I first heard the name Ahmad Zahir nearly 20 years ago. I was driving across northern Afghanistan a couple of weeks after a little-known group of young men called the Taliban had captured the capital, Kabul. Everyone was on edge. No one knew exactly what Taliban rule would mean, but ugly rumours were rife.  What seemed sure was the future looked no brighter then the past 20 war-filled years.

Somewhere around Pul-e-Khumri, a couple of upbeat pop songs came out of the tape deck. My Afghan colleagues hummed and sang along, and when the songs were over I was told the singer’s name was Ahmad Zahir. He was simply the best singer Afghanistan had ever produced, they told me. The other fact that remained with me over the years was that Zahir had been murdered by his government.

Afghanistan’s first and greatest pop star Afghanistan’s first and greatest pop star

I never paid the name much…

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