarch despised music because he recognised its power. Earlier, kings and emperors used to give place to music maestros in their courts. They used to squander wealth on them. They were well aware that these artistes may be the seeds of rebellion. Therefore, they thought it better to keep them engaged in their royal court!

History is witness to the fact that music has always played a vital role in raising public consciousness. This can be seen in the chanting of Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram was written by Bankim Chandra in 1882. The Congress was founded in 1885, and the following year, Hamendra Babu sang Vande Mataram at the Congress Session in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore then sang it in rhymed Desh raga at the Calcutta Congress Session in 1896. Vande Mataram was adopted as the national anthem by Congress in 1905. Subramaniam Bharathi, a Tamil poet, sang it in Tamil, while Pantalu sang it in Telugu. It became the anthem of freedom struggle. Panicked Britishers outlawed it, but the song had become all the rage!

The song ‘Mera rang de basanti chola’ was also popular during the freedom movement. Great revolutionary Ramprasad Bismil penned this immortal composition when he was in jail. He wrote using Basant Panchami as a medium:

Mera rang de basanti chola…

Isi rang me rang ke Shiva ne Maa ka bandhan khola/ Yahi rang Haldighati me tha Pratap ne ghola.

Nav basant mein Bharat ke hit viron ka yah tola/ Is masti se pahan ke nikla yah basanti chola.

When the great revolutionary Bhagat Singh, who was in jail, heard this song, he added a few more lines:

Isi rang mein Bismil ji ne ‘Vande Mataram’ bola/ Yahi rang Ashfaque ko bhaya unka dil bhi dola.

Isi rang ko ham masto ne, door firangi ko karne ko lahu mein apne ghola.

Mera rang de basanti chola…

There are numerous examples of songs and music being used to raise awareness. Music has the ability to elicit strong emotions and flood the veins with the feeling of bravery. When the national anthem is sung in the glory of our tricolour, we are filled with pride. Despite all of the world’s languages, music has its own language that no boundary can stop. That’s why the song ‘Naatu Naatu’ wins the Oscar. Music is a vehicle for expressing joy and sorrow. For, music is the soul of all of us; it is eternal and immortal. Music is humanity, and humanity exists in music. The Taliban must realise that the sound of music cannot be silenced. Has anyone been able to silence Ram Dhun and Krishna’s flute? How can a man despise music?

I have complete faith in the power of music, which is why Lokmat Media Group, as a part of its obligation to enrich music, celebrates music personalities and awards the Sur Jyotsna National Music Awards to two aspiring musicians every year. The best music determines the best way of life. When there is music, life becomes more beautiful. Have mercy, my Lord! May the lives of people in Afghanistan soon become beautiful again!

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