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An Exiled Musician's Quest For Harmony in Pakistan

Radio Mashaal's Haroon Bacha at a reception for RFE/RL's 60th anniversary, at the Newseum in Washington, DC - 20 Sep 2010.
Radio Mashaal's Haroon Bacha at a reception for RFE/RL's 60th anniversary, at the Newseum in Washington, DC - 20 Sep 2010.
Haroon Bacha, renowned Pashtun music star and broadcaster for Radio Mashaal, returned to the music scene on May 2 with the release of his latest album Darman. An eager audience in Pakistan welcomed Bacha’s latest contribution to his impressive discography.

Named after Bacha’s son, Darman consists of songs calling for harmony in the war-torn regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. “I’ve always tried to promote the message of peace and love, and tell the world that we don’t want trouble in our region and in our country,” he said.

Bacha’s 35 albums follow the subtle yet wiry sounds of traditional Pashto music, with lyrics drawn from Pashto poetry and folklore. Like his previous work, Darman tells tales of tranquility in the Peshawar valley and is weaved with nostalgia for a time of civility in the region.

Bacha was in the midst of an increasingly popular peace-themed music career before he was forced to flee his hometown of Peshawar by the Taliban in 2008. In exile, he has remained a leading voice of tolerance and love for the people of Pakistan through his Pashto music and his D.C.-based Radio Marshaal show "Da Sandaro Ameil," meaning "garland of songs," which reaches a wide audience in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. On June 14 he connected with fans around the world in a live Facebook chat, the first ever for Radio Mashaal. The same day he was featured in “Express Tribune” for the vital role he continues to play in Pakistan’s search for stability.

From his distant studio in America, Bacha speaks on his show with Pakistani musicians and activists about cultural activities and tolerance. He has surrounded himself with a close-knit Pashtun community in the U.S., but it does not compare in size to his fan-base in Peshawar. A faint longing to return home can be heard in his voice as he rattles off upcoming events in Pakistan.

As counter-terrorism campaigns curb harassment by radical militants of musicians and cultural icons in Pakistan, Bacha is hopeful about his music and radio show.

“I feel optimistic that things will be better in the future, and I feel lucky to stay in touch with my people through my show,” he says.

-- Kate Leisner