Tribute to Afghanistan
The dearth of recordings of Afghan music available on the Western market does nothing to detract from the fact that this tribute by the maestro (ustad) DAUD KHAN to his homeland is an absolute masterpiece in its own right.
Ravaged by civil and geopolitical wars for over twenty years, Afghan culture, particularly the country’s musical heritage, has risked complete annihilation. Ramifying into numerous genres from sung poetry (ghazals) to instrumental pieces to raga, this music is practised mainly in urban areas and has in the past had close ties with that of Pakistan and India. Many families of Afghan musicians are in fact related (either by marriage or through master-pupil filiations) with Indian families and the country’s musical theory and terminology contains many Hindustani words such as raga and tala (the rhythmic cycle). It would wrong, however, to suppose that this reduces Afghanistan’s musical heritage to the status of mere shadowplay. Afghan ragas are very different from their Indian counterparts especially in terms of playing style which, as on the first track of this CD privileges the quest for rhythmic emphasis.
A native of Kabul but for a long time resident in Germany where he directs the Academy of Indian Music in Cologne, DAUD KHAN is a virtuoso of the robab, whose teachers have included the late maestro Ustad Muhammad Umar a superlative artist who was equally at ease in popular and classical repertoires, gifts he has evidently passed on to DAUD KHAN.
A plectrum-played lute with three main strings plus others for resonance, the robab has an interesting history. Regarded as the progenitor of the Indian sarod, it has a full-bodied sound rich in subtle echoes, qualities that DAUD KHAN effortlessly exploits to transport the listener to another dreamily ecstatic dimension.
Evident too on this CD is the rigorous discipline with which DAUD KHAN has patiently forged his art, showing how only through perfect and profound mastery of the raga and other styles can one hope to reach the heights of expressive liberty that are the true measure of an artist’s ability. On this front DAUD KHAN presents us with a pair of stunning instrumental reworkings of originally sung ghazals (tracks 2 and 4) on which the melodic line acquires depth and texture without losing any of the rhythmic colouring that is so much a part of the beauty and strangeness of Afghani music.
Tribute to Afghanistan opens a window onto a musical universe of rare intensity, one that has until now, for obvious reasons, remained almost completely in the dark. One hopes that the discovery and appreciation of this music can help to shed new light on its martyred birthplace and as DAUD KHAN himself says, keep alive the hope of an equable and lasting peace in the region.
DAUD KHAN from Felmay Shop