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interview: aryana sayeed

She is the sensational Diva of Afghanistan and the only female artist/activist of Afghanistan with over 300,000 fans on Facebook. A multiple award winning artist, Aryana Sayeed is one of the rare singers that only performs live in her concerts. Her outstanding performances, her fight for women’s rights, and her beauty have won millions of hearts, both inside Afghanistan and internationally. She is a young, successful woman who has made many accomplishments in her short career, including appearances on Al-Jazeera, MTV World, BBC World and many more. Her advocacy for women’s rights enabled her to appear on BBC World discussing the challenges faced by her and by other Afghan women.

Lip writer Wida Tausif chatted with Sayeed about her music career, what life is like for women in Afghanistan right now, and what a humble pop star hopes to do about it. 

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LIP: Tell us about your journey – when did you begin to pursue a career in music, and how did it happen?

ARYANA SAYEED: 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 very much interested in pursuing a career in music, however my family insisted upon me focusing on my education instead. It was much later after my graduation when I started pursuing music again and started performing at some events. It wasn’t until approximately five years ago when I officially decided to leave everything else aside and pursue a full time career in music.

L: You have re-introduced live performances in Afghanistan but playback performances seem to be more popular. What do you think about playback performances?

AY: Unfortunately, an ongoing trend within the Afghan music industry has been “playback” performances, where many artists simply play their recorded songs/CDs in their concerts and lip-synch or at times sing on top of the already recorded songs. One of the main reasons for this trend is the fact that due to the lack of proper progress within Afghanistan’s music industry, there are a few artists who have achieved fame within the Afghan community simply because they have recorded a decent song inside a studio and put together an eye-catching video for it; however they lack the ability to perform the same songs live at a level that would be even remotely close to the studio recording. I personally do not support this trend as I believe, despite the flaws of a live performance, an artist’s true artistic ability is displayed when they perform live. There are many artists with true talent who never get recognised because the slots within the Afghan music industry that should be filled by them are already occupied with those who are getting away by hiding behind playback performances. I hope to see that trend change as soon as possible and on my part at least, I always perform live in my concerts.

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

AY: If I am totally honest, even before the song/video for “Baanoo-e Aatash Nesheen” was released, both my management and I were counting a lot on that song/video. The lyrics for the song are extremely powerful, the music is 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. The fact that it was the first ever Afghan music video to be featured on MTV’s Rebel Music Series and it even got featured on BBC World’s Impact along with an appearance by myself as a first ever Afghan artist (male or female) to appear on that show were results that pleasantly surprised us. All that being said, for me personally the fact that it raised a bit of awareness of the ongoing issues and challenges faced by Afghan women meant much more than any other recognition myself or the song/video obtained.

L: Do you have any current projects?

AY: I indeed have many ongoing projects that I am working on; including another very powerful song dedicated to Afghan women again (titled “Qahramaan” or “Champion”) that probably will be released before this interview is published. 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.

L: What are your musical goals?

AY: My musical goals are very simple; (i) To bring a positive change in the lives of Afghan women before it is time for me to say goodbye to this world, (ii) to open additional doors for upcoming Afghan female artists with talent to flourish within the Afghan music industry, (iii) to produce enough powerful and memorable songs so I could be remembered as an accomplished artist of Afghanistan and lastly (iv) to be remembered as the Greatest Artist Afghanistan has ever had… j/k about the last point, or maybe not!

L: What does today’s women’s rights movement in Afghanistan look like?

AY: Unfortunately when it comes to women’s rights in Afghanistan, there is always lots of “talking” and we barely see any 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 majority 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 street harassment when they step out of their house, they are physically abused by their husband or other members of the family and it is considered a normal practice, and of course recently there have been many reports of Afghan Women getting raped mercilessly. So my hope is that the new government with the leadership of Mr. Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abdullah Abdullah will dedicate a major part of their focus on improving the lives of Afghan women.

L: Because of your commitment to women’s rights, you have been criticised for the way you promote women’s rights, such as the way you dress. Can you describe some of your experiences?

AY: Well to be quite honest with you, the one and only item those who are against progress [for the] Women in Afghanistan can pick on is the style of my clothing or my dresses – there are not any other points that they could prove as negative. It is not that I wear revealing or short dresses, however in the past there have been major controversies over my performance dresses being a bit too tight and body-hugging. I like being myself and do not want to change for anyone; especially when I know those who try to change you are oppressors who simply want to control anything and everything a woman is involved with within the society.

L: Due to your involvement with the women’s rights movement and your performances on stage without your veil, you have been subjugated to a lot of repression and threats. Will you still be travelling to Afghanistan?

AY: I have already faced numerous threats to the point that one particular TV channel inside Afghanistan actually issued a death warrant for me; advising the viewers “anyone who cuts of Aryana Sayeed’s head from her body would go to Heaven.” I have still continued to go back to Afghanistan and to stand up for what I believe in. 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 finally have to realise that 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 and not be dictated by someone else in regards to what she can or cannot do.

 

8 thoughts on “interview: aryana sayeed

  1. Aryana Sayeed is one of the most fascinating person of the year. She become the public figure by her good reputation & extremely hard work & remarkable accomplishment & keeping the best achievements records all around the world so far . Beside that she has a great VOICE by the main time she is a true role model & the voice for the voiceless women of Afghanistan as ever. I am a true fan of her & I love ARYANA JAN’s brilliant, stunning & majestic LIVE performances on the stage as usual; that proves that she has best artistic skills & showing progress as an professional best talented AFGHAN ARTIST & a delightful ENTERTAINER as ever. She has faith, big dream, integrity, divinity & redefine what is possible. I wish for her continued success & prosperity in her outstanding careers!!!I

  2. She is an amazing lady who inspires all the women around the world. I truly respect everything about her and always pray for her success in her personal & professional life.

    Love you Aryana Sayeed

  3. I doubt those who criticize Arayana for her clothing style think more about religious view. because everybody including herself knows that as per her religion, she is forbidden to walk out scarf-less at all. Most of the people who criticize her clothing style are pointing to the fact that she is selling her body and figure over her voice!!!. There are lots of actress and women singers in Afghanistan, but if you go to their fan pages in Facebook, you won’t see much hatred as you see in Aryana’s. And that the see-through, tight or short dresses are that make people be angry at her. There was an era that people in Afghanistan were thirsty of seeing a lady with such dresses, but now the people, specially young generation are fed with this style. They want to see authentic and true artistry and voice and not a sexy fashion show and a voice. Be yourself Aryana, but please, please don’t think that you can fool the youth’s eyes with your clothing. the more you dress polite and sing the more people support you and the more you dress like strippers, the more people tend to forget your gifted voice. A true example of your style is Miley Cyrus, B.S and Niki Minaj against Adele, Swift and Shakila (Iranian legend). You can see which one lasts more in people mind.

  4. Aryana Sayeed has completely ignored one huge topic that people tend to dislike her for. Let’s take a moment and shed some light onto the facts that are even present on numerous YouTube videos and her concerts. She is the ONLY female singer who dances in that certain way. Dancing is fine for artists. However, the sorts of moves and dances she does is not normal. She is a great artist and has an amazing voice. But, no one can change the facts. Before someone tries to argue back, go watch some of her YouTube performances then come and talk :)

  5. Aryana is an artist who has chosen to sing infront of stage, send messages and mostly entertain people. She is an entertainer. However, she is in no way an appropriate figure to represent Afghan women. She is a horrible speaker and is not a correct representation of true Afghan women. She attempts to attract attention only by the means of displaying her body. She knows that Afghan men from Afghanistan in particular are hungry for women to do these things and she only feeds these hungry men by going to them with her super padded bra and fake butt. Ofcourse that is also how she attained popularity. She even lacks originality because she SWEARS on Kim Kardashian/Haifa Wahbe and Ghazal Sadats Style (she might need a few more paddings to attract more attention from men so she can get more money to keep up to these ladies styles though…). 99% of the people that listen to her listen to her because she entertains, however when she tries to speak about more important issues she is very weak at it and not a slight bit of people have respect for her…because she doesn’t demand respect. You seek the attention you want to get and she is doing exactly that, cheap, trashy and a attention seeker for the wrong reason. I’m all for Afghanistan and progression of Afghan women and society however lets leave that to more appropraite women that are more educated and can BETTER represent these women… and believe me there are plenty of women that are doing this however their voices aren’t heard because cheap people like Aryana are distracting Afghanistan by keep jumping infront of the media every opportunity she gets. I hope that we have better women step up that are lawyers, doctors or more educated than Aryana that can come save our NAME and represent us better. If I had the power, I too would do it and I will one day…as soon as I’m finished my masters or further achieve my education so I can APPROPRIATELY attain this goal.

  6. In a very short time, she made a good position for her self inside afghans, As i know her, we should consider him from tow angels, she is talented singer as well as a women activist and supporter.

  7. The views regarding her clothing and dance moves are utterly stupid. Those who make such comments only reinforce Aryana’s views about the basic human rights allowed to women wherein she should have the choice to dress and behave exactly as she wants. I am glad she is unapologetic about who she is and continues to be who she is. In her BBC interview she states that Afghans cannot seperate religion from culture and it couldn’t be more true. I say this as an atheist Afghan woman. I know very well that who I am and what I do will not be acceptable in Afghanistan (hell, I may even suffer Farkhunda’s fate). She indeed does sing live and is appreciated by many for not only her beautiful voice, but her professionalism.

    A final thought, not necessary relating to this article specifically: A woman has a right to do with her body whatever she wants. If she wants to get a implants or pad her breasts that is her choice. The fact that you give yourself the right to dictate to her about right and wrong when it comes to her body and her personal choices is exactly what Aryana and countless other afghan girls like myself are saying is the root of all problem.

  8. Aryana’s voice and stage presence are good enough that she doesn’t need to display her body so overtly. She just doesn’t need to. The talent is there. She would actually have a bigger fan base and following if she respected the culture of her demographic and chilled out with the body hugging gear and sexual dance moves. Dressing like Kim Kardashian and dancing like Britney, while fine in the West, just doesn’t have a place in Afghanistan because the people simply don’t want it – and it’s actually the women of Afg that it offends. So instead of shoving it down their throats, respect it, back off and just give them your talent minus all the unnecessary extras. She’d have more fans, not have to deal with so much controversy and actually be unstoppable. Just my two cents. Peace. Be well.

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