Tuesday, 23 February 2010

[305] Afghan Star (2009) Review

I had some fun writing about Afghan Star, an engrossing documentary about culture and politics in Afghanistan. I tried to marry the brassy style of music (not always music) writing, epitomised for me recently by the work of Kieron Gillen and Matthew Sheret with a socially-entwined film review. I don't know how well it worked, but it broke the monotony of grumbly, stuffy indulgence nonetheless.

Pop music is decadence gone mainstream. Indulgence defined by the powers that be as acceptable. And, with the rise of reality TV shows like The X Factor, such decadence is blown open, made into a musical soap opera writ large on a frightening scale, yet all the while assuring the ephemerality of the whole exercise - here is your pop star for the next few months, before we start it all over again next season.

As grumbly geeks and cynical twerps, it's incredibly easy for us to look upon the various arms of Simon Cowell's empire with knee-jerk disdain, cradling our Emerson, Lake and Palmer (or The Stooges, or Animal Collective, or Autechre, or Alice Coltrane) albums and projecting outwards our false estimations of authenticity, sincerity and artistic worth for all to hear.

Know this.
Afghan Star, the UK-produced documentary about Afghanistan's equivalent musical talent show, is a supremely cutting, enlightening affirmation of the important, and controversial, nature of pop music. This is a country where, under Taliban rule, it was considered a crime to dance, listen to music, or watch television.

Unsurprisingly, Daoud Sediqi,
Afghan Star's host and director, has high hopes for the social, cultural effects of bringing popular music and television together. By its third season, which is documented by director Havana Marking and her documentary crew, the show at its peak enjoys an audience that equals a third of the country's population, and Sediqi's ambition of turning the Afghan collective consciousness away from the gun, and towards music - in the process uniting the disparate ethnic social groups - looks to be within grasp.

Read the full article here.

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