Afghan reality singing show turns to Australia for talent

It’s Afghanistan’s answer to Australian Idol.


Afghan Star is one of the most watched shows in Afghanistan. 15 million people tune in each season, which is half the population.

Now in its 11th season, the competition has come to Sydney in a bid to find its next superstar.

Host Omid Nezami, a former contestant himself, said he was overwhelmed by the local talent.

“We said that even if we can find ten contestants we’re going to have a show. That from 10, even if one singer good this mission is going to be completed,” Mr Nezami told SBS.

“When we did the audition we had 30 contestants, and 15 of them – half – received a ticket to the next round.”

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Musician Afshin Mohammadi flew in from Tasmania to have a crack at the Sydney auditions.

“Actually it was really exciting for us, you know, because we couldn’t get much of an opportunity here,” he said.

Another contender is 19-year-old Eman Rawi from Brisbane.

He said he grew up watching the show, and would love to get a ticket to Kabul to compete in the show’s top 160.

“Our parents have been watching it, my grandma loves it, my family loves it, it reminds them of being back home you know,” he said.

“I’ve been a musician since I was young, working towards being a good musician. I just see this as a good opportunity. It’s a good platform.

“Our parents have been watching it, my grandma loves it, my family loves it, it reminds them of being back home you know.”

The minds behind Afghan Star said the show has a strong Australian connection, and that’s quite easy to see.

Judge Tahmina Arsalan, who has a strong following in Afghanistan, is Australian and moonlights by working at a bank.

Ms Arsalan said the show helps ease minds in a turbulent, war-torn country like Afghanistan.

“To give them that platform, to give them that opportunity to showcase their talents, it kind of diverts, even for a moment, from what is going on in that country,” she said.

While Afghan Star is all about uniting people through the love of music, it unfortunately isn’t short of detractors in the Islamic nation.

Death threats from the Taliban, who believe all music should be banned, occur on a daily basis.

But Mr Nezami said the reality show’s strong message of hope makes it all completely worth it.

“With music, with Afghan Star, I believe that singers are the messengers of peace,” he said.

Ms Arsalan called the performers at the Sydney auditions “like a breath of fresh air”.

“They are the younger generation and you know being Australian-Afghan myself, I feel good that so many people came,” she said.

Only three plane tickets to Kabul are up for grabs, with the finalists to be named next week.