One of Afghanistan’s leading entertainment shows ‘Afghan Star’ will begin its eighth season on Friday November 2, a testament to its success and popularity.

The singing contest – modeled on the hugely popular US show ‘American Idol’ – was first launched to discover hidden singing talent around Afghanistan and build the fledging music scene in the country, according to its network TOLO TV*.

TOLO TV Channel Manager Massood Sanjer believes the reality show owes its success largely to the fact that Afghan people love music and the lack of musicians and singers was felt in the market.

“The idea of creating Afghan Star at the beginning was that music does not have borders and people love any kind of music whether its pop, classic or any other kind,” Sanjer told TOLOnews in an interview on Thursday.

Another factor behind the programme’s buoyant ratings is that Afghanistan’s population has a huge percentage of young people who are interested in participating in a show that can lead to fame, Sanjer added.

The show has also helped pushed boundaries for women in the music industry.

Sanjer said that with Afghanistan’s traditions around women, it was be difficult for females to extensively participate in the culture of music. Nevertheless, some female contestants had joined the show and gained strong public support and a following.

“In a traditional country like Afghanistan, it was difficult for women to become singers, even in the past. But since Afghan Star has begun, people better understand that women can be singers too, just as they can be teachers and doctors,” he said.

Online Audience

Along with the growth in those who follow the show in Afghanistan, Sanjer said the online portal is also seeing massive increase in its popularity abroad.

The introduction of the 3G internet services in Afghanistan has boosted not only the participation of Afghans in-country, but also Afghans and Farsi-speakers living abroad are actively following the competition.

“We had 3 million [unique] viewers on YouTube last year. As the 3G service is introduced in the country, it will pave the way for people to be part of the online competition. It will be an opportunity for those Afghans who live abroad but love their country to participate,” he added.

The eighth season has a slight change in that the auditions will be based on larger zones in Afghanistan, whereas the previous versions selected contestants from the 34 provinces.

Challenges Ahead

Sanjer said he does not expect to face too many challenges after so many years of experience, although the problem of security is always a concern.

“In Afghanistan, most people have understood the purpose of Afghan Star. We don’t expect too many challenges as the show is now in its eighth year, but yeah, of course we have some security challenges,” Sanjer said.

With the expanding music market in Afghanistan, Sanjer is confident that those introduced through Afghan Star can become leading singers in the market as they are already chosen by the public and have a following through the exposure they receive via the TV and radio outlets.

He pointed out that songs from Afghan Star singers have already topped charts in the country.

Sanjer also believes the show can compete with its counterparts in the region, including India, in terms of the technical expertise and its presentation of the stage sets, filming, and audio.

“Technical-wise, we can compete even with India, but as you know music is part of the Indian culture and they study music in schools from the time they are little kids. The music market in India is so big and Indian movies get popular by its songs,” Sanjer said.

Come Prepared

As the seasons progress, Sanjer said the contestants come better prepared after witnessing in the previous years how serious it gets at the pointy end of the competition.

He also reminded the contestants that if they win, TOLO TV in coordination with Barbud Music Production will make a music album with them which will help them both financially and boost their experience in the industry.