Preserving Herat’s Heritage: A Defiant Musical Tribute to Afghanistan 


Roots Revival Band during performnce on the 10th of September in Vienna's Odeon Theater. Photo: @Ali Ahmad

By Ali Ahmad 

Vienna: In a world where music is a universal language, capable of transcending borders and connecting people from diverse cultures, there are moments when its power becomes especially poignant. One such moment unfolded on the 10thof September in Vienna as Roots Revival, a musical association with an orientalistic background hosted a concert dedicated to Afghanistan’s Herat music, titled “Afghanistan: You are not forgotten.” This musical event was not merely a performance; it represented a defiant act against the Taliban’s oppressive ban on music while simultaneously aiming to rekindle the roots of the Afghan diaspora.

Afghanistan has a rich and diverse musical heritage, with each region contributing its unique melodies and rhythms. Herat, a city known for its historical significance and vibrant culture in western Afghanistan, holds a special place in this mosaic. However, the rise of the Taliban brought with it a harsh prohibition on music, silencing the songs and melodies that had echoed through Afghanistan for generations.

Roots Revival is a global, cross-cultural association that seeks to connect tradition and innovation in music creation while highlighting the pressing global issues facing humanity today. It also seeks to support the musical legacy of the world, improve artist mobility, and foster intercultural artistic discourse. In Vienna, it draws attention to the underrepresented music of those with immigration backgrounds.  

The burning of a musical instrument by the Taliban upon their return to power in August 2021 inspired the Roots Revival’s musicians to transform the flames into beacons of hope through musical performance. They composed a song called “The Candle”, which recalled one of the lead singers of the band’s motivation during the concert. This burning of harmonium by the Taliban “profoundly touched our hearts, and we felt compelled to transform the destructive flames into a symbol of hope and enlightenment. Our aim is to use the fire’s energy, ignited by the burning of a musical instrument, to illuminate the way forward,”  

Roots Revival’s decision to showcase Herat music is a testament to the enduring spirit of the Afghan people. It is an act of defiance against the oppressive forces that seek to suppress cultural expression and a rallying cry to preserve the identity and heritage of the Afghan diaspora. For the Afghan diaspora, preserving their cultural roots is not merely a choice; it is an act of resilience, a way to maintain a connection to their homeland, and a means to pass down their rich heritage to future generations.

The “Afghanistan: You are not forgotten” next episode will be on the 14th of December dedicated to the music of north-eastern Badakhshan province. Through these concerts, Roots Revival aims to send a powerful message about the resilience of music as a unifying force. It reminds the human being that even in the face of adversity, the human spirit seeks to find beauty, harmony, and connection through the universal language of music. 

By celebrating Herat music, Roots Revival pays homage to the artistic traditions that have long been an essential part of Afghan society and a source of pride for the Afghan diaspora. During the concert, the group performed one of Herat’s ancient songs “I am a Herati Girl”. This song has roots in Herat and highlights the beauty of Herat girls and their significance in society.  

Solidarity and Hope

This musical tribute was an invitation to everyone, regardless of their background, to come together in solidarity with the Afghan people. It serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating the enduring strength of a nation that refuses to be defined solely by its challenges. In a world often divided by differences, the series of concerts dedicated to Afghanistan’s musicoffers an opportunity to unite under the banner of music, sharing in the joy of cultural diversity and artistic expression.

Roots Revival’s “Afghanistan: You are not forgotten” concert was more than just an evening of melodies; it was a powerful declaration of support for the Afghan people and their cultural heritage. Through this defiant act of music, the artists sent a resounding message to the world: the spirit of Afghanistan cannot be silenced, and its music will continue to thrive. For the Afghan diaspora, this concert is a vital step in preserving their cultural identity and passing it on to future generations, ensuring that the enduring legacy of Afghan music lives on, undaunted by adversity.

The full concert can be watched here.

Ali Ahmad is a Vienna-based researcher focusing on migration and diaspora studies. 

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.

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