Dubbed the Afghan Elvis, Farhad Darya may be the only man in the most conservative country on earth who can reduce an audience of women in headscarves to a screaming, waving, whistling throng.
In a country where women enjoy few rights and music was banned under the Taliban until 10 years ago, Darya is an icon for millions and his popularity was clear at a rare, top-security, female-only show in Kabul.
Despite the excitement, Thursday’s gig, shrouded in secrecy due to fears it could be targeted by the Taliban, was a thousand miles away from a typical concert in many other parts of the world.
Several hundred women, from students to middle-aged mothers, swayed as Darya performed but they did not dance due to the presence of television cameras. Women dancing in front of strange men is taboo in Afghanistan.
One even dared to shout out: “We love you!” halfway through — a standard greeting for male rock stars around the world but exceptional in a nation where female sexuality is a highly sensitive topic, even in relatively sophisticated cities like Kabul.
“I’ve always told everyone he’s my dream man — he sings so good, his personality is so high, it’s great,” said one excited fan, 18-year-old student Meetra Alokozay.