Afghan Star: Idol in the Middle East

While settling down one night this past week, I decided to do some last minute channel surfing. As I was flipping, I stopped on an HBO channel to see what I thought would be a typical documentary on the happenings in the Middle East. I was right, and wrong. What I thought would be a film on the stories we are constantly bombarded by in today’s new sources turned out to have a true twist with a Neo-western touch.

As I watched crowds of people file into a small building with lines out of the door I couldn’t help but think it looked slightly familiar to an American show I’d seen before, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As individuals went into a room with a panel of what appeared to be judges, it hit me. “This looks just like American Idol”, I said to myself. Turns out, I was very close. These people were auditioning for a show called Afghan Star, the Middle Eastern version of the hit American Show.

I watched on to see people fighting to fill the studio where the show is being filmed and it reminded me so much of the American ways of pop stardom. There is a difference in Afghanistan though. Before Afghan Star, there was years of silence. With the Taliban as the last word, singing was banned throughout the country. Even now that this ban is lifted some of the singers still fear for their lives. In the film’s trailer, one contestant named Setara, received a call from her family because they heard she had been killed.

In America, these type of show are a marketers dream come true. Give someone a story and a song, with a little promotion and they can just sit back and reap the benefits. In Afghanistan, this version has become just as popular. As western society continues to influence these countries through entertainment and other outlets, another question arrises, is this the freedom they want?

Colby Lewis