“Music has changed perceptions and shattered stereotypes in Afghanistan”

The young Shahzad Adeel has revolutionized music in Afghanistan. He wants to continue with same enthusiasm and keep entertaining millions of his fans

At a young age, he has captured the imagination of country with his mellifluous music. Shehzad Adeel is a household name in Afghanistan. He had his early education in Kabul, and like millions of Afghans, he too left with his family for Pakistan when the civil war broke out in Afghanistan. His family, like other refugees, had to struggle hard in Pakistan. He completed his secondary education at Ariana High School in Peshawar City, before he returned to his home country. He recently graduated from from Law and Political Science.

His tryst with singing started four year ago. “I always had the inclination for music and singing and it is something I am passionate about,” says Adeel. Like in any conservative society where music and singing are considered a taboo, he also faced opposition early on. “When I decided to become a singer, my family was not comfortable with the idea, they tried to dissuade me from it,” says the young prodigy. “But, they changed their mind after seeing the tremendous support and love I was getting from people all around and that convinced me that no goal is impossible to achieve if you are determined enough.”

For professional singers, training and apprenticeship is a prerequisite. “Before you dabble with singing, you have to understand the nuances and nitty-gritty of music, and it has to be a consummate training where you dedicate your heart and soul,” says Adeel. He started taking music lessons from Bawra, an Indian musician and when he developed a firm grip over basics, he went to learn classical music from Momtaz Ahmad Nawabi. “So, before starting something, you need to have a strong foundation, so that your career does not stand on a shaky ground.”

In a place like Afghanistan, where war and violence dominate the popular discourse, music can facilitate peace and order, believes Adeel. “I believe music has the power to heal wounds and connect hearts and my dream is to see peaceful and united Afghanistan.” Adeel says he sing for the people of his country. “I sing for my homeland, for my people and for every Afghan citizen around the world. It is my way of serving my country and I will continue doing it.”

Adeel released his first song ‘Che Goyam Man’ in January 2009. The song instantly became a chart-buster, and was played on major radio channels like Tapesh FM 97.1, Arman FM 98.1, City FM, Ariana FM, Maiwand FM and Nawa FM.

“Releasing the first song was a big moment for me, but it took me a while to realize I had finally arrived on the big stage,” says the young singer with hint of modesty. All his songs, says Adeel, convey message of love and peace and are aimed at youth. “There was only classical music in vogue and youth find it a little harder to understand that, so I wanted to give them something they can connect with,” he says.

However, he says, Afghan music industry has come a long way. “Some local music bands led by young musicians have played key role in this renaissance. There was a pop music band xxxx that revolutionized new-age music in this country.”

Some famous Afghan singers like Zahir Howaida and Aziz Ashna, he says, also played a pivotal role in popularizing pop music in Afghanistan. Agha Mohammad Kargar, Ahmad Shaker, Chatram Sani, Sayed Habib Alavi, Kabir Howaida and Younus Moseqyar were the famous proponents of new-age pop music in Afghanistan. Chatram Sani, 15, was the younger member of the group and Aziz Ashna, 23, was the oldest member.

Adeel released his first song ‘Che Goyam Man’ in January 2009. The song instantly became a chart-buster, and was played on major radio channels like Tapesh FM 97.1, Arman FM 98.1, City FM, Ariana FM, Maiwand FM and Nawa FM

In pop music, says Adeel, the effectiveness of melody depends on the lyrics and composition. “The first pop music group of Afghanistan used poetries collected from Afghan and Iranian magazines. Then they started writing their own songs.”    

It has not been a smooth sail for singers though, acknowledges Adeel. “We live in a conservative society where these things are not generally acceptable, besides we have suffered enormously during the years of war”. The facilities for training in music, he adds, are lacking here. “But we have a rich history of music and we have produced some of the best classical singers like Ustad Sarahang, who is regarded as the father of Afghan classic music.”

The local music in both Pashtoo and Dari is extremely popular too. “A large majority of youth is enamored by the local music and most of the channels play these songs. But there is also an overwhelming interest in other music, mainly Bollywood.”

Music, Adeel believes, is a powerful tool that can change perceptions and break stereotypes. “My prime objective is to project the peaceful image of my country and demolish all the myths about Afghanistan being the land of war and violence, that is what most of my songs are about.”

Adeel has given voice to 27 songs as background singer and featured in 9 video songs. “Most of my songs struck chord with people and I received many accolades from my fans, especially for songs like En To Bodi, Ma Auridili, Baz Aa Ba Aa, Az Man Ramidayee, Ma Ba To Yeem, Da Ta Jhwand Wayee, Behoda Intezar, Akher Ramidi, and the song I composed for Football Premier League.”      

He is happy with his body of work but he wants to put Afghan music on the world map. “There are people all across the world who love Afghan music, and my aim is to entertain all of them.” He, however, accepts there are challenges and it is going to a bumpy ride. “There are always challenges but as artists we have to take that into stride and carry on with passion and perseverance.”

“We live in difficult times with so much stress and constant worry,” says the young singer. “Our people have suffered a lot and they definitely deserve a better life and I strongly believe music can help in soothing the anxieties and give people a much needed relief.”

He is unperturbed by cut-throat competition in the entertainment industry. “There are some good singers around but there is no rivalry. I compete with myself and I always try to do better than what I have already done. My passion for excellence is what drives me,” says Adeel.

He harbors many dreams for his country. “I consider myself a student of music, I am still learning and I believe it is a life-long process,” he says. “There is so much to do. I want to carry on with same enthusiasm and hopefully make my country proud.”  

He believes the talent in this country is abundant, but that talent needs to be explored and channelized properly. “We are the future of our country and onus lies on us to rebuild it through our own efforts, we have the talent and determination, it is just about putting the right foot forward,” says the prodigy.