Thousands of Afghan artists are still trying to flee the Taliban : NPR

The heart of Afghanistan is (from L to R) tabla player Hamid Habibzadeh, pianist Elham Fanous, singer and harmonium player Ahmad Fanous, and violinist Mehran Fanous.

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The heart of Afghanistan is (from L to R) tabla player Hamid Habibzadeh, pianist Elham Fanous, singer and harmonium player Ahmad Fanous, and violinist Mehran Fanous.

Sachin Mital/Sachyn Mital

It takes a lot of people to help an artist get out of Afghanistan safely.

Ahmed Fanous was a singer and a well-known TV personality. Before the Taliban took over, he was a judge and a program host American Idolshow the style called Afghan star.

The Taliban has banned music throughout the country. Fanus did not leave his house at first. He says that he later received a threatening letter from the Taliban accusing him and his family members of being infidels for making music. His wife and his eighteen-year-old son Mehran, a violinist, had gone to India. Another son, Elham Fanous, a 25-year-old pianist, was in New York.

Elham, who was worried about his father, asked Leslie Rosenthal, executive director of the Juilliard School, if he could help his father. “And he really activated his audience,” Elham tells NPR.

Rosenthal I realized that I understand that the TV network behind him Afghan star Part of it belonged to the Fox company. “He called the network and they were able to evacuate him and my sister, along with his family, along with some Fox reporters,” says Elham.

At the end of October 2021, the big lantern made its way to New York. It was the first time he saw Elham after five years. Artistic Freedom Initiative OrganizationAFI) helped Fanus find housing and a job teaching at a new school. Last year, Mehran was given a full scholarship to study music Indiana University.

After years of distance, Ahmed Fanous and his sons performed together for the first time last May.

Ahmad Fanous, who spoke Dari, said he was grateful to all the people who helped him and his family escape from Afghanistan. But he worries about the musicians in his band he left behind.

Heart of Afghanistan project is Ahmad Fanous with vocals and harmonium, his sons Elham on piano and Mehran on violin and Hamid Habibzadeh on tabla.

Sachin Mital/Sachyn Mital


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Sachin Mital/Sachyn Mital


Heart of Afghanistan project is Ahmad Fanous with vocals and harmonium, his sons Elham on piano and Mehran on violin and Hamid Habibzadeh on tabla.

Sachin Mital/Sachyn Mital

“He had known them for more than 20 years,” says Elham.

Fanus says none of them have been able to go.

According to AFI, about 3,000 artists have asked the organization to help them leave Afghanistan or the neighboring countries they fled to.

“Art is a special profession in Afghanistan. You are inherently at risk as an artist,” says Sanjay Sethi, an immigration attorney and executive director of AFI. His co-worker, Ashley Tucker, says the stories they hear are “heartbreaking.”

“Beating or raiding their homes or taking or burning their tools,” explains Tucker. “We continue to hear stories from artists who are still desperately trying to get out.”

The Fanous family hopes to hold an upcoming US concert tour under this name The heart of Afghanistanhelps draw attention to the plight of their fellow artists and shows American audiences a “positive side” and a “new face” of Afghanistan.

Their music is a kind of cross between East and West, mixing drums, tabla, harmonium, piano and violin. The group is performing at the Lincoln Festival World Festival in New York this weekend.

In the meantime, Elham and Mehran’s mother and Ahmed Fanous’s wife are still trying to leave India. He has never seen the trio perform Together.

“That’s one of his dreams, to see all of us on stage, to live and be there,” he says. “It’s going to be something special. I’m sure he’s going to cry.”

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