Singing from the heart


The lady of the Land Fire Aryana Sayeed speaks about her rise to fame both as a singer and as a voice for the women of Afghanistan

It was her single hit Mashallah that shot Aryana Sayeed into the spotlight. And since then the Afghan singer-songwriter has performed regularly in concerts, TV shows, and festivals around the world. In an interview with HB, she talks about how her style of music.


Tell us about your journey.

My interest in music developed at a very early age when I used to perform for myself in front of the mirror pretending that my mom’s hair brush was my microphone. Afterwards, during my high school years I was a member of the school choir and was interested in pursuing a career in music. However my family insisted I focus on my education instead. It was after my graduation that I started pursuing music again. It wasn’t until five years ago that I officially decided to pursue a full-time career in music.


How would you describe your style of music?

My music is primarily pop, however I have performed songs in some other genres as well. I have not limited myself to traditional Afghan music.


You have re-introduced live performances in Afghanistan though playback performances continue to be more popular. Do you support playback performances?

Unfortunately, an ongoing trend within the Afghan music industry has been “playback” performances, where many artistes simply play their recorded songs/CDs in their concerts and lip-sync or at times sing over the sound of the recorded songs. One of the main reasons for this trend is the fact that due to the lack of “proper” progress within the industry, there are a few artistes who have become famous simply because they have recorded a decent song inside a studio and put together an eye-catching video for it. They however lack the ability to perform the same songs “live” at a level that would be even remotely close to the studio recording. I hope to see that trend change soon. I always perform live in my concerts.


Your song “BanooAtashNesheen” meaning “The Lady of the Land Fire” gained a lot of recognition, both within Afghanistan and internationally. Was this something you expected?

Both my producers and I knew the lyrics were extremely powerful, the music was world-class and the video we put together for it portrays the realities of the challenges and hardships faced by Afghan women on a daily basis. However, the fact that it was the first-ever Afghan music video to be featured on MTV’s Rebel Music Series and it being featured on BBC World’s Impact along with an appearance by me as a first-ever Afghan artist (male or female) to appear on that show were results that pleasantly surprised us. For me, personally, the fact that it raised awareness of the ongoing issues and challenges faced by Afghan women meant much more than any other recognition.


Do you have any current projects?

I have many projects that I am working on including another very powerful song dedicated to Afghan women again titled “Qahramaan” or “Champion”. I am also working on my first-ever Pashto, Hazaragi and Qarsak (Panjshir) songs and a couple of other music videos that I will be recording very soon.


What are your musical goals?

I want to bring a positive change in the lives of Afghan women before it is time for me to say goodbye to this world, and to produce enough powerful and memorable songs to be remembered as an accomplished artiste of Afghanistan.


What is the current state of the women’s rights movement in Afghanistan?

Unfortunately when it comes to Women’s rights in Afghanistan, there is always lots of “talking” and we barely see any real action to bring forth a positive change in their lives and to provide them with basic human rights. I also find it a bit disturbing when I see a lot of focus being on how so many years ago Afghan women used to be able to wear mini-skirts and today they are covered under burqas since the challenges Afghan women face on a regular basis go far beyond not being able to wear mini-skirts. They constantly deal with harassment when they step out of their house, in many cases, they are physically abused by their husbands or other members of the family and recently there have been many reports of Afghan women getting raped. So my hope is that the new government with the leadership of Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will dedicate a major part of their focus to improving the lives of Afghan women.


Due to your involvement with the women’s rights movement and your performances on stage without your veil, you have faced threats in your home country. Will you still be travelling to Afghanistan?

I have already faced numerous threats to the point that one particular TV channel inside Afghanistan actually issued a death warrant for me, telling viewers that “anyone who cuts of AryanaSayeed’s head from her body would go to Heaven”. I have still continued going back to Afghanistan and standing up for what I believe. If I allow them to succeed in their goals of oppressing me or forcing me to give up, that would mean that I failed in my goal and they succeeded in theirs. I think the oppressors in Afghanistan have to realize they cannot enforce their way of life on everyone out there. As long as the normal boundaries of humanity are maintained, every human being should have the right to live their life according to their own wishes.

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