In the Persian calendar, New Year’s Day falls on March 21, the first day of spring.
Mazar-e-Sharif is the focal point of celebrations in Afghanistan. From all over the country, people flock to the city to look at the gul-e-surkh (red flowers), picnic in the mountains, pray at the shrine, and celebrate with their loved ones.
The atmosphere in Mazar-e-Sharif is electric. The center of the city is generally closed to cars, but pedestrians flood the city. Firecrackers burst left and right. Young men and boys play the tambourine and dance in the streets. Boys sell bright pink hard-boiled eggs. It is a day of hope and excitement.
On Nao Roz 2017, I decided to attend a concert at a wedding hall near my house. The promotional posters declared that Latifa Azizi was going to perform. Latifa is a Turkmen pop singer from Mazar who rose to fame by performing on Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s version of pop idol. During her tenure on the show, the judges criticized her performances quite harshly. Nonetheless, by popular vote she made it to the Top 4 round, and she has since achieved modest success in the Afghan music industry. I was interested to see what the performance would be like.
The hall was packed with a rowdy crowd of young men. After some introductory speeches, a local folk band began to play, amplified to an ear-splitting volume. The smell of cigarettes and other substances was overpowering. Throughout the performance, people would walk up to the stage and hand roses or money to the singer.
A couple of other bands played, and then the original band returned to the stage. The crowd began to grow restless and call out “Latifa!” Soon, it became apparent that Latifa was not going to appear. The band finished playing, and the announcer told everyone to leave. As I left the building, a crowd began to gather together on the street, shouting angrily and pressing up against the ticketing booth to demand their money back. I quickly made my departure, fearing there might be some violence.
The next day, I spoke with the manager of the hotel. He told me that the crowd had broken some windows, but no one was hurt.
Here’s a link to one of Azizi’s official music videos in Pashto: