Qais Essar
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Qais Essar

Phoenix, Arizona, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Phoenix, Arizona, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band World Fusion




"Qais Essar's the Green Language, a new level of musical understanding"

‘The Green Language’ is a musical exploration where the rabab communicates with other instruments creating a borderless language that touches the soul. With Qais Essar’s new album he guides the listener to another level of musical understanding.

It makes me think of a fusion of world music and world jazz, taking you on a journey through Asia and beyond.
It is strangely relaxing and meditative, achieving a state of transcendence. It is music you can feel and visualise. It is music for choreography, paintings and film, for the art of the heart and the soul.
The Green Language is inspirational, expressive and enlightening to listen to.

‘The Light Body; Etheric, Astral and Causal’, is an impressive musical triptych that should be listened to together, just take the time and let the music absorb you.
‘Transmutation’ reminds me of a fusion of Philip Glass, Wim Mertens and Afro Celt Soundsystem, with recognisable Afghan authenticity, while ‘Ba Mazar’ brings you directly back to Afghanistan in a beautiful melancholic way.
In ‘Saturn the Malefic’ the rabab actually starts to talk in sentences, jazzy and uplifting. All in all ‘The Green Language’ is a very diverse album where the rabab has a central role communicating with the rest of the world.

Qais Essar is one of the most talented rabab players of our time. He creates unique, sometimes experimental, compositions with traditional Afghan rabab. He shows the diversity of this classical instrument and the borderless language it speaks. He puts the rabab on the world map of music, bringing different continents together in mutual understanding via a musical language we can all understand, you only have to listen.
And this is exactly what I recommend people to do, across the globe, just listen to this new album. A true master piece I have to say. - AV Radio

"Gilbert man uses music to educate others about his culture"

Qais Essar plays the mellifluous Afghan rabab at his Gilbert home. He also writes music for the ancient, lute-like instrument and teaches others how to play it.

But most of all, Essar calls the instrument a gateway to questions about his culture.

When he plucks the rabab at concerts around the country, its soulful sounds lead to communication.

Often, people link those with roots in Afghanistan to terrorism, he said, adding that the media are partly to blame.

"My goal is not to become a teacher. It's to put out some music that evokes thought . . . who I am, where I'm from. It almost feels like a responsibility," he said. "I should not let the media dictate who I am."

"By my music, I'm able to squash all of this. It's through music that you educate people," he said.

At 25, the U.S.-born man has another equally far-reaching motive.

Even within Afghanistan, its culture is on the decline, he said. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, rulers have established an Islamic culture, although Afghan culture is traditionally influenced by Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Persian cultures, in addition to others in the region. Westernization has also contributed to the decline, he said.

Essar estimates that metropolitan Phoenix has a few thousand residents of Afghan origin. Gilbert, he thinks, has about 500.

"But you would never know," he said. "They are really well hidden."

Despite the numbers, they are not formally organized in an association, cultural or otherwise.

Essar hails from an artistic family that came to the United States in 1985, during the exodus that occurred with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Essar's family lived in Washington, D.C., a hub for Afghan immigrants. From his early days, he remembers musical evenings in the basement with members of his extended family.

His grandfather played the rabab, which was originally used to play court music about 3,000 years ago and is the national instrument.

Essar said the instrument picked him.

"This is something that really makes sense if you're Afghan. It's really weird, otherwise. The instrument itself draws us to it. When you pluck this string, just how it resonates, it'll almost resonate within us," he said.

His students, Afghan as well as non-Afghan, are located around the world, so he primarily uses Skype to teach.

"The only thing I can't do is slap their fingers when they get something wrong. Everything else, generally," he said.

He teaches Indian notation as well as Western because the rabab lends itself to musical collaboration and it would be a boon to survive in a Western world. He is a member of the Gilbert-based Pangean Orchestra, which combines native instruments from many lands.

Although the music for rabab is based on the North Indian classical system and is used for folk music, Essar interprets it differently.

He follows in the footsteps of Ustad Mohammad Omar, who introduced classical music to the instrument. But Essar also creates Western/Eastern fusion, and often borrows technique from comparable instruments so the rabab doesn't remain one-dimensional.

Essar states that he is one of a handful in the United States who plays the rabab professionally. He knows his work is important to preserve the instrument for posterity, and while he acknowledges the few others who are trying to do the same, he feels isolated in his task.

"It almost feels like ridiculous because it's one man against, you know, the world," he said. - Arizona Republic


Zima Afghanistan (EP) - 2012 (Currently Unavilable)
The Green Language (LP) - 2014
Klasik (EP) - 2015
I am Afghan, Afghani is Currency (EP) - 2015



Qais Essar, international artist, composer, producer, educator and experienced live performer, carries on the traditional legacy of classical Afghan instrumentation, as established by Rabab legend Ustad Mohammad Omar Khan, currently the tutelage of Grammy nominated Ustad Aashish Khan. A student of both classical and traditional forms of Afghan/Indian and western music, Essar is able to present the Rabab with a fresh new perspective. His innovative approach to musical composition and presentation combined with his media savvy presence makes him a rare breed of artist in the classical music world. In the same vein, the richness of his classical music training and the depth of his responsibility to preserve the culture of his war-torn motherland make his music and narrative exceptionally compelling among young, independent musicians.


Essar, having performed in countries all over the world (including Somalia, Kenya, Brazil, and Canada) has collaborated with many prominent artists and masters, covering the musical spectrum. With the premiere of The Green Language (his new album on July 29, 2014, a #1 bestseller on, Essar transports listeners through a sonic time portal from the ancient Hindu Kush to the modern era. With his first EP, Zima Afghanistan 2012, Essar aimed to bring the three thousand year-old rabab into the twenty-first century while replacing negative views of Afghan culture with something beautiful. With The Green Language, Essar sets his sights on bringing Afghan traditional sounds into the global music frontier, presenting a more modern, sensual, and hungry take on performing Rabab for a world audience than we have ever heard before. Essar followed the release of The Green Language with Klasik (EP) and I am Afghan, Afghani is Currency (EP). Recently, Essar joined forces with International Alert, one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organizations, with nearly 30 years of experience laying the foundations for peace, collaborating on a track with Phillip Glass, ABBA, and other well-known artists. 

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