NPR

Afghans Take The Stage At Kabul's Emerging Rock Scene

In his final postcard from Afghanistan, NPR's outgoing Kabul correspondent Sean Carberry, a former professional musician, dives into the underground music scene.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

Sean Carberry has just completed a two and a half year stint as NPR's Kabul correspondent. In his final postcard from Afghanistan, Carberry, a former professional musician, takes us into Kabul's underground music scene.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: This has been one of the most important places in my time in Kabul. It's a small restaurant called the Venue, tucked in one of the residential neighborhoods. And it's a melting pot of Westerners and Afghans. And it's the hub of the music scene here in Kabul.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing) All day long...

CARBERRY: Inside, people are gathered for one of the open mic nights, where musicians from Afghanistan, from all over the world, will get on stage and take turns playing songs together.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUM BEAT)

CARBERRY: So what - what do you guys want to play tonight?

(SOUNDBITE OF CYMBALS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I have no idea.

CARBERRY: I grab my guitar and hop on stage with an Afghan drummer and bass player, and we start improvising.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARBERRY: Over the years, I've jammed with some talented and passionate Afghan musicians. Tonight's drummer is fairly new to the scene, but he's got some serious Ginger Baker chops.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, unintelligible).

CARBERRY: After a few songs, the largely Afghan crowd starts calling for one of their friends to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Singing in foreign language).

CARBERRY: For the next hour, Afghan musicians sing a mix of traditional and original songs.

HUMAYUN ZADRAN: The whole inspiration was bringing rock 'n roll to Afghanistan.

CARBERRY: Humayun Zadran is the owner of the Venue. He grew up in exile in Pakistan, where he listened to classic rock and watched grunge bands on MTV. Zadran returned to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban, who had banned music in Afghanistan. Three years ago, he opened this intimate restaurant with its blue lit stage and Led Zeppelin posters on the walls.

ZADRAN: And why did I need a venue - because we would do concerts back in the days in embassies and expatriate bars, where Afghans were not allowed. So I had to set up this place.

CARBERRY: And at this place, Afghans and Westerners mix on stage and in the crowd. When I first arrived, I jammed mostly with Western musicians. But that changed.

ZADRAN: Now you see, like, all the concerts we do, all the jam sessions we do, it's 90 percent Afghans who really want these things to happen.

CARBERRY: Zadran says that's what he's wanted all along, an Afghan rock scene. He says, musicians like me have been mentors for young Afghans, and they're now ready to take center stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARBERRY: And so I take my exit, but not before one last jam of AC/DC's "Highway To Hell." It's a crowd favorite here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN CARBERRY AND UNIDENTIFIED MUSICIANS: (Playing AC/DC song, "Highway To Hell").

CARBERRY: Sean Carberry, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular