Growls from the War zone

District Unknown

Afghanistan's first metal band, District Unknown, plans to let it rip on its visit to India

A house in Central Kabul throbs with the growls of a few men rehearsing for their upcoming gig in Delhi. The guitarist strums a gorgeous pounding guitar riff as the the drummer begins to hammer on the drumkit. It is here that the vocalist, like a sudden addition, tears in, turning into a wolf and growling the lyrics of Two seconds after the blast. The lyrics are dark if not mean, "but at the same time they are socially conscious," says Pedram Foushanji, the lead drummer of the band, who mentions that the song was penned after Pedram's brother Qasem Foushanji, the bass guitarist of the band, saw a bomb go off at the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008.

"He was in a queue for his visa but survived the bombing. He was witness to all the pain and suffering. The song describes that moment right after the blast," says Pedram, who, with guitar player Mohammad Qais Shaghasi and vocalist Yusoof Ahmad Shah, comprise District Unknown, the first metal band from Afghanistan. District Unknown will headline the SAARC festival in Delhi next week.

The band may revel in the deliberate menace of their music as the dark and labyrinthine passages from their popular tracks, but its presence seems something of an anomaly in Afghanistan, a country where the diplomatic mood (extremists earlier, moderates now) governs what people can and can't do. In fact, Travis Beard, the band manager's house, where the band jams, is more used to bullets and missiles than dense tunes paired with even denser vocals. Music in Afghanistan was considered haraam or un-Islamic and under the Taliban. The assault on the arts continued through the years, especially in '90s, and particularly on music, as tapes and musical instruments were burnt and musicians beaten up. A pop concert in Herat was bombed in 2010, allegedly by the Taliban.

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