Ahmad Zahir

Ahmad Zahir

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Ahmad Zahir was a singer, songwriter
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

, and composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 from Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. He is considered an icon of Afghan music
Music of Afghanistan
The music of Afghanistan has existed for a long time, but since the late 1970s the country has been involved in constant wars and people were less concerned about music...

 and is sometimes called the "King of Afghan music". His songs are mostly in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and based on well-recognized Persian poems, although a few are in Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

 and English.


Zahir was born on 14 June 1946 (Jauza 24, 1325 of the Jalali calendar) in Laghman, Afghanistan. His father, Abdul Zahir, was a royal court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, minister of health, Prime Minister of Afghanistan
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
The Prime Minister of Afghanistan is a currently defunct post in the Afghan Government.The position was created in 1927, and was appointed by the king, mostly as an advisor, until the end of the monarchy in 1973...

 between 1971 and 1972, speaker of the parliament and an influential figure in King Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last King of Afghanistan, reigning for four decades, from 1933 until he was ousted by a coup in 1973...

's era who helped write the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan
Constitution of Afghanistan
The Constitution of Afghanistan is the supreme law of the state Afghanistan, which serves as the legal framework between the Afghan government and the Afghan citizens...

. Zahir belonged to the Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 ethnic group but grew up in Kabul.

Ahmad Zahir attended Habibia High School
Habibia High School
Habibia High School is a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, which has educated many of the former and current Afghan elite, including President Hamid Karzai and the country's most famous musician Ahmad Zahir. It was founded by King Habibullah Khan in 1903....

 in Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 in the early 1960s. He sang and played the accordion
The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist....

 in a band mainly consisting of his friends and classmates including Omar Sultan on guitar, Farid Zaland on conga
The conga, or more properly the tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum with African antecedents. It is thought to be derived from the Makuta drums or similar drums associated with Afro-Cubans of Central African descent. A person who plays conga is called a conguero...

s and Kabir Howaida on piano. The band later became known as the amateur band of Habibia High School and performed in local concerts during celebratory occasions like Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

, Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, and Afghan Independence Day
Afghan Independence Day
Afghan Independence Day is celebrated in Afghanistan on 19 August to commemorate the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919. The treaty granted complete independence from Britain; although Afghanistan was never officially a part of the British Empire...


He later attended and graduated from Daru' l-Malimeen ("Teachers' College") in Kabul, then continued his higher education for two more years in India to get a degree as an English instructor. Eventually, however, he decided that music was his true calling. Ahmad Zahir began his solo career composing songs based on well-recognized Persian poems. His first recorded song, "Gar Kuni Yak Nizara", was his own composition, sung in the pilu
Pilu is a raga of Indian classical music. It is mostly used in light-classical forms, like the Khayal, of north Indian classical style.-Aroha & Avaroha :Arohana'P 'N S g m P N S''N S G m P N S'S G m P D S'S R m P N S'Avarohana...

A raga is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music.It is a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is made...

. He continued writing and recording songs such as "Azeezam Ba Yaadat", "Ahista-ahista", "Akhir Ay Darya", "Hama Yaranam", "Agar Sabza Boodam", "Guftam Ke Mekhwaham Tura", "Shabe Ze Shabha" and "Parween-e Man".

Zahir worked with mentors such as Ismail Azami (saxophonist), Nangalai (trumpeter), Abdullah Etemadi (drummer
A drummer is a musician who is capable of playing drums, which includes but is not limited to a drum kit and accessory based hardware which includes an assortment of pedals and standing support mechanisms, marching percussion and/or any musical instrument that is struck within the context of a...

), and other musicians including Salim Sarmast, Naynawaz, Taranasaz, and Mas'hour Jamal. He recorded over 22 albums in the 1970s. His songs were noted for their mellifluous tone, poetic style, compelling depth, and passionate emotional evocation. His lyrics covered a wide range of subjects. Many of his songs contained autobiographical elements or political criticism of Afghanistan's government. As a result many of his recordings were destroyed by the government.

The Zahir professionally was on the scene of Afghan Music for only 10 years at the most; however, Zahir managed to record more than 30 albums. This was and is unheard of in any music industry around the world. All of these albums were successful and widely accepted (to this date) by everyone. The kings managed to complete these recordings almost 40 years ago with almost no technology of today's world, and all was done in live recordings. It is said the kings recorded his Arian Music Album 1 in one day, that had more than 12 songs. Ahmad Zahir has only had 2 video recorded songs.

Death and legacy

Ahmad Zahir died on June 14, 1979, on his 33rd birthday. According to his son Rishad, Ahmad Zahir "was assassinated by the order of a communist general named Daud Taroon, who used one of Ahmad Zahir's best friends as an accomplice to carry out his orders". Ahmad Zahir's political stance was at odds with the Marxist government
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was a government of Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992. It was both ideologically close to and economically dependent on the Soviet Union, and was a major belligerent of the Afghan Civil War.- Saur Revolution :...

 of the time who claimed that he had died in a car accident. A large crowd of mourners attended Zahir's funeral in Kabul, clogging the city streets and bringing daily activities to a halt.

After his death Zahir became a national hero and his image was mythologized by the Afghan people. Because of his privileged family background, Zahir helped to establish music as a more respected profession which in turn led to the founding of The Kabul Music School in 1974.

Ahmad Zahir's son Rishad Zahir
Rishad Zahir
Rishad Zahir is an Afghan singer and musician who lives in the United States. He is the son of Legend of Afghan Music Ahmad Zahir.-Early life:...

 currently lives in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Afghan Music albums

  • Vol. 1 - Dilak am (1973)
  • Vol. 2 - Bahar (1973)
  • Vol. 3 - Shab ha ye zulmane (1974)
  • Vol. 4 - Mother (1974)
  • Vol. 5 - Awara (1975)
  • Vol. 6 - Ghulam-e Qamar (1975)
  • Vol. 7 - Sultan Qalbaam (1976)
  • Vol. 8 - Az Ghamat Hy Nazaneen (1976)
  • Vol. 9 - Gulbadaan (1971)
  • Vol. 10 - Yaare Bewafa (1977)
  • Vol. 11 - Lylee (1977)
  • Vol. 12 - Ahmad Zahir and Jila (1978)
  • Vol. 13 - Ahange Zindagee (1978)
  • Vol. 14 - Shab-e Hijraan (1979) (posthumous release)

Note: Audio cassette versions of many of Zahir's Afghan Music albums are missing some songs that are present on the original vinyl records.

Ariana Music albums

  • Vol. 1 - Daard-e Dil (1972)
  • Vol. 2 - Mosum-e Gul (1977)

Note: The original Ariana Music record albums contain many hidden tracks.

Music Center albums

  • Vol. 1 - Ashiq rooyat Mon (1973)
  • Vol. 2 - Neshe Gashdum (1976)
  • Vol. 3 - Lylee Jaan (1977)
  • Vol. 4 - Ahmad Zahir Ba Sitara Haa (1977)
  • Vol. 5 - To Baamanee (1978)

Private albums

  • Shamali
  • Hindi Songs
  • Afghanistan Songs
  • Agar Bahar Byayad
  • Ahmad Zahir & Nainawaaz
  • Almase-Sharq
  • Gulhaayi-Jawedan
  • Gulhayi Nafaramoshshuda
  • Khateraha
  • Khudaat-Medani Guleman
  • Laily-Laily-Jan
  • Raaze-Penhan
  • Soorodhayie-Jawedan
  • Yaad-Mandaha
  • Zindani

Other discography information

  • He has over 10 private recording albums from 1965–1978.
  • He only recorded 2 music videos in Radio Kabul TV: "Laylee Jaan" in 1976 and "Khuda Buwat Yarret" in 1977.
  • Ahmad Zahir recorded several songs in Radio Kabul and Radio Afghanistan studios which later came out as albums. Eight of these albums have been released.

External links