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Rapper Wins Afghan Star Competition With Songs About Living Amid War

Afghan singer Zulala Hashemi, center, performs alongside competitors Sayed Jamal Mubarez, left, and Babak Mohammadi, right, during the TV music competition Afghan Star in Kabul on March 9

Sayed Jamal Mubarez, a rapper from northern Afghanistan who makes a living as a barber, won the Afghan Star competition on March 21.

The singing talent show similar to American Idol has been running for 12 years on Tolo TV, offering viewers some relief from daily news of insurgents and suicide bombs.

Mubarez, 23, from Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority, won viewers over with lyrics capturing both the hope and despair of young people living through war.

Mubarez faced off against the only female competitor to ever make it to the finale of the show, Zulala Hashemi, from the conservative eastern Kunar province.

"I am so happy... I would have been happy if Zulala had won it because in Afghanistan women are living in a restricted situation," Mubarez said.

Mubarez said he discovered rap in Iran and practices while cutting hair. He is the sole breadwinner for his family in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Over 10,000 contestants participated in the talent show, which was held in a fortified compound after the Taliban last year killed seven Tolo employees in a suicide attack.

The Taliban once banned music in Afghanistan and many there still disapprove of Western-style popular culture.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters