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Afghan Song Contest Aims To Get Voters In The Groove

With the country's presidential campaign getting under way on February 2, candidates have been posting election posters in Afghan towns and cities. A music contest has also been organized to remind people of their right to vote and to participate in the electoral process.
Looking to prove that democracy is cool, a music contest in Afghanistan is giving the country's citizens a voice.

"2014 Election Anthem" offers participants the opportunity to rock, rap, or chant about what the April 5 poll means to them.

The music promoters Argus and Sound Central are offering a lucrative prize of $1,000 to the winner, to be selected from a list of 10 finalists whose entries will be featured on the country's Tolo TV channel this month.

Each contestant must provide their own lyrics to accompany ready-made rock, fusion, or traditional music tracks.

A special website,, has been set up to allow Afghans of any age or gender to register and upload their songs.

"It is a very simple procedure, just go to our website, download the music, sing your lyric over it, and upload it back on our website," says Yusuf Ahmadshah, an Afghan musician and member of the team organizing the contest.

"Participants can enter their songs either in audio or video format," Ahmadshah explains.

The lyrics must be election-related, and can be in Pashtu or Dari, but cannot promote or refer to any political parties or individual candidates.

"The participants have the liberty to praise or complain about the election process and election-related issues," Ahmadshah says.

"The main aim is to give the participants an opportunity to deliver their message about the election and election-related issues," he adds. "It is up to the participants to talk about certain problems in the elections, or to voice their problems with the government regarding the election process. The content should be related to the election but it's up to the participants to choose what aspect of the election they want to talk about in their songs."

The winner will be selected by a jury made up of professional musicians and art critics.

Beside the cash prize, the winner will get an opportunity for his or her song to be turned into a professional music video. Smaller cash prizes will be provided to the runners-up.

In describing the types of entries received so far, Ahmadshah said all have been submitted by young people, such as university students.

Ahmadshah says the contest is solely the organizers' initiative, and it is not part of any official election promotion effort.

"We merely want the Afghan people to know their right to vote and to take part in the election," Ahmadshah says. "We want to do it through music and song."

Afghanistan's last presidential election, in 2009, was marked by a low turnout, with election officials saying only between 30 to 35 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.