Ahmad Zahir (1946 – 1979) was a singer, songwriter, and composer from Afghanistan. Among his fans, he is considered an icon of Afghan music and is sometimes called the “King of Afghan music”. His songs are mostly in Dari and based on Persian poems, although a few are in Pashto and English. Zahir composed and performed rock and pop music.
Zahir was born on 14 June 1946 (Jauza 24, 1325 of the Jalali calendar) in Kabul, Afghanistan, in a Pashtun family. His father, Abdul Zahir, was a royal court doctor who served as minister of health and Prime Minister of Afghanistan between 1971 and 1972. He was a speaker of the parliament and an influential figure in King Zahir Shah’s era who helped write the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan.
Zahir attended Habibia High School in Kabul in the early 1960s. He sang and played the accordion in a band mainly consisting of his friends and classmates including Omar Sultan on guitar, Farid Zaland on congas 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, Eid ul-Fitr, and Afghan Independence Day.
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. 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 raga. 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), 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.
Zahir died on 14 June 1979, on his 33rd birthday. It was reported in the news that he died in a car accident around the Salang Tunnel in the Parwan Province. There are mixed views from critics regarding his death, some claim that he was assassinated. Zahir’s political stance was at odds with the Marxist government of the time. 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 some what of a national hero and his image was mythologized by many 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.
Uoba Darta Rawarem is taken from “Hip 70’s Afghan Beats!”, compilation of Ahmad Zahir’s remastered tracks, released by Spanish reissue label Guerssen in 2011. I could not find info about original release of this song.