Rocking The Vote, Afghan-Style

Singer Farhad Darya

hide captionSinger Farhad Darya is performing for free to encourage his countrymen to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Photo Gallery: Farhad Darya's Show
David Gilkey/NPR

Afghanistan's upcoming presidential election has been looking increasingly American — with posters, rallies, Web sites and music.

The country's biggest musical star is performing a series of concerts aimed at "rocking the vote."

A concert Tuesday night in Kabul drew thousands of excited fans. They were divided, Afghan-style, between men and women.

Most of the young men pumping their fists in the air on the soccer field were in Western dress, — but some are more traditional. One young man, who was wearing a starched, foot-high turban, brought with him a dozen of his young friends who are from a border province in the east where the Taliban is strong. But none of them were thinking about that last night.

They were there for the message and the music.

"The population of Afghanistan is 68 percent young generation," he says. "Why we should be afraid of insecurity and war? Why shouldn't we get together? We should all work for stability and peace in Afghanistan. That's why we are here."

There were plenty of women and girls in attendance and ready to swoon at the sight of Farhad Darya.

The name "Farhad" has a great romantic connotation: Farhad is the "Romeo" in Afghanistan's version of Romeo and Juliet.

But the concert had a serious side, too: He is hoping to convince Afghans to get out and vote.

Darya himself fled the bloody civil war that destroyed Kabul in the early 1990s, when warlords fought over who would rule the country. He didn't come back from his home in the United States until after the Taliban were driven out. As a result, he has as many sad memories as anyone in the audience.

He is acutely aware, for instance, that Kabul Stadium, the site of his concert, became infamous as the place where the Taliban conducted public executions and dismemberments — and particularly of women.

"I had my first concert here after 2001, here in this same stadium. People saw me singing about love and new life and giving them hope. People were crying. I'm trying to heal the painful past here," he says.

Singer Farhad Darya Walks Through Fans

hide captionDarya's free show drew thousands of fans for his concert.

David Gilkey/NPR

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