Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keeping the Music Alive: The Afghan Ensemble

 Music has had a rough trot in Afghanistan in the recent past. Banned and hated by the Taliban, cassette tapes and CDs were destroyed with the same sense of righteous fanaticism during their years in power as books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s.

But things are on the up at the moment. An Afghan-Aussie recently went back to Kabul and with a grant from the World Bank set up the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.  Ahmad Sarmast’s school is open to boys and girls from the age of 10 years on and moves them through a 10 year course that delivers training in classical western and Afghan music. 

Pop music including a version of Afghanistan Idol is popular on TV and the radio. And there is renewed interest in the deep folk music tradition of Afghanistan too.  The music of Afghanistan has a strong folk base that was heavily influenced and shaped by classical Indian music when musicians from Punjab and Delhi came to Kabul to seek the patronage of the Afghan royal family in the mid nineteenth century.

The Afghan Ensemble is a group of musicians from Kabul, Kashmir, Iran and India who have come together to try to be a voice, like Ahmad Sarmast, for something other than bombs, hate, fanaticism and violence in that ancient land.

Afghan Ensemble

Zohreh Jooya, an Afghan-Iranian singer from Mashad is the ‘voice’ of the Ensemble. She was trained in the Western classical vocal tradition in Europe as well as in the classical music of Iran and Afghanistan. She has a Masters degree in music from the Arts University of Vienna. 

Ustad Hossein Arman studied in Afghanistan and in Europe and like Zohreh has an impressive musical CV. He was associated with Radio Kabul for years but then fled the country like so many other millions of this countrymen. Relocated in Switzerland he tours the world with the Ensemble committed to preserving the musical heritage of his country. 

Other members of the group are transplanted Indians who share a passion for Afghan music. Tonight’s post is collection of folk songs  from around Kabul interpreted by the Ensemble.

Though the songs are old and of the people they are treated with elegance and professionalism. The classical training and high musicianship of the group is impossible to miss.  Music of hope and a kind of resistance.

            Track Listing:
01 Ai Bote Berahm
02 Bahare Shauq
03 Dokhtare Bagh
04 Zim Zim Zim
05 Khorshid Gouna
06 Dokhtare Kuchi
07 Milade Ali
08 Nuri, Nuri
09 Molla Mamad Jan
10 Che Shawad
11 Dokhtare Kabul
12 Ai Doostan

Listen here.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I've decided that MUSIC is just about the only thing that can be a force for Good in the world 'cause it's just about the only thing that can touch and move the human heart. Thanks for this glimpse of hope from a troubled land, Nate.