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1/3 of Country Tunes In to Choose the Next Afghan Star

On March 21, millions of people across Afghanistan were on the edge of their seats, tuned in to the season finale of Afghan Star. The phenomenally popular talent show is modeled after American Idol and was concluding its third successful season. Of the 30 million people in Afghanistan, around 11 million watched the final episode. Several VIPs were invited to watch the taping, and according to one of them, former US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Afghan Star is actually better than American Idol. Saad Mohseni, the founder of Tolo TV, which produces "Afghan Star," said the show is helping bring about social change in Afghanistan. "Not just in music, but in the way people voted, the way they lined up in an orderly manner (outside the show) ... the way the losers are gracious. No one is threatening violence. That's a huge change," Mohseni said.

For the first time in the show’s history a female contestant came close to winning the top prize. The shy 18-year-old Lima Sahaar from the city of Kandahar made it to the final three, but sadly was voted out by viewers before the last episode. "Singing brought changes and recognition to my life," Sahar told the news conference. Asked if she feared returning to Kandahar, she said: "I represent national unity and don't see any problem." You can see her final performance here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=MbYIU4fDcAc.

The remaining two contestants were Rafi Naabzada from Mazar-e-Sharif and Hameed Sakhizada from Kabul. These were both popular candidates, and the competition was intense. In the end however, the charming Rafi Naabzada obtained the largest share of the votes, and became the Afghan Star of 2008. The Top 2 finalists performed both together and on their own during the final episode, and the two singing together can be seen here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=V5xI8JhIwHU&feature=related

You can see Hameed Sakhizada’s final performance here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=v6Zak8XabeU

The winner of this season’s Afghan Star, Rafi Naabzada, performing in the final episode:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=iSw9vY1S7VE

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