Afghan refugees have been coming to India since 1979, after Soviet troops had invaded the country. Approximately 60,000 Afghans have fled to India since then, most of whom have now become Indian citizens. Among them is a group of young Afghani boys, who decided it was time they did something to protect their identity, music and culture.
“Each day is a new day... of hope. We will show the world how to hope... Though our music.” With this very thought, the six members of Yuva Beats – a music band based in New Delhi - have been creating music and expressing themselves to the world. Our correspondent Aletta André met the band in New Delhi as they practiced for an upcoming concert.
All the band members are students in their late teens and early twenties. And they all grew up learning music at home and school back in Afghanistan. Hameed, 19 years old, is one of them. When Hameed was eight years old, his father began teaching him to play music.
“My father always encouraged me to learn music,” he recollects. But once the Taliban rose to power, Hameed feared for his life. “The Taliban didn’t like music. There were bomb blasts, people were kidnapped. We had to escape from school and the whole situation.”
But there were other members who, along with their families, fled the repression to neighbouring countries including Yuva's drummer Haidar, who shifted base to Pakistan. “I was able to continue to play music there, which had been impossible in Afghanistan,” he says.
Moving to India, they lived as refugees and asylum seekers, playing music whenever they could. It was only two years ago that their band manager Khalid Mominzada came up with the idea of Yuva Beats.
“I met these boys for the first time when they were participating in a talent hunt competition organised by the Afghan community here," Mominzada says. "I saw one of them had a guitar and played very nicely. And then another who could sing so well. So I got them together and suggested that this could be the beginning of a new music band.”
Khalid used to be a journalist and a filmmaker back in Afghanistan. But when he started receiving death threats from the insurgents, he worried for his wife and young daughters. That’s when he decided it was time to leave Afghanistan. “Otherwise I may have ended up on the list of those beheaded journalists in Afghanistan."
Once he moved to India, Khalid had to look for new work options. Helping refugees with accommodation, he even drove taxis to fend for his family. But the idea of a music band brought back lost hope. “This music has inspired me to live,” he says happily.
That same inspiration has brought together the members of Yuva Beats, and they continue to draw from it. Initially they played covers and Bollywood songs, but soon began writing their own material.
Hoping for Change
“Music means hope for me and my band”, says Hameed. “Hope that will bring about a change for our country, for our community, and for refugees all over the world.”
Click the link below to hear the band speaking to our Delhi correspondent, Aletta André.