Hailing from Afghanistan, 143BandMusic blends hip-hop and pop with traditional Dari and Persian music as a vehicle for their politically charged lyrics, which often criticise political violence and the lack of opportunities for girls and women in Afghanistan.
The duo is comprised of Diverse and Paradise, who is often billed as Afghanistan’s first female rapper. Their next project will be a collaboration with London MC Paigey Cakey, which will be featured at the upcoming Beats Without Boundaries event at the Southbank Centre, part of Alchemy, on Friday (26) at 9pm.
Is there a specific message that you would like to send to the world?
There are many national and international NGOs working on projects to empower women, which is fine, but only half the solution. We need to teach both men and women about their rights. That’s why we are working as a pair and a couple – to show people in Afghan society and around the world that men and women are equal and what is important is the love between them.
What makes hip-hop so effective at spreading this message?
In most genres of music we need to use fewer words and speak indirectly to the audience, which is especially true in Persian poetry. But hip-hop is the direct language of streets; it comes from daily conversations, is easy to understand and gives you three to five minutes to express yourself and talk as much as you want. Because it is easy to understand, listeners can easily share it, which is how it gets more spread out.
You have both lived in several countries and toured many more. Has this affected the way you approach music? Has it given you a different outlook on life?
It is always great to experience new things, of course. People are isolated in Afghanistan due to visa policies; there are not many countries that Afghans do not need a visa to visit.
Therefore, most Afghans are only seeing the same culture – Afghan culture – and the mind is less open to accepting anything other than what they grew up with. Touring and being in several countries has definitely had a positive effect on our personal lives as well as on our music because it has inspired us to produce new music and change our style and get closer to what we always wanted to do.
What aspects of Afghan culture do you wish more people were aware of?
It is really important to us to let the world know that what they see on the news is not the true Afghanistan. Of course, we are suffering from suicide attacks and terrorism everyday and we are losing our family and friends everyday because of these stupid attacks, but this is not what we want or who we are. This is because of political policies between leaders from different parts of the world.
When we are among our people and we feel that even those who hate us – usually due to a lack of education – are still flexible and can become more positive. We have realised that the most dire problem in Afghanistan is the lack of education, particularly for girls.
Education can change the mentality of people a lot. The body is commanded by the brain, but when the brain is not well educated, the commands are not appropriate. We hope that we will have a higher level of education in Afghanistan for everyone.
Many of your lyrics are about the importance of education for girls. What must be done to ensure all girls are able to go to school and succeed?
Three factors are playing an important role: parents, government and NGOs. Education is not compulsory in Afghanistan, therefore most parent do not send their daughters to school and sons are often sent to help their dad at work from the age of nine or ten. We think that the government should pay close attention to the quality of education and make sure that everyone is attending school.
Security is another problem, especially for the girls. On the way going back home from school, we hear about a lot of attacks from random people who are threatening girls with knives or pouring acid on their faces. Also, NGOs need to know where they are investing and where their funds end up. Many of these organisations claim money to help schools, but unfortunately, in some cases more than 90 per cent of the funds end up in private purses. That’s a testament to the weak government that we have.
How did you get involved with Beats Without Boundaries? How does collaborating with other artists from around the world affect your own approach to music?
The Southbank Centre contacted us and they asked us if we were interested. We were very excited to accept it. We have collaborated with artists from various countries and found that music isn’t restricted by borders or languages; you just need to explain what the plan and purpose is and that’s it. For Beats Without Boundaries, we met our partner artist Paigey Cakey the day of performing, and we rehearsed just once and we do believe that we had a great show! We all enjoyed the show and when the artists enjoy it, most definitely the audience will enjoy it too.