An Afghan man found a way to share his love of music with millions after the Taliban banned it while he was growing up.
The militant group has once again declared ‘music is forbidden in Islam’, with fighters allegedly executing a folk singer in the Andarabi Valley this week.
The tragedy brings Habib Amir, 37, back to his childhood, when there was a blanket ban on all forms of music under the Taliban’s last reign of terror.
Habib moved from Kabul to the UK as a teenager in 1998 and was finally able to immerse himself in his passion.
Over the Covid pandemic, the Londoner taught millions to play the piano online – despite being forbidden from having a piano in his home when he was young.
His free Virtual Piano app, which also features other instruments, is now the most widely used online piano worldwide – played by 19 million people a year and used in 195 countries across the world.
It saw a huge surge when lockdown struck, with 8.9 million new users signing up and 29.5 million plays.
The web consultant believes music is good for ‘the heart and soul’ and is the solution to conflict and ‘countless problems’.
He is devastated for the millions of Afghan children who will too be raised ‘banned from music, innovation and thinking independently’ as foreign forces leave the country today.
Habib said: ‘From an early age I was always inspired by music, although I found it difficult to understand how it was made or played, particularly as we never had a piano.
‘Music is great not just for the heart and soul but for sharing positivity in a world of conflict.
‘The Taliban didn’t know or care about that. I am the Afghan boy who was banned from even listening to music.
‘It didn’t stop me from creating a platform that has since enabled millions of people worldwide not only to listen to music but to play it for themselves – in the most immersive way possible without access to an instrument.
‘What I created is, I think, really special, but I am no more special than the Afghan kids that will once again be banned from music, innovation and thinking independently.’
Habib, who studied computing and artificial intelligence at Oxford Brookes University, created the app in two weeks while also working another job full-time.
The first time he heard the music in 2006, it sent ‘shivers down his spine’ as he realised he had created something ‘really special’.
The musician says he is ‘so thrilled it helped millions of new users play an instrument during some challenging times’.
He said: ‘It also helps improve mental health, find a new passion and get you into music from home without needing to buy physical instruments. Lots of other instruments can be played on Virtual Piano.
‘I think playing music is a great solution to countless problems. The more people that play, the less conflicts and more love in the world.’
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