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Rappers Shine In Afghanistan's First-Ever Election Anthems

A still from Afghan election anthem contest winners Sami and Shaheed
A still from Afghan election anthem contest winners Sami and Shaheed
Go to the voting stations without any fear,
Go and exercise your voting right.
We witnessed suicide attacks, bombings, and blasts,
We witnessed the leaves of the trees turning pale.
The women, men, and youth are voting for their county.

Those are lyrics from Afghan rap duo Sami and Shaheed.

Along with Sonita Alizadeh, they are the respective winners of the male and female categories of a competition that developed the first-ever election anthem in the country.

The winners were announced at a ceremony last month in Kabul that was attended by a jury made up of professional musicians and election officials.

We profiled the competition here.

Music promoters Argus and Sound Central awarded the three young artists a lucrative prize of $1,000 each. The three have since recorded their songs professionally and made their music videos ahead of the landmark April 5 presidential election.

Here's Sami and Shaheed's winning song:

Here's Sonita's prize-winning effort:

Sami and Shaheed are two brothers from Herat, in western Afghanistan.

The 18-year-old Sonita is also originally from Herat. Sonita, who lived as a refugee in Iran for years, raps about the tough life of Afghan immigrants in the Islamic republic and the challenges facing women and girls in Afghanistan, a deeply conservative and religious society.

The intention of the foreign-funded competition was to encourage young people in Afghanistan to vote. More than 70 percent of the Afghan population is below the age of 25.

Afghanistan's last presidential election, in 2009, was marked by a low turnout, with election officials saying only 30 to 35 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. And young voters are seen as a important demographic to win over to ensure a high turnout and credible election.

The leading front-runners in the election have all tried to woo young people. The 64-year-old Ashraf Ghani went so far as describing himself as the "embodiment of the aspirations of the young men and women of this country."

Afghan youth have enjoyed unprecedented opportunities and freedoms in the 13 years since the fall of the Taliban, and many are keen to protect them.

Significantly, young voters are likely to break the country's traditional electoral politics in which many vote for candidates based on their ethnic affiliation. Young Afghans, however, have shown during campaigning that they are interested in modernization and development and less with ethnic loyalties.

-- Frud Bezhan