KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — It is set to air every Friday night for five or six months. Hundreds of local singers will be given a chance to perform onstage, and viewers will vote for their favorites by cellphone text messaging. At the end, there will be one star. This is the Afghan version of American Idol. It's called Afghan Star, and it has captured the imaginations of aspiring pop stars around this war-savaged country.
"There's been a 25-year drought on locally produced music in this country," says one of the brains behind the new television show, Wajma Mohseni, an Afghan who was brought up in Australia. "People want to be entertained and want to see their own people onstage. The aim of Afghan Star is to nurture local talent."
The station held its first round of auditions at a new
development called Kabul City Center, the closest thing to a skyscraper in the
capital city–and the building that houses the first escalator in Afghanistan [ more » ].
The organizers had no limitations–they wanted singers that were both male and
female, singing in Dari/Farsi and Pashto/Pakhto/Afghani. The only stipulations were that they were
over 16 and Afghan.
About 400 people–mostly young men–turned out over three days of auditions. The men have varying degrees of polish. Some wear jeans and slicked-back hair; others have on the traditional Afghan tunics and look as if they just rolled out of bed. One good-looking young man came all the way from Herat, in western Afghanistan, just to audition. One woman shows up in a head scarf and a tight pantsuit and platform shoes–she is one of six women out of the 400, but her courage is partly due to having been brought up in Iran. Most sing Afghan songs, but a few branch out into Indian or Iranian songs.
A panel of three judges determines whether they make the first cut, to be invited onto the next show. One nerdy-looking older man, before he goes onstage, says confidently to the host of the show, "I'm 90 percent confident that I'll be successful." This line has since gained notoriety in the halls of Kabul University–because the man then promptly crashed and burned onstage.
Wajma's three brothers started the company, called Moby Capital Partners, after the fall of the Taliban. All brought up in Australia, one was a stockbroker, one was a financial analyst, and one was a lawyer. After returning to Afghanistan, they have opened up a television station called Tolo TV, a radio station, an English magazine called Afghan scene, and an advertising company.
In its push to provide local content to a viewership starved of independent programming, Tolo TV started shows on diversions such as music and interior design. Its news show has been known to push the edges of reporting in the country, discussing such previously taboo subjects as pedophilia and corruption.
With this show, however, it is aiming straight at the heart of the Afghan public–which apparently is not so different from that of Americans.
The Program is called: Da Afghan Storai (in Afghani) And Sitar-e Afghan (in Farsi/Dari).
Here below you can see few photos from the 'Afghan Storai' Program.
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