Abdul Hameed Sakhi Zada, known as Hamid Sakhizada, is a professional musician from Afghanistan, specialised in Afghan folk music and the instrument Dambora, a stringed instrument popular among the Hazara community. Hamid is a known musician with a large following in Afghanistan and abroad, having represented Afghanistan in the 2012 Asia Broadcasting Union (ABU) annual song contest, the Asian equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Sakhizada is a popular musician and has appeared on Afghan television on many occasions, especially since 2008 when he came second in the Afghan Star song contest broadcast on Afghan Tolo TV for his song accompanied by the dambora. He made second in the show, which is based on the US Pop Idol Series.
When the traditional becomes (un)popular
Sakhizada is classically trained musician, but also works within popular music. He is commended for having brought traditional Hazara music to popular appeal, although this also brought him to the attention of groups who are opposed to the Hazara minority as well as religious traditionalists.
They demanded he withdraw from the competition, and the threats were such that he had to be escorted from the auditorium for his safety. Later in 2008 Sakhizadi was hit by a car that did not carry number plates, an incident that he believes was not accidental. He was not badly injured, and when he went to the police to complain, he says that they refused to take action because the car could not be identified.
Having received South Asian classical music training over four years as a teenager in Quetta in Pakistan, studying raaga music at the Arba Ali Khan boarding school, and subsequently at the Latif Music Foundation where he was commended for his musical skills, he travelled across Pakistan to receive tuition from other classical music masters. At that time, he also set up a music school in Quetta. Since his return to Afghanistan he has been invited to perform across the country and abroad. He has performed in South-Chorea, Australia, Turkey, Kasakhstan and the United Arab Emirates and has produced 3 albums.
Noticing that Hazara music has a low profile in Afghanistan, in 2012 Sakhizada set up the Bolbi Music Centre in Kabul. It provides music training and recording facilities, encouraging other musicians to enter the Afghan Star show, and other performance opportunities. However, In June 2015, two of Sakhizada’s music students, Arif Shadab and Dilshad Baba, were kidnapped by the Taliban as they returned from a performance. Shadab was released, but Baba was killed. Then, in January 2016, men attempted to enter his home when his wife was there alone. Unable to break down the door, they broke windows before leaving. At this point, the couple decided to seek refuge abroad.
Sakhizada’s wife, Maryam Sharifi, is also under threat for her cultural activities. She works for the Simorgh Theatre project that raises human rights awareness, specifically women’s and minority rights, through theatre. For several years she has run workshops and training for several organisations, and been engaged in social activism. Since 2012 she has directed the annual Night With Buddha festival, an international project that celebrates the Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Bamiyan is situated in the Hazara region of Afghanistan. For this Sharifi has received threats from Islamist extremists who see Buddhism as counter to Islam.
Sakhizada says that he will continue to play and perform his music, take time for more musical studies and teach others the dambora.