Sunday, September 27, 2009

Music Festival

This past weekend was the Second International Music Festival of Kabul, a presentation by renown musicians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. I attended three of the events.

The first was held at the French Cultural Center - traditional music from Badakhshan which is the northeast-most province in Afghanistan.

First on the program were Ustad Bahauddin and Dour Mohamma Keshmi who were billed as 'the most prolific living examples of the Afghan traditional music genre, Qataghani.'
The man in the center is Keshmi and he's playing a ghishak or a 'spike fiddle.' The opening few notes of each song sounded suspiciously like the opening few notes of 'Dueling Banjos.'

Next on the program was a younger vocalist, Meer Maftoon, who was a big crowd pleaser. A lot of clapping by the mainly male audience. I clapped right along. Come to find out he was singing about the charms of women - their voluptuous hips and honey lips, and all that. (Dari lessons are coming up this week!)

For some reason there was a young boy on the stage with the musicians -- babysitter problems?

Friday's event took place at Turquoise Mountain, the site of a Foundation that seeks to preserve, for one thing, an original Kabul settlement. Aparna Panshikar was the vocalist: singing classical Hindustani music.

I didn't hear her sing words, but only create sounds which blended with the instruments, sounds that you might imagine being carried by the wind through trees in a mystic garden at twilight. Haunting! The setting was the courtyard of the old building.

Here's a shot outside the complex.

And the last performance I attended was on Saturday night at the Goethe Institute Garden, attached to the Germany Embassy.

Security was particularly tight; German elections were Sunday and warnings had been received from al-Qaeda and the Taliban that retribution might be forthcoming for the country's presence here in Afghanistan. (Remember what happened at few years ago in Spain, involving their presence in Iraq.) At each of the other events, bags were checked and there was a security gate. Last night there were three security checkpoints and I was searched (by a wand) twice.

The singer is Hayatulla Gardezi, one of the 'most famous traditional pashtun singers.'

The high point of this event for me was the dancing...billed as a group of Attan (traditional Pashto dancers.) I thought at first it was simply some young men that were overtaken, as it were, by the music and decided to get up and dance, but overhearing a conversation later, it seems, not only was it planned, but the steps are ritualized as well. Not quite as 'in step with one another' as perhaps Greek men dancing, but every bit as rhythmic and fun.

Overall a great festival and -- it was free.

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