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New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo World Folk




"THE POP LIFE - Afghan Music's Awkward Pause"

In 1982, with battles between Soviet forces and mujahedeen groups intensifying in Afghanistan, Quraishi crossed the border to Iran and moved to Manhattan. A high school student who had not yet found his calling, he began to study guitar. But years later, when the Taliban government began to crack down on secular culture, arresting musicians and forbidding public performances of music, Quraishi found what he was meant to do in life.

''I wanted to keep the rubab, the national instrument of Afghanistan, alive,'' he said. ''I realized that this was my duty.'' - The New York Times


Quraishi, Pure and True Rubab -- (2004, Evergreene Music) 

Quraishi, Mountain Melodies -- (2014, Evergreene Music)



Quraishi is a world-class Afghan-American rubab player who in recent years has made his home in New York City since emigrating with his family from Kabul. Quraishis music is a rare and vital link between the rich tradition of Afghan court music, the golden years of Afghan radio, New York Citys diverse immigrant culture and the imperiled future of Afghanistans musical identity. Since childhood, the rubab master has dedicated his life to his native countrys artistic legacy and to its national instrument. 

Twenty years of war and the Talibans systematic repression have taken an incalculable toll on Afghanistans instrumental music world. With a little searching, you might be able to find historical field recordings from thirty years ago, or current synthesizer pop music made in the Afghan diaspora. But, even as world music continues to gain mainstream popularity around the globe, the vitality and immediacy of traditional Afghan artists making traditional Afghan music for our times has been conspicuously absent.

Manhattan-based Evergreene Music will release Quraishis second album, Mountain Melodies, on July 22nd.  Comprised of nine tracks, it includes traditional Afghan folk songs, a classical raga, and several attributed compositions.  Dedicated to his late father, Jalaluddin Wardak, the album includes an original composition entitled Wardagi --wherein Quraishi has blended three traditional folk songs that his father often sang while playing the rubab, and which typify the unique style of playing that originates from his fathers home province of Wardak in Afghanistan. 

Quraishis father made him his very first rubab, an ancient instrument belonging to the short-necked lute family. It is traditionally made with a single piece of mulberry wood with a skin face, often richly ornamented with inlay of bone or ivory, and even occasionally encrusted with lapis lazuli or mother of pearl. There are typically three melody strings (now usually made of gut or nylon) and as many as twenty sympathetic strings that are variably tuned to the modes or ragas -- imparting a deep resonance and unique timbre to the national instrument of Afghanistan.

Indeed, Quraishis family lineage and earliest influences include musicians and instrument makers. While growing up in Kabul, the self-taught young artist steadily became well-versed in the regional genres and folk styles of Afghanistans numerous ethnic groups, including the Pashtu, Uzbek, and Tajik. He also steeped himself in the discipline and formalistic principals of classical Hindustani music theory, which constitute the foundation of Afghanistans traditional art music.

Unique in its richness, range, and variety, Afghan music evokes a strong sense of place. You can hear the land in the intricacies of the music, from the vastness of wild mountains in the rhythms to the loneliness of the desert in the melodies. And while an Indian influence can be heard in the ragas and instrumentation, echoes of the Silk Road China and the Far East -- are also evident in the simple, haunting strains of pentatonic scales. But, if one listens closely, there is also the hint of something more; the minor scales of the Middle East, and intricate melodies that intertwine like Greek rebetika, recall the playfulness and invention of Celtic music, the soulfulness of the American blues, and even the improvisations of modern jazz.

On the new album, as on his 2004 debut Pure & True Rubab, Quraishi is accompanied by Chatram Sahni, a drummer par excellence who served his apprenticeship playing on Afghan state radio in the 1970s. A favorite accompanist for many famous Afghan singers, Chatram plays the myriad traditional rhythms on tabla and also dhol, a tunable double-headed drum which -- like the rubab -- is usually made from mulberry wood with a goatskin stretched over both ends.

Technically, Quraishi possesses a masterful sense of rhythm and an acute ear, but it is truly his poetic heart that moves his listeners. His sensitive interpretations of classical repertoire are infused with the same fresh and youthful expression as his performance of his own original compositions. No electronic effects herejust unbounded soul and virtuosity, and a highly-skilled musician who has devoted his life to the preservation of his beleaguered countrys exquisite and venerable, but acutely endangered, culture.

Quraishi has performed in concert everywhere from The Metropolitan Museum to New Yorks Asia Society, Symphony Space, and the Hammerstein Ballroom.  In support of his new album this year, he will headline in August at New Yorks Lincoln Center and Washingtons Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with more tour dates to be announced.  

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