In Afghanistan, Communist-era Tunes At Today's Campaigns : The Two-Way Communist-era tunes rally the faithful at a Karzai campaign rally.
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In Afghanistan, Communist-era Tunes At Today's Campaigns

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In Afghanistan, Communist-era Tunes At Today's Campaigns

In Afghanistan, Communist-era Tunes At Today's Campaigns

Afghan President Hamid Karzai greets supporters on Friday. He's used some Soviet-era songs to pump up the crowd at campaign rallies. Rafiq Maqbool/AP hide caption

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Rafiq Maqbool/AP

KABUL -- Barack Obama once pumped up a presidential campaign rally with Celebration by Kool and the Gang.

John McCain (controversially) rocked a few events with John Mellencamp's Our Country.

The tunes playing before a recent re-election campaign rally for Afghan President Hamid Karzai?

Country, Your Love Is My Life, Hey, Country!, and Hero Soldier! -- a loop of songs recorded when communists ruled Afghanistan in the early 1980s and the country's leadership was under the effective control of the Soviet Union.

For some, the early '80s was the last great period in Afghan popular music. Musicians of that era who produced creative music while also popularizing patriotic themes were well rewarded.

I can report that I did hear a few voices under the large Karzai campaign tent singing along.

Here's a recording of one of the most popular Communist-era songs played that day outside Kabul.

In Afghanistan, Communist-era Tunes At Today's Campaigns

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The singers are lauding the virtues of the motherland: "You are my honor. You are my pride. You are the country of Afghans."

But here's the confusing part: this communist-era music may be toe-tapping for some Afghans, but it also brings back bad memories.

The early '80s was a time when thousands of Afghans were purged because they were too religious or because they weren't communist enough. Families lost loved ones and land. It was a brutal time.

Morning Edition's Renee Montagne is reporting on Afghanistan's Aug. 20 election over the next few weeks, trying to untangle some of the country's contradictions.

Tomorrow, she covers Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's first foreign minister following the fall of the Taliban. He's one of the candidates challenging Karzai.

Stay tuned, so to speak.

Jim Wildman is a Morning Edition producer. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts Morning Edition.

(Note from Mark: Jim's report reminds me of the afternoon I spent in spring 2002 with some Afghan musicians who were renewing their love affair with their instruments after years of Taliban oppression. Their joy at being able to play again was clear. For them, traditional Afghan folk music -- not communist-era tunes -- was the best music in the world.)