May 11, 2006

Afghan rapper wins fans with message of peace

By Abdul Saboor

KABUL (Reuters) - Rap may have been born on the gritty,
violent streets of American cities but Afghan rapper DJ Besho
says he wants to send a message of peace to the new generation
of war-torn Afghanistan.

Besho, 28, looks the part with his baseball cap, dark
glasses and combat trousers but he's no gangster.

He says young Afghans should unite, stay clear of drugs and
study hard for the benefit of the country. And he says the
pirates who have already started copying his music should be

"My message is peace, fight against drugs. People must try
to learn something for this country ... It's very, very
important," Besho said in an interview at Kabul's Tolo TV
station where he was editing his new video.

"The right way for the new generation is to go to school,
of course."

Besho's real name is Bezhan Zafarmal. "Besho" is a family

He was born in the northern Afghan town of Kunduz just
before the country slipped into decades of war. One day he was
going to get ice cream with a friend when a rocket hit, killing
his pal. Three of his uncles were killed in the war.

As violence consumed the country he left with his family,
ending up in Germany where he has lived for the past 16 years.

Now he's back, brimming with energy and brash optimism.

"I didn't feel good in Germany ... I had everything but my
heart was in Afghanistan. Because the people love me here, they
know my feeling, they know my hip-hop because I do it in my own

"I think I can do something for my country. It is a big

He's also a keen footballer and wants to promote the sport
among youngsters and help the national team.


Besho first got hooked on rap as a boy while living in

He heard a hit by Nigerian star Dr Alban and started
singing along. His friends laughed and told him he couldn't do
Afghan rap.

"I said 'it is easy and I will show you in 10 years'," he

He is being sponsored by Tolo TV, the hippest new
television station to appear since the Taliban were ousted in
2001. It broadcasts a mixture of pop videos, entertainment and

In Kabul at least, Besho is winning legions of enthusiastic
if at times bemused fans.

"Kids love this kind of music he's introduced to our
country. But in my opinion, it would be more interesting if he
wore our own national dress," said 21-year-old student, Farhad.

"His songs express our national unity and we like the kind
of music he makes. He is young and talented and it's very
interesting to listen to his songs," said another man,

Even President Hamid Karzai wanted to meet the rapper but
Besho was an hour late for their appointment.

"It was really not good. I thought maybe he was waiting for
me but no," said Besho, who's a big fan of the president.

"He wants to bring peace and wants to see the new
generation, what we say," he said. "We don't want youth to talk
about bad times, we want to talk about now."

But while Besho said he's encountered no negative reaction
to his music, not everyone in deeply conservative Afghanistan
is a fan.

"I don't like music at all but this, in my opinion, is the
worst," said a prominent Kabul Islamic cleric, Abdul Raouf.

"It takes our young people away from our own culture and
traditions. This kind of music forces them to follow an alien

For now, Besho doesn't seem too worried about such
reactions. He's much more vexed about bootleg copies of a
concert aired on Tolo TV he found in a Kabul market.

"It is really bad ... it's stealing," he says, waving a
copy of the bootleg disc. "The people who do this must got to