This Fête de la Musique, Afghan musicians and brothers Humayoun and Haroon Ibrahimi performed traditional Afghan music at the DISSIDENT club, and spoke of the dangers they faced as musicians in Afghanistan. 

“One night, on my way back from a musical performance in Kabul city, I was stopped at a security checkpoint. I thought it was the Afghan police, but it turned out to be the Taliban,” recounts Humayoun Ibrahimi, a musician who is currently seeking refuge in Paris, along with his brother Haroon, who was also attacked subsequently in the city.

In the attack on Humayoun, the Taliban took his musical instruments and destroyed them, and beat him up, breaking his arm. Haroon was also attacked by the militant group the following week, and his right eye was severely injured. “After these incidents, it was clear that we can no longer live in Afghanistan and practice our passion for music,” Ibrahimi adds.

Such deadly attacks on musicians in Afghanistan are a regular occurrence, and the music industry in Afghanistan has been effectively shut down by the Taliban. Since the 1970s, the censorship and repression of music in Afghanistan has grown increasingly ruthless. During the nineties, when the Taliban government ruled Afghanistan, they banned all kinds of music since they considered it haram (forbidden), but their influence and terror has continued even after their regime came to an end in 2001. Consequently, musicians are still routinely targeted and harassed, and their instruments are destroyed by the militant group. This has forced musicians to flee from Afghanistan, and practice music in exile like Humayoun and Haroon who fled Afghanistan in 2017.

The Ibrahim brothers come from a family of musicians, their grandfather played the rubab, a lute-like musical instrument while their father played the tabla, a pair of hand drums and composed music. Naturally, the brothers were taught by their grandfather and father, and continued the tradition and became musicians themselves.

Haroon plays the rubab and Humayoun plays the tabla, and this Fête de la Musique, they performed traditional Afghan music at the DISSIDENT club in Paris, where they also spoke of the dangers of being musicians in Afghanistan.

The brothers left Afghanistan early in 2017, and after a perilous journey through the continents, arrived in Paris in 2018, where they now work as musicians. “In France, we feel safe since we are able to freely perform, without the constant threat of being attacked. But sometimes it can be depressing as we miss our family and our life there,” says Ibrahimi, as he resumes his performance for the audience at the DISSIDENT club.