Page last updated at 01:10 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 02:10 UK

Moonlighting as Afghanistan's musical hope

The song regularly features on Afghan television and radio channels

By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Kabul

Latif Nangarharay works eight hours a day as a quality service controller for the London Underground.

His job is to make sure that trains run on time, stations are kept clean and passengers have a hassle-free journey.

For thousands of London commuters he's just one of the many staff managing their daily commute.

Latif Nangarharay earns his wage working for London Underground

But Mr Nangarharay is no ordinary worker - in fact he's a singing sensation in his home country, Afghanistan.

His lyrics inspire many Afghans. His words - his fans say - offer hope to a country destroyed by 30 years of war. His music encourages fellow Afghans not to lose faith. And his message is a personal one.

Mr Nangarharay fled the Taliban 10 years ago and settled in London.

The 28-year-old says that he too is a child of war and understands exactly how his countrymen feel.

He says that his country's history is what inspires his songs.

"Like everyone else, I left my country and lost family members, so I sing the song. I hate anyone who destroys or kills Afghans, so I urge those who are misled and carry out suicide attacks and kill school children, that this is not the time to pull the trigger," he said.

The ballads of Mr Nangarharay depict Afghanistan's violent past and present.

His latest number - Afghanistan - regularly features on Afghan television and radio channels.

"This song motivates me to hate those who kill with guns," says one Kabul man, Mohammad Gul. "People are sick and tired of war."

Mr Nangarharay says the lyrics of the new song aims to encourage fellow Afghans to move away from the path of violence and strive for a future filled with peace and prosperity.

"I ask those who blow up schools, kill people and carry out attacks to not let people misled them. Don't kill, don't kill your brothers," the singer says.

Musical bond

It is no coincidence that Mr Nangarharay's songs have witnessed high sales in a country where entertainment is largely restricted to Bollywood films and songs.


Music was a key part of Afghan cultural identity and played a crucial role in keeping the ethnically diverse country together until the Taliban took control in the 1990s and banned all forms of it.

Because of his music, Mr Nangarharay has now become one of the most watched, listened to and spoken of figures in Afghanistan - and among millions of Afghans scattered around the world.

About 3,000 people attended his concert in Australia recently - a sign of his growing popularity outside Afghanistan.

One of Mr Nangarharay's songs was written by leading Pashto poet, Babarzai, after a controversial US bombing in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

An Afghan government investigation at the time concluded that 45 women and children and two men had been killed when the US bombed a wedding party in the village of Deh Bala.

"Where there is a wedding procession, or a funeral is taking place - it is no time for pulling the trigger," Babarzai wrote in the song.

You need to bring peace with nice words not with guns and tanks
Fruit seller Mohammad Musafir

For Babarzai, the song represents Afghanistan's sad affiliation with war.

"War is a sad reality of our life. My message is for peace. In the song, I ask for all bombs - roadside, plane, suicide - and those who pull the trigger, to stop," says Babarzai with tears in his eyes.

"People love Mr Nangarharay because he sings with so much passion, dedication and energy," says Babarzai, who is also head of cultural and musical programmes at Shamshad TV.

This analsysis is endorsed by Kabul fruit seller Mohammad Musafir, who listens to Latif Nangarharay's song on the radio.

"I like his song. He has a message for peace. People like music and will listen to him. You need to bring peace with nice words not with guns and tanks," he said.

Pashto poetry is an integral part of Afghan society. Every year there are hundreds of poetry contests across the south, east and south-east of the country.

Poets at these meets castigate corruption, the lack of reconstruction, civilian casualties caused by the international forces, killings by the Taliban and others - and urge people to stop the violence.

According to Latif Nangarharay, his music is addressed to Afghans killing their own.

"My message to them is not to kill children, their countrymen and don't attack our cities and markets with bombs. These young people are misled."

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