How the power of music connects the Afghan diaspora to their homeland

IDEAS takes a journey to Afghanistan with members of the Afghan diaspora, who find their way "home" through their music. We ask: how is the idea of home embedded in music and how have decades of conflict reshaped Afghan music? This is the final episode in our series The Idea of Home.

'War, destruction, loss — all those issues were somehow coming to music to be resolved,' says poet

Hangama is a renowned singer from Afghanistan who now lives in Toronto. 'I always miss my country, my people, especially the women,' she says. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

This is the final episode in a five-part series called The Idea of Home exploring the multiple and contested meanings of home. Scroll to the bottom for other episodes in this series.

In 2021, when the Taliban seized power again in Afghanistan, orchestras disbanded and musicians fled for their lives. But since the Soviet occupation decades earlier, Afghans have been fleeing the region, bringing their distinctive and storied musical tradition with notes hailing from the classical music of Iran and India.

IDEAS takes a journey to Afghanistan with members of the Afghan diaspora, who find their way "home" through their music. We ask: how is the idea of home embedded in music? How have decades of conflict reshaped Afghan music? And how do you "compose" the latest tragedy in the story that is Afghanistan?

Guests in this episode: 

Mir Mahdavi is a poet, a writer, and a researcher in the area of art, literature and poetry, originally from Afghanistan. He now lives in Hamilton, Ontario and holds a Ph.D. in cultural studies from Trent University and a MA of cultural studies from McMaster University. He was the publisher and the editor in chief of Atab, a weekly newspaper published during 2002-2003 in Kabul.

Hangama is one of the most renowned female Afghan singers of her generation. Born in 1962 in Kabul, Hangama's stage name was chosen by her mother when she decided to pursue a career in music. She left Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Sara Soroor is an Afghan-Canadian singer-songwriter and childhood educator in the Greater Toronto Area. She is Hangama's daughter and started singing and playing the piano at age four.

Wares Fazelyar was born and raised in Toronto, and plays the rubab. He is an advisory board member for the Afghan Youth Engagement and Development Initiative. He and his brother Haris perform Afghan folk music in the Greater Toronto Area.

Wolayat Tabasum Niroo is a researcher and Fulbright scholar currently based in the United States. She has a PhD in Education from Old Dominion University and a MPhil in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oxford. She grew up in Afghanistan and has studied how Afghan women's folk music creates an alternative space for political expression, grief and imagining other possibilities. Her articles include Songs of war and despair: two Afghan/Uzbek women's life history and lament

*This episode was produced by Nahlah Ayed and Pauline Holdsworth, with production assistance from Tayo Bero

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