Burqa Ballads

Whatever happened to Afghanistan’s girl rock trio, “Burqa Band”? Farz Edraki takes a peek behind the veil.


“My mother wears a burqa/ my father does it too/ I have to wear a burqa/ the burqa, it is blue” – the opening lines of “Burqa Blues”, by all-girl Afghanistani rock group, Burqa Band.

The track’s videoclip has over 400,000 views on YouTube, and features three women in blue burqas jamming inside a living room, interspersed with clips of daily-life scenes in what appears to be Kabul. The lead singer grips a microphone from under her hijab; another woman drums along in minimalist, Meg White style. It’s surprisingly catchy, and, well, just plain surprising.

Formed in 2002 with the help of German music producer Dahlke and label Ata Tak, the girls released their first single and a self-titled album in 2003. They’ve even played at a public gig in Koln, Germany – something they could never do in their home countries.

Afghanistan is not often recognised for its rock musicians. Not startling considering the Taliban’s strict prohibition of music in public, which only ended when they were ousted from government in 2001.  (Kabul recently hosted its first rock festival in 30 years, “Sound Central”, last September.) Even less uncommon is the association between the Middle Eastern country and female rock outfits. If all-girl pop/rock groups exist in Afghanistan, they’re based underground; Burqa Band was the first to garner international attention.

Where are the women now? According to several online interviews, Burqa Band is on permanent hiatus after the lead singer moved to Pakistan to pursue a music career. If MySpace activity is anything to go by, that their last log-in was 2007 indicates that at least for now, the burqa-bound musos have set aside their guitar and drum kit.

Burqa Band’s music is still around in the internet ether, with their light-hearted, tongue-in cheek lyrics: “You give me all your love/ you give me all your kisses/ and then you touch my burqa/ and do not know who is it”.

You can check out Burqa Band’s Last.fm page here: http://www.last.fm/music/Burka+Band, and the YouTube video of their single, “Burqa Blues”, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_Y-sw89qTY

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