Music, music everywhere, and even a drop to drink in Kabul
KABUL, Nov 29 (AFP) - If music is the food of love, then grimy, run-down Kabul, with its bombed-out buildings and winter chill could well claim to be the most romantic place in the world right now.
In the Afghan capital, the most celebrated feature of the fall of the hardline Taliban and its fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran, has been the return of music and singing.
Stores selling cassettes and CDs are doing brisk business, with sales of televisions, videos and DVDs, also banned by the Taliban, running a close second.
"Music, it's what I have missed most," said Sayaf, 27, as he browsed though a selection of cassettes, newly arrived from Pakistan.
"Now we can have a good time."
Goods, unseen since 1996 when the Taliban drove the mujahedin out of Kabul have flooded back on the market, much of it courtesy of smugglers and opportunists operating from Pakistan.
Even alcohol is available, butscarce and at a hefty price. A bottle of gin, when it can be found, costs upwards of 170 dollars. Vodka is cheaper at 120 dollars.
But alcohol is primarily sought by Westerners in this Muslim country. For the local residents it is a thirst for music and entertainment that is the uppermost desire.
Even traders heading to the markets have tinkling bells hanging from the decorated harnesses of their horses as they trot through the streets.
In the shops, music cassettes and CDs, videos and DVDs are being sold as fast as they can be whipped across the border from Peshawar in Pakistan.
The source of supply is of little consequence to Talib, as he counts the money flooding across the counter of his tiny store, although he knows everything has been brought in illegally.
"Everything here comes from Peshawar," he said pointing to his stock of televisions, musical appliances, CDs and DVDs.
"Businessmen know how to get it across the border and bring it safely to Kabul. I don't ask questions, they just sell it to me."
Farid, 19, pays 70,000 afghanis (less than two dollars) for a cassette labelled "Top 10 Hits," and five minutes later after studiously looking over all the DVDs on display he pulls out a similar number of crumbled notes for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
He has never heard of the award winning movie but considers "it must be good. All films are good."
As Farid leaves the shop, Talib confides that the appliances in his shop are second-hand, but insists the DVD is new. If the price seems cheap "it is because of course it is a copy."
In a similar store to Talib's in narrow, bustling, dusty Pashutani Street, Asmari is also doing brisk business, but does not like selling goods brought into the country illegally.
"All we can do is sell what the smugglers sell us, but the people are happy," he said.
"I don't like illegal work. But right now it's very difficult for us, we have no choice.
"The authorities tell us to buy from the record labels overseas. But how can we go. We cannot go by road and there is no way by air."
Music was always part of Afghan culture, and Radio Afghanistan broke five years of silence to begin playing music again as soon as the Northern Alliance captured Kabul from the Taliban on November 13.
Before any official announcements were made, a song by the popular exiled Afghan singer Farhad Darya was on the airwaves.
A female announcer, another breakthrough in a city where women have been banned from most work and education since 1996, then told the people of Kabul that the Taliban had been defeated and thrown out of the city.
For Talib, the two weeks since the Taliban fled south have been a windfall. He does not want to talk profits but, with a quick calculation, the 30-year-old estimates his takings over the next month will reach more than 800 dollars.
In a good month during the Taliban days, he was lucky to take 100 dollars in a month.
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