Film Essay: Afghan Star

Afghan Star

In 1996, Afghanistan fell under control of Taliban insurgents (Silinsky, 2014). Among their many proclamations was to ban popular music, considering that it has a sacrilegious and corrupting influence (Tanwir, 2013). Although Taliban was removed from the power in around 2001, Islamic militias still consider popular music as sinful western culture and have focused their attention on Afghan musicians by carrying out assassination plots. In this despotic culture, such television show as Afghan Star emerged, having influenced the country by storm (Coburn & Larson, 2014). It is a talent search program borrowed much from American Idol, where contestants perform in full view of the audience and their ranks in competition are determined by votes casted through telephone lines. Therefore, this paper will seek to discuss the challenges of producers and constants of Afghan Star are exposed to in the context of citizenship, gender and tradition.

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Most significantly, the documentary Afghan Star is based on a nation, where pop music and democracy are risky and novel concepts (Tanwir, 2013). The Havana Marking is a film-maker who explores popular music competition and its impact on Afghan society in form of a documentary. Furthermore, she evaluates audience in the Afghan show and depicts that approximately a third of people in the country watches it regularly. Marking also evaluates top contestants such Hammeed who is regarded as a champion and a model by Hazara people; and Lima from an Islamic fundamentalist community concealing her identity for her family safety; and Setara who is seen as a very attractive woman defying tradition by wearing western clothes; including a forthcoming teen-pop conscious Rafi. Setara is a daring woman who moves to the stage without a head scarf during a musical performance. This makes her hero to youngsters and an outsider to her family, as well as to Islamic conservatives. The main story of Afghan Star revolves around Setara, a singer who is twenty one years old from Heart. She wears modern American fashion and Bollywoood makeup, as well as goes to the stage in a very controversial image, against Islamic teachings. She is hated by conservative generations as she is seen as a sinful person who is a threat to Islamic culture and tradition. However, Setara is adored by younger generations as she moves to the stage, dancing and letting her headscarf off (Scott, 2009). This is against Islamic culture and should be punishable by death.

There are many challenges faced by the contestants despite the fact that they all had different background. The female participants join the Afghan Star via a dark hallway due to fear of death threats or even fright of having acid splashed on their face (Tanwir, 2013). In addition, teaching women popular music can lead to death sentence as many male chauvinists believe that a womans voice is not supposed to be heard by men. Also, many conservative clerics hold that women performing or singing music is a crime against Islamic culture. Therefore, the families of female entertainers the likes of Setara, Lima and Rafi face strong criticism from relatives and neighbors. For example, Setara was driven out of Heart after performing on a national television as one of few female artists on Afghan Star. However, Lima who comes from Kandahar experienced a very different encounter. She comes from one of religious and traditional regions in the country and feared for her life whenever she visited home. Her teacher sneaked music instruments into the house and practiced there in secret. Lima said that she had no alternative rather than to sing and face the repercussions, as she had a poor background and her future rest squarely on Afghan Star.

There are many obstacles that the producers of the Afghan Star had to face while shooting the video. One of the challenges was to get female contestants from a society that intensely forbids women to perform or sing music. Additionally, Afghanistan is a perilous place considered to be an outsider. There are random explosions and kidnapping threats (Silinsky, 2014). Therefore, Havana had to keep her crew as small as possible, not to draw much attention. She had to employ a bodyguard for the purpose of personal safety and reduce the risk of kidnapping. To overcome minor problems, Havana had to become used to etiquette and learn how to conduct herself in a respectful manner. She says that learning the little things in Afghanistan makes a difference. However, Havana as a producer of the Afghan Star faced the danger of being sentenced to death due to teaching women music.

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There is a need get deeper understanding of young generation and their opinions and attitudes regarding the Afghan Star entertainment show in order to gain insights of how to negotiate modernity and tradition in the context of recent advancements in Afghanistan. Confusing still is the question of how traditional values and religious beliefs can exist together with new reflection of popular music and whether Afghan Star can be made more appealing to an ordinary knowledge via music traditions that are explicit for Afghanistan. The major reason for popular music resistant is because the Islamic conservatives in Post-Taliban nation feel that other countries have corrupted their cultural heritage (Coburn & Larson, 2014).

Therefore, media is generally perceived as a positive development, but it has been accused of broadcasting shows that are culturally offensive and has received negative reactions especially in the conservative segments of the region. However, Afghan Star has not received high level of criticism as compared to Shakira concerts, t it has been accused of going against Islamic religion and Afghanistan culture just because women are permitted to perform in the show. The generally meaning of Afghan Star among the young generation is that it is a good show that leads to development and nurturing young talents especially in music industry (Heath & Zahedi, 2014). It is shown that the young generation in Afghanistan has traditionally not been provided by an open forum where they can express their needs. Fortunately, the commercial television channels such as Tolo one has established a platform for developing talents for young generation in Afghanistan.

In conclusion, Afghan Star has attracted thousands of audience in the country despite the strong resistant from the Islamic fundamentalists. It is a commercial show that has integrated a pop-talent competition with voting through mobile phones. The show has got mixed feelings from young people living in poorest regions that are still experiencing conflicts and wars between religious Taliban and modernized West. What have come out clearly is that women are not allowed to perform in music concerts or shows as this is against the Islamic religion and culture, but some of them cannot endure poverty and decide to defy the tradition and risk their life. In order to accomplish this, women conceal their identity so as to protect their families from relatives and neighbors. They even had to practice music in secrecy as women were banned from sinning. However, they are regarded as heroines and role models by the younger generation. Also, producers of Afghan Star face numerous challenges such as risk of kidnapping, random explosions, finding female artists, and risk of being sentenced to death.


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