When most Americans think of Afghanistan they think of war, turmoil and despair. But in one of the most gripping episodes from season one of MTV's "Rebel Music" series, "Afghanistan: New Dream," we meet a trio of the country's underground musicians and filmmakers whose only wish is to play their music without fear -- and share their gift with other young Afghans.
After decades of civil war caused by a communist insurgency, a brutal conflict with the former Soviet Union and years of battles between U.S. troops and the Taliban, a new generation of Afghan musicians has risen and built an underground scene, defying the repressive Taliban's attempts to ban Western music and culture.
"When I want to speak out, or express the truth through my music, the first thing I think about is the safety of my family," said Soosan Firooz, the self-proclaimed first female rapper in Afghanistan who appears on the show.
Plenty of MCs brag that their rhymes are treacherous, but Firooz says her family is, literally, in danger because of her music -- which has resulted in harassment from the Taliban and a ban from their hometown of Kandahar. You can see why she feels that way when you hear Taliban spokespeople and religious leaders label Western music satanic and dangerous.
Firooz began rapping at age nine after getting a bootleg cassette of American hip-hop from a neighbor, who told her that the MCs had obtained a kind of freedom through their music. That was all she needed to hear to realize what her life would be dedicated to.
Qasem Foushanji, a member of metal band District Unknown, also makes music in the face of danger. "A couple of extremists came to our band members and started asking us to stop our music," he said. "Because it was something that could never, ever be digested by the people of Afghanistan." But since when is rock 'n' roll something that everyone can stomach?
Inspired by the alien movie "District 9," as well as Michael Jackson, Aerosmith and Guns 'N Roses, the group considered quitting at one point because the Taliban dubbed them anti-Islamic.
Depite constant pressure and threats, though -- including a warning about a possible acid attack on Firooz if she doesn't stop making her music -- the artists decided to carry on and speak their minds to show that the truth can overcome fear.
"You cannot hide the truth from people," Foushanji said. "The more we go forward, the more publicity we have. The more people will realize that it's just rock 'n' roll and it's just a socially concerned band."
In the Afghanistan episode you'll also meet independent filmmaker Sahar Fetrat, 19, whose struggles against chauvinist attitudes inform and inspire a bold film about women fighting for simple freedoms like riding a bicycle in public.
Re-live their stories as a warm-up for the launch of season two, which will explore the lives of musicians in Iran, Myanmar, Turkey, Venezuela, Senegal and the Native American communities of North America.
"My family may be in danger but they are resilient, I am resilient," Firooz said during her first trip to America. "They say fight on. We're proud of you."
Check out an encore presentation of the half-hour special on MTV's YouTube page to hear Firooz's story -- and make sure you tune in for the season two premiere on April 30, when "Music" takes you on a journey to Turkey for another untold tale of fearless young artists rising up against social and political barriers to forge a better future.