Friday, May 20, 2011

The Wonder that Was Afghanistan (Pt 2): Amir Jan Herawi

Herati dancers

One of the main accompanists of Nashenas was a popular singer from Heart, in western Afghanistan, who was also a refugee in Pakistan: Amir Jan Herawi.  He had been a popular singer back home but in Pakistan had had to adapt his style and art to suit the dominant Pashtun culture in and around Peshawar.

Amir Jan Herawi is a musician who style and repertory have been profoundly affected by the civil war and his status as a refugee. He was born and raised in the village of Zir Kuh, near Shindabad, in SW Afghanistan, an area with a considerable Pashtun population. Orphaned, at the age of 12, he went to live in Heart (Afghanistan’s third city) with his father’s brother, a barber married to one of Herat’s most celebrated women singer, Zainab HerawiAmir developed his musical talents living in a community of hereditary professional musicians and in the 1970s was well known locally as a singer and harmonium player. During this time he was recorded by Lorraine Sakata and by John Baily. In the uprising in Heart in March 1979 he left Heart, and eventually settled in Peshawar, where he resumed his profession of musician but now playing the Afghan rubab. In 1985 he was reunited with John Baily and became the protagonist of a prize winning documentary Amir: An Afghan Refugee musician’s life in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was shown as the Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York in 1988.

Amir’s rubab playing on this collection show how much he has been influenced musically by living in Pakistan. Coming from Herat he was familiar with a rather Iran-oriented musical style which drew heavily on Iranian popular music (as shown by track 3). But after nearly ten years living in Peshawar surrounded by Pashtun vocal and instrumental music he has became a Pashtun musician and this aspect of his work is well illustrated in the music of this album.

Amir is accompanied by Arif (tabla), Seid Gol  (sarinda) both refugees from Afghanistan. Arif is the youngest brother of Ustad Hashem, Kabul’s leading tabla player. Seid Gol is from Logar Province, famous for its dance music. They three men often play together as a group. (Liner Notes)

This is powerful folk music from Afghanistan and a very rare recording of real world music.

A preview of John Baily’s documentary is available here

         Track Listing:
1.    Pashto Song in Bairami
2.    Logari Dance Melodies in Bairami
3.    Herati Chaharbeiti in Bairami
4.    Dari Song in Jog
5.    Pashto Melody in Bairami
6.    Dari Song in Bairami
7.    Pashto Song in Kesturi
8.    Dari Song in Pari
9.    Herati Marching Tune in Jog

Listen here.

Cover art is the same as for Nashenas as it is a double cassette release.


Anonymous said...

Another incredible post, you spoil is with such riches!

ajnabi said...


Safi said...

Hi I know it's years later now, but would there be any chance of getting a re-upload of this? as a student of the rubab myself I would absolutely love to hear this recording, especially as vintage Afghan music is so hard to come by now. Many thanks! N Safi

Anonymous said...

Hi Safi,
give me a day or two.
Mr Harmonium