Afghans rock at first music festival in three decades

Sat Oct 1, 2011 2:04pm EDT
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By Martin Petty

KABUL (Reuters) - Live rock returned to Afghanistan after three long decades on Saturday as young men and women cheered and leapt into the air to the sound of heavy bass beats and punk rock.

Bands from Australia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan served up a six-hour musical feast of blues, indie, electronica and death metal to hundreds of fans, many of whom had never seen live music before.

Sound Central was something new in a deeply conservative Muslim country where music was banned under the austere Taliban regime. Even now music shops are attacked in some cities and musicians taunted for their clothes or hair.

The festival retained a distinctly Afghan accent, with alcohol banned, kebabs the only snacks and a respect for strong religious values amid the rock and roll.

Bands left the stage and the microphones were turned off twice in the late afternoon to allow the call to prayer to sound out uninterrupted from nearby mosques.

"Where I live, there's nothing like this. I heard about it so I had to come," said Ahmad Shah, dressed in a traditional white shalwar kameez and waistcoat, who traveled from Kandahar, a southern city roiled by insurgent violence.

"I came to escape the cancer of the Taliban and this makes a refreshing change." Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.

Young Afghans lunged toward the stage, jumping and thrusting their arms into the air to the sound of local band White Page, and the handful of security guards were overwhelmed.   Continued...

<p>Afghan rock artistes tune their instruments during Sound Central, a one-day "stealth festival" in Kabul October 1, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>