Music of Afghanistan

The Music of Afghanistan comprises many varieties of classical music, folk music, and modern popular music. Afghanistan has a rich musical heritage and features a mix of Persian melodies, Indian compositional principles, and the sounds from ethnic groups such as the Pashtuns or Tajiks. Instruments used range from Indian tablas to long-necked lutes, and its classical music is closely related to Hindustani classical music. Lyrics throughout most of Afghanistan are typically in Dari (Persian) and Pashto. The multi-ethnic city of Kabul has long been the regional cultural capital, but outsiders have tended to focus on the city of Herat, which is home to traditions more closely related to Iranian music than in the rest of the country.

Conceptual clarification
Afghan music encompasses all the music and musical instruments of this multi-ethnic state that originated on the soil of present-day Afghanistan from antiquity to the late Middle Ages and not the music of the “Afghans”, whose name has always been synonymous with the Pashtuns and basically nothing but the reflects highly influential Persian-chorasan music of the country. The strength of this culture, and especially its music, lies in the linguistic, ethno-cultural, denominational and religious diversity of the country. A series of Greek- Bactrian, oriental and (indo) Iranian musical instruments, which also originated outside the internationally recognized border of today’s Afghanistan, have been among the musical instruments of this area for centuries as well as in Europe as well. Nevertheless, characteristic of the construction of the typical musical instruments in Afghanistan is that the materials came from natural products such as wood, fur, gems and ivory pieces and come as the Tanbur (a predecessor of Dutar) or the Shahnai, Tabla and Sarod.

Urban Music of Kabul
The classical music (Persian-Khorasan) of Afghanistan consists of instrumental and vocal ragas, as well as Tarana and Ghazals. This establishes a historical bond between North Indian and Central Asian music, which was created, among other things, by close contact between the Ustads (fa: masters) from Afghanistan and the respective Indian masters of music in the 20th century.

Unlike the Indian ragas, the ragas in Central Asia (including those in the eastern provinces of Iran) usually have a faster rhythm and are mostly from the Tabla or the local Zerbaghali, Dayra, Dhol – all percussive instruments – or Long-necked lutes like Tar, Yaktar, “Instrument with one string”, Dutar, “Instrument with two strings” Setar “Instrument with three strings”, but has accompanied four strings, sarangi and the sitar.

The typical classical instruments of Afghanistan include u. a. the Dutar, Surnay, Sitar, Dilruba, Tambur, Ghichak or Ghaychak. Mohamed Hussein Sarahang is considered one of the best known interpreters of this direction.

The city of Kabul and the area south of the Hindu Kush (mountains of the Hindus) or Hundukuh (mountain of the Hindu) – once called Kabulistan – which can look back on a 3000-year history, was from the 7th century AD to the 10th century Century center of the Hindu-Buddhist dynasties of Kabulshahan and Hindushahi. Music, dance and song were and are integral parts of Hindu religious meditation.

In Kabul’s old town is the artist and music district Charabat meaning “tavern”, “tavern” and “meditation center”, whose patrons are the Indian poets of the Persian language Amir Chosrau and Bedel Delhawi (1642-1720). To praise God and to become one with God, according to the Sufi poets, man needs no medium, no mediator.

Great and famous music masters, especially from the people of the Tajiks, as well as local (music) historians from Afghanistan and Iran are even of the opinion that the classical, as well as Ghasel u. Music of Afghanistan forms the old music culture of Khorasan and these are still built up like the hymns of the Avesta.

Thus, but also with the help of the poems and aphorisms of the Sufis like Sanai, Rumi, Hafis, Saadi and by their Persian and Turkish colleagues from India like the above mentioned poets. Thanks to the district of Charabat, folk music could be professionalized and the typical musical instruments in Afghanistan rebuilt, as there are many music workshops in the area around Charabat. Sarahang was the head of Charabat.

Famous musicians of Charabat
Nawab (Sitarjo), father of Qasem Jo
Qorban Ali Khan, teacher of Qasem Jo
Qasem Jo, “Father of Modern Afghan Music”
Ghulam Hossein, father of Ustad Mohamed Hussein Sarahang
Mohammad Omar, Rubab player
Ghulam Dastgir Shaida, singer of the poems of Saadi and Hafis
Amir Mohammad, singer of Persian poetry and Rubab player
Mohammad Hashem Cheshti, singer, teacher and player of many Afghan musical instruments
Rahim Baksh, ghazal singer and leader of Charabat
Mohamed Hussein Sarahang, leader of Charabat, interpreter of the Indian Dari poetry and member of the Gharana of Patiala.
Abdul Ahmad Hamahang, singer of the song Kabul Jan

Charabat musicians alive
Sultan Ahmad Hamahang belongs to the current generation of Charabat

Between Charabat and Europe
Ustad Zaland
Mohammad Hossein Arman

Descendants in exile
During the years of the war, some musicians from Charabat emigrated to Pakistan and Iran. A small number of them found a new home in the European countries and in the USA. After the end of direct Taliban rule, Charabat singers were among the first to return to their homeland and contribute to the reconstruction of local music.

Folk and traditional music

Folk Music
There are no notes. The music is mostly unanimous. The rhythm in the form of two- to four-bar plays a big role. That is why a percussion instrument Dhol or stringed instrument is indispensable. The strings are not only touched with fingers or plectrons, but rather beaten. The melody is often subordinated to the rhythm. Melody sequences are repeated and slightly changed. Voice and body language, facial expressions and gestures are not just used in dance. Improvisation is common during singing and playing.

At parties such as weddings, birth or initiation, especially in the villages, musicians such as Schalmei, Ghichak and Dhol Yaktâr or Dohl Dutâr (one-sided drum or double-sided drum), Zerbaghali and flute (pers. Tula) or Nay, when the wedding guests accompany the bride from her parents’ home to the man’s house.

The popular music of all peoples living in Afghanistan and ethnic groups and the television appearances of the singers only got a boost after 1978, when the People’s Democratic Party came to power in Afghanistan. So the musicians from different parts of the country were presented on radio and television and women could sing without a veil. Buz bazi was once a form of solo entertainment in northern Afghan tea houses, where a Dambura player moved a puppet in the shape of a goat.

Religious music
The Afghan concept of music is closely associated with instruments, and thus unaccompanied religious singing is not considered music. Koran recitation is an important kind of unaccompanied religious performance, as is the ecstatic Zikr ritual of the Sufis which uses songs called na’t, and the Shi’a solo and group singing styles like mursia, manqasat, nowheh and rowzeh. The Chishti Sufi sect of Kabul is an exception in that they use instruments like the rubab, tabla and harmonium in their worship; this music is called tatti (“food for the soul”).

Patriotic music
Many patriotic songs for Afghanistan have been made. One of the best known songs is “Da Zamong Zeba Watan” (This is our beautiful homeland in Pashto) by Ustad Awalmir, sang sometime in the 1970s. Another very popular song is “Watan” (Homeland) by Abdul Wahab Madadi, in Persian. Recorded in 1980, the song samples a Greek song called “Antonis” composed by Mikis Theodorakis. The first line, Watan ishqe tu iftekharam, translates to “My country, my love for you is my honour”. Its tone sounds very similar to a national anthem.

There is no single, but many musical traditions and styles in Afghanistan. These different traditions and styles evolved over centuries in the context of a highly diverse ethnic, linguistic, regional, religious, and class distinctions which characterized Afghan society. Afghan music can be classified in a number of ways. Although it is common practice to classify Afghan music into linguistic & regional lines (i.e. Pashtu, Farsi, Logari, Shomali etc.), a more technically appropriate classification would be to distinguish various forms of Afghan music purely by their musical style. Thus, Afghan music can be mainly divided into four categories: Indian classical, Mohali (folk & regional styles), Western, and another style unique to Afghanistan itself (however, mainly adopted by Farsi musicians) simply called Afghan music.

The Indian classical tradition was a hugely influential strain. The vast majority of the elite artists in Afghanistan until the 1980s were trained in the Indian classical tradition. Ustad Sarahang, Rahim Bakhsh, Ustad Nashenas and many other singers were prominent adherents of this style. This style emphasized compositions in the Indian raga style & the singing of Ghazals in melodies very similar to Indian classical & court music. The classical musical form of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental and vocal and belly dancing ragas, as well as Tarana and Ghazals. Many Ustads, or professional musicians, have learned North Indian classical music in India, and some of them were Indian descendants who moved from India to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s. They maintain cultural and personal ties with India—through discipleship or intermarriage—and they use the Hindustani musical theories and terminology, for example raga (melodic form) and tala (rhythmic cycle). Afghanistan’s classical singers include the late Ustad Mohammad Hussain Sarahang (1924-1983), who is one of the master singers of Patiala Gharana in North Indian classical music and is also well known throughout India and Pakistan as a contemporary of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. His composition “Pai Ashk” was used in the theme song of the Hindi film Mera Saya. Ubaidullah Jan Kandaharai is regarded as the king of Pashto music in the southern Afghanistan region. He died in the 1980s but his music is still very much enjoyed by the Pashtun diaspora around the world, mainly by the Pashtuns in the Kandahar-Quetta regions. Other classical singers are Ustad Qasim, Ustad Rahim Bakhsh, and Ustad Nato.

The second group, Mohali (folk) music was more diverse. It contained various folkloric & regional styles which had evolved indigenously without outside influence. These styles include Qataghani, Logari, Qarsak etc. which are specific to a region & linguistic group in Afghanistan. Some prominent artists in this category were Hamahang, Beltoon etc. Many other singers, however, who do not belong to this genre, have dabbled in recording songs in the Qataghani, logari, qarsak etc. styles. Each of these forms had its own scale (they did not use the classical Indian raga scale, nor did they use the western major/minor scale) and mainly consisted of well known songs whose composition and lyrics had evolved organically over centuries. These lyrics, though deep, were often simple and lacked the poetic sophistication of the great Farsi & Pashtu poetical traditions.

The third and most popular musical traditions in Afghanistan are the Pashtu (which belongs to the folk & Indian classical tradition simultaneously), and the pure Afghan musical style. The pure Afghan musical style was popularized by the immortal Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir. This style is primarily popular with the Farsi/Dari speaking audience and it transcends any regional and class barriers. The style borrows from many other musical traditions such as the Indian, Iranian, Middle Eastern, folkloric Afghan traditions etc., but it fuses all these styles into a sound that is unique to Afghanistan and suits the lyrical, poetic, rhythmic, and orchestral tastes of the Afghan Farsi/Dari speaking audience. The vast majority of Farsi speaking singers since the 1970s belong to this genre. Apart from Ahmad Zahir, the most successful contemporary proponent of this style of Farhad Darya. However, the progenitor of this musical tradition was another Afghan singer named Abdul Rahim Sarban. Sarban’s songs set the template for the unique Farsi Afghan musical sound that characterizes the most popular Afghan musical genre today. Sarban chose poetry from the great classical Farsi/Dari poets & set them to compositions which incorporated elements of the western jazz and belle chanson with the mohali (regional) traditions of Afghanistan. Up until then, Afghanistan had been mainly a borrower of styles from Iran, India & other countries. With Sarban’s arrival, Afghan music reach such a height that renown artists from major cultural centres such as Iran borrowed his songs & covered them for their audiences (for instance Iran’s immortal singer Googoosh covered a number of Sarban’s songs most famously his “Ay Sarban Ahesta Ran”).

Sarban’s musical style was effectively adopted by Ahmad Zahir, Ahmad Wali, Nashenas, Afsana, Seems Tarana, Jawad Ghaziyar, Farhad Darya, & numerous other Afghan Farsi singers & transformed into a genuine recognizable Afghan musical style that is as easily recognizable as Flamenco is as a Spanish musical style, & Mariachi is a Mexican musical style.

This form, Western music (mainly consisting of pop, and nowadays rap etc.), is influenced mainly by the western musical tradition. However, in spite of its modernity, it is not the most popular musical genre. Many singers including Ahmad Zahir have sung in this tradition (pop, rock n roll etc.). Most recently, there has been a blooming of rap & hip hop scene in Afghanistan as well. However, the western musical influence on Afghan music continues to be only in the fields of instrumentation & orchestration; Afghan musicians tent to choose musical language & compositions which belong to indigigenous Afghan musical forms but they use western musical instruments (such as drums, percussions, guitars etc.) to orchestrate their music. there are very few musicians who compose in the western musical tradition as well.

The rubab is a common lute-like instrument in Afghanistan, and is the forerunner of the Indian sarod. The rubab is sometimes considered the national instrument of Afghanistan, and is called the “lion of instruments”; one reviewer claims it sounds like “a Middle Eastern predecessor to the blues that popped up in the Piedmont 100 years ago”. The rubab has a double-chambered body carved from mulberry wood, which is chosen to give the instrument its distinct timbre. It has three main strings and a plectrum made from ivory, bone or wood.

Famous players of the rubab are Mohammad Omar his famous student Sardar Mado of Qargha-Kabul, now is Sardar Mado, while modern performers include Essa Kassemi, Homayun Sakhi, and Mohammed Rahim Khushnawaz.

The dombura is a popular folk instrument, particularly among the northern Tajiks and the Hazaras in the central part of the country. Notable Afghan dombura players include Dilagha Surood, Naseer Parwani, Dawood Serkhosh, Mir Maftoon, Safdar Tawkloi and Rajab Haideri. The dombura is played with much banging and scratching on the instrument to help give a percussive sound. The two strings are made of nylon (in modern times) or gut. They cross a short bridge to a pin at the other end of the body. There is a tiny sound hole in the back of the instrument, while the top is thick wood. It is not finished with any varnish, filing or sanding of any kind, and as with all other Afghan instruments there is some decoration.

Ghichak is a string instrument made by the Hazara people of Afghanistan

Pop music
In 1925, Afghanistan began radio broadcasting, but its station was destroyed in 1929. Broadcasting did not resume until Radio Kabul opened in 1940. As Radio Afghanistan reached the entire country, popular music grew more important. In 1951, Parwin became the first Afghan woman to sing live in Radio. Farida Mahwash, one of the famous female singers who then gained the title of Ustad (Master), had a major hit with “O bacheh” in 1977; she was “perhaps the most notable” of pop singers.

Modern popular music did not arise until the 1950s when radio became commonplace in the country. They used orchestras featuring both Afghan and Indian instruments, as well as European clarinets, guitars and violins. The 1970s were the golden age of Afghanistan’s music industry. Popular music also included Indian and Pakistani cinema film and music imported from Iran, Tajikistan, the Arab world and elsewhere.

History of pop
Pop music emerged in Afghanistan during the 1950s, and became very popular until the late 1970s. What helped the emergence of pop music in Afghanistan were amateur singers from non-traditional music backgrounds who wanted to showcase their talents in the studio (Radio Kabul). These singers were from middle- to upper-class families and were more educated than singers from traditional music backgrounds.

These amateurs innovated in Afghan music and created a more modern approach to the traditional folklore and classical music of Afghans. Amateur singers included Farhad Darya (the legend of Afghan’s today music), Ahmad Zahir, Nashinas (Dr. Sadiq Fitrat) Ahmad Wali, Zahir Howaida, Rahim Mehryar, Mahwash, Haidar Salim, Ehsan Aman, Najim Nawabi, Salma Jahani, Sharif Ghazal, Hangama, Parasto, Naghma, Mangal, Farhad Darya, Sarban, and others. Ahmad Zahir was among Afghanistan’s most famous singers; throughout the 60s and 70s he gained national and international recognition in countries like Iran and Tajikistan.

During the 1990s, the Afghan Civil War caused many musicians to flee, and subsequently the Taliban government banned instrumental music and much public music-making. Taliban’s punishments of being caught playing music or being caught with cassettes ranged from confiscation and a warning to severe beatings and imprisonment. Many people continued to secretely play their instruments. Exiled musicians from the famous Kharabat district of Kabul set up business premises in Peshawar, Pakistan, where they continued their musical activities. Much of the Afghan music industry was preserved via circulation in Peshawar and the holding of concerts for Afghan performers there helped to keep the industry alive.

Since the 2001 US intervention in Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban, the music scene has begun to re-emerge. Some groups, like the Kaboul Ensemble, have gained an international reputation. In addition, traditional Pashtun music (especially in the southeast of the country) has entered a period of “golden years”, according to a prominent spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Interior, Lutfullah Mashal.

Rock music is slowly gaining a foothold in the country, and Kabul Dreams is one of the few Afghan rock bands; formed in 2008 by ex-pats, they claim to be the first one.

Music Groups
From the 1950s, the young people in the prestigious schools, for example, in the English-speaking Habiba High School and in the German-speaking Amani-Oberrealschule and in the French-speaking Esteqlal-Lycée familiarized themselves with the European musical instruments. On the grounds of the Amani-Oberrealschule, founded by Germany in 1924, the Republic of Austria opened a music school, at which German and Austrian music teachers (at that time 400 Germans in Kabul) taught.

So they appeared at school concerts and formed the basis for the emergence of music bands. Here were wings, piano, violin, guitar, trumpet, accordion, mandolin and numerous European instruments to be learned. The well-groomed music was presented by the groups at events on the occasion of the Independence Festival. Each festival pavilion had its own music group.

Poems of the poets of the Pashto and above all the Persian language formed the lyrics of most singers. In the 60s and 70s, Iranian singers such as (Googoosh) sang some Persian songs composed in Afghanistan such as “Molla Mohammad Jan”, “Cham e Sia Dâri” and vice versa. Persian singers such as Ustad Zaland and Ustad Nainawaz made a major contribution to the development of (Persian) musical culture in Afghanistan.

Among the famous musicians of the language Pashto were Awalmir and Gul Zaman. The famous song of Awalmir was entitled “Zema zeba Watan, da Afghanistan de” (My beautiful country – this is Afghanistan) and is still very popular with the Pashtuns today.

Women as singers
Among the first female singers in Afghanistan, whose vocals were broadcast on the radio from 1951, include Mermon Parwin and Asada. Asadas and Parwin’s Nouruz song Samanak or Samano (Pers. Seedling → sweet dish) has gone down in the history of the cultural circle.

The singer Ustad Farida Mahwash, who landed a hit in 1977 with “O Bacha” (pers. Hey, Junge), is also famous. She was the first singer in Afghanistan to be awarded the title Ustad.

In the Mawlana “Rumi Balkhi Commemoration” organized by UNESCO on the occasion of his 800th birthday, Mahwash sang the famous poem “Listen of the Nay ” by Rumi, with the following translation:

Listen, what the Nay says
she complains about her breakup
When separating in the swamp (tube field) I shouted (Nay),
Woman and man wept through my nayklang.
After the veil was abolished in 1959, Radio Afghanistan broadcast the songs of many women. In addition, women offered their art on stage. Other popular singers include Roxshana or Roxane, Hangama, Qamar Gul, Fatana and others whose music and singing were broadcast on television.

Suppression and Ban
Since the 1980s, the music in Afghanistan has been increasingly suppressed and records for outsiders drastically decreased despite the rich musical heritage of the country. In the 1990s, Taliban instrumental music and public music in the Persian-language cities was banned altogether, while they themselves cultivated their own Pashtun culture, such as the national Pashtun dance Atan, and recorded songs by Awalmir and other famous Pashtuns in Pakistan who brought them to Afghanistan and sang. The followers of the Pashtun Sufi poet Rahman Baba sang Naa’d and Qawali on Fridays, played and performed. a.Tabla and rubab. Despite numerous arrests and the destruction of musical instruments in the big cities, Persian-speaking musicians were able to save some of their instruments.

Music in Exile
Older generation
Exile musicians and singers living in the US and Europe maintained the various variations of music from Afghanistan. Even this negative aspect, namely flight and immigration, not only continued the musical diversity of Afghanistan, but also all the ethnic groups of the country had the opportunity to continue their music, especially the Persian and Pashtunspeakers.

New generation
The children of the older generation took a step further and brought a new wind into the development of the music. They recorded in their music and video clips European musical instruments and learned accordingly the instruments with notes, such as the guitar handles. Because otherwise they tuned the guitar to eastern notation. Furthermore, they were more open to other languages and cultures. Some sang songs that encouraged tolerance and togetherness. A pop singer from the 1990s is Habib Qaderi. Since then, Khaled Kayhan, Jawid Sharif, Nasrat Parsa, Farhad Darya, Qader Eshpari and Arash Howaida have all contributed to pop music.

Rebirth of music in Afghanistan
Since the fall of the Taliban, both state and private television have been struggling to balance their programs in terms of linguistic, ethnic, religious, denominational and musical diversity.

Many singers (pop songs, folk musicians, amateurs and professionals) include in their repertoire songs of the two official languages of the country. Some sing in three or four languages, with most singers singing in the Persian language.

Hip hop
Afghan hip hop is a type of music popular among Afghanistan’s youth and immigrant community. It inherits much of the style of traditional hip hop, but puts added emphasis on rare cultural sounds. Afghan hip hop is mostly sung in Dari (Persian), Pashto, and English. One popular hip hop artist is DJ Besho (Bezhan Zafarmal), a resident of Kabul. Another is ‘Awesome Qasim’, who is known in Canada and raps in Farsi, Pashto, and English. Qasim’s most recent album came out in February 2013 in Canada. Kabul musician Soosan Firooz has been described as Afghanistan’s first female rapper. Sonita Alizadeh is another female Afghan rapper, who has gained notoriety for writing music protesting forced marriages.

Source from Wikipedia