But first, a word about a truly remarkable act that actually has nothing to do with the usual Afropop agenda. Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan (SARA) is a consort of four, young, virtuoso musicians of central Asia--three from Afghanistan and one from Uzbekistan--who play a generous and highly original repertoire of popular, classical, and religious music from this profoundly rich and deeply troubled country. Salar Nader is a protégé of tabla giant Ustad Zakir Hussain. Nader grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and became a recognized master of Indian classical music. But he has maintained a deep connection to his Afghan roots, learning the country's traditions, and even composing music for a theatrical production of Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner.
|Salar Nader and Homayun Sakhi|
SARA's vocalist, Humayun Khan, grew up in the US, like Sader, far from the world of his Afghan ancestors. Khan enjoyed an American childhood in northern Virginia, and became drawn to the music of his ancestral home only after attending a concert of Indian classical music at the Kennedy Center in the late 1980s. Before long, he was traveling to India to study with a master, and learning a wide range of regional music, including Sufi devotional songs, romantic Ghazals, and Afghan popular and folkloric music. He brings all that experience to bear in SARA, perhaps the only group on earth able to cover all this ground.
The fourth and most recent member of the group is simply one of the most talented hand percussionists alive. Abbos Kosimov grew up in Uzbekistan playing the country's most popular frame drum, the dorya. But Kosimov quickly moved beyond tried and true repertoire and techniques. He began playing along with any recording he could get his hands on--Afghan music, Indian classical music, jazz, rock. In his hands, the dorya simply had no limit. The moment Nader heard Kosimov tickling the skin of his drum with his fingertips and producing complex rhythms like a tabla player, he knew this was the man to complete this one-of-a-kind ensemble. And SARA was complete.
|Humayun Khan, Homayun Sadkhi, Salar Nader, Abbos Kosimov|
There are recordings of the various members of SARA, notably in the Smithsonian Folkways "Music of Central Asia" series. And you can find out more about SARA via Dawn Elder Management (firstname.lastname@example.org). Meanwhile, we await the first full-fledged SARA recording, and be on the look out for this act at a festival or performing arts center near you. Time spent with these four, brilliant, optimistic men and their sublime musicianship will give you a completely new impression of Afghanistan, and a welcome one.