SARA-Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan
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SARA-Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan

Irvine, California, United States

Irvine, California, United States
Band World World


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On listening to the hypnotic cadences of Salar Nader, one will be forgiven if they thought the tabla was easy to play. But to play the instrument like a maestro takes decades of training and constant practice.
The music of the young Afghan tabla artiste speaks volumes about his mastery that eloquently transcends an elusive mix of different influences within the melodic vocabulary of classical folk music.
Born in 1981 in Hamburg, Nader's enthusiasm for music took shape from his father's unfulfilled desire to pursue a professional career in music. "My father, Mohammad Nader, used to sing Farsi ghazals and folk music," Nader says.
"To escape from the turmoil of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1979, my family fled to Germany. After my birth, my father left no stone unturned to instill in me the passion for music so that I could chase his dream. He bought a tabla set for me when I was just 6 months old."
Despite being brought up in the West, Nader's interest is steeped in classical and folk music of the East, especially in the celebratory Loghari and Mahali musical styles of Afghanistan. But working within a traditional musical idiom doesn't prevent him from conjuring up rigorous and inventive sounds for hybrid creations.
Indeed, with a playful sense of improvisation, he enriches and expands its expressive power while respecting the taste and sensibility passed down from master musicians of the past. As he switches effortlessly between composing, producing and performing, Nader combines his scope of repertoire and the enlivened emotion of the raga with unparalleled technical command of the tabla.
The extraordinary stylistic versatility is possibly due to the pedagogies of his prolific guru, the legendary tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain. However, it seems that Hussain is not familiar with the traditional Afghan songs as Afghan tabla players are. Is there any reason why Nader chose Hussain as his guru?
"Afghanistan's traditional music was heavily influenced by the music of North India [pre-partition Pakistan]. Later, the court musicians added traditional flavours to get the distinct sound and groove of the Kharabati style. Seeing the many connections between the legendary artistes of both regions, the music is very simple for someone with Hussain's knowledge of music."
One of the most influential musicians among his supporters is popular Afghan singer Ustad Farida Mahwash, who took his virtuosity to a new height by making him compose an introduction to the famous folk tune Bya Ke Borem Ba Mazar. "The practice led to divergent thinking," he says. "The introduction started with a composition (drum roll) and ended with a tihai (polyrhythm). This would signal the beginning of the song."
The most memorable experience, Nader says, was while accompanying the late Ustad Salamat Ali Khan during his concerts.
"I met him at my official gandha band (initiation) ceremony when I was 12 years old. He had a very special way of playing the tabla — using four or five different tempos within a recital. I was able to comprehend the khayal style much more realistically."
According to Nader, to acquire a comprehensive cognition of any art, it is crucial to visit and study its origin. After his first visit to India in 2003, Nader began a very strict reyaz (practice) regimen for producing clarity of the bols (syllables) and the phrases. In addition, he pursued his Bachelor of Arts at the University of San Francisco. He also developed a liking for playing with the Kathak dance as he believes "the intensity and spontaneity of Kathak challenges the strength of a tabla player".
"As young musicians in the United States, we follow the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality," Nader says.
"In India, due to the artistic environment, we can really dive deep into the art and improve our skills. It was an eye-opening experience for me to be among aspiring tabla players and scholarly musicians. The daily practice regime really helped me improve my delivery. "
Nader's compositions have been few but they started with the theatrical production of Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner where he underscored certain parts of the script with Afghan folk music. His debut album Space Island features fusion music with sarangi maestro Ustad Sultan Khan Saheb and bassist Rob Wasserman.
Recently, he has been featured in Fareed Haque's Flat Planet, DJ Cheb I Sabah's Devotion and the Sufi music track Qalenderi, where the vocals were provided by Riffat Salamat, daughter of the late Ustad Salamat.
The artiste is improvising with different percussion instruments in collaboration with outstanding Afghan rubab players Humayon Sakhi, Rahul Sharma, Abbos Kosimov and Kronos Quartet.
"By collaborating with fellow artistes such as Humayon Sakhi and looking forward to the Kabul Musical Festival, I endeavour to raise the level of my music and preserve a trajectory rooted in a deep understanding of the instrument and its beautiful melodies, which were forbidden during the post-Soviet and Taliban government periods," he says.
"People love our music because they feel sympathetic towards Afghans or perhaps the music speaks to their hearts. But apart from the rough sledding, the beauty of Afghanistan's musical landscape dwells in its diversity. The tradition represents a confluence of cultural influences from Persia, India and Central Asia. I am on a quest to represent the Afghan people in a more positive way. With the return of professional musicians from exile in Pakistan and Iran, I can see things only getting better."
Layla Haroon is a freelance writer based in Abu Dhabi.
Salar Nader will perform at the World Stage series in Abu Dhabi on December 10.


PRESS QUOTES-2008-2009
 “Nader brings a natural magnetism with a new and innovative approach to traditional tabla creating an exciting dynamic sound on stage that brings audiences to roaring applause.”
 Los Angeles Times

??"While Mark Foster's film improved upon the novel by downplaying its  broad strokes with judicious naturalism, Spangler and Goldstein do  likewise by using the pared-down sources of live theater to emphasize  the tales larger than life , fable like qualities.?"

With composer Salar nader playing his original tabla score on the  corner of the stage, visible throughout, the sprawl of shifting time,  locations and political climates works quite well in this texts  distilled narrative outline."??"

Salar Nader composer and tabla player sits unobtrusively off stage  ?right adding atmosphere with authentic Afghan music.
"??San Francisco Chronicle?

"Haunting and moody score by Tabla player and composer, Salar Nader.
"??San Jose Mercury News Paper/Tri valley Herald??

In the plays opening scenes, two little boys, Amir and Hassan, frollic  down dusty streets chasing after kites to a mesmerizing percussion of  tabla played by, Composer Salar Nader.??theater review??"

The sounds of the tabla drums sets the mood as " The Kite Runner"  unfolds the beautifully, delicately, detailed story o two young boys  in Kabul.

"The stage was simply set with an artfully lit blue sky and colorful  kites. Left stage, a tabla sits in the foreground." I thought the  latter was a prop. . ."I was wonderfully mistaken. As the opening  scene begins, Salar nader appears and works his magic adding the  ambiance and authenticity pnly a live performance can muster.
"???San Jose Mercury News??"

Goldstein frames the transitions deftly, signaling shifts in time and  place with magic of Salar Naders music and movement."??

??"Native rhythms are heard throughout the production, executed by a  musician who stationary on stage."

The Arizona Republic

"One stroke of genius in this production is the onstage presence of composer and tabla player Salar Nader, who blurs the line between percussion and melody and does more than just set the mood, becoming a sort of Greek chorus commenting on the action."???? - Vairous


Smithsonian Folkways Record label release 2010

Music of Central Asia Vol. 9: In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters from the Lands of the Mughals





Salar Nader, is one of the most sought-after young percussionists of his generation. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1981 to Afghan parents forced to flee their home during the Russian-Afghan war. Salar was just five-years-old when his family settled in the Bay Area. At age seven, he began studying with the legendary tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. Salar already played tabla and was familiar with the basic rhythms of Afghan and Indian folk and pop music. Now he began classical training, first concentrating on the spoken, rhythmic system of north Indian percussion, bols. “It was like learning a new language,” he recalled. “I spoke Farsi at home, English outside, Tabla bols at night with my lesson book.” The boy showed such unusual talent that Hussain eventually became his guru, and today counts Salar as one of his most talented protégés ever.

Salar began accompanying world-renowned classical musicians from South Asia during their visits to San Francisco. He performed with master Pakistani vocalist Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, as well as his virtuoso sons Shafqat, Sharafat, and Sukhawat. Zakir Hussein was so proud to have a student capable of backing such renowned vocalists that he took the unusual step of initiating Salar through the ghandavand ceremony. In this ceremony, the teacher ties a red thread that has been ritually blessed around the student’s hand. This act joins student and teacher for life, and normally comes only after many years of study. Salar was just twelve at the time.

From there, Salar began performing onstage with master musicians visiting from India, including sarangi virtuoso Ustad Sultan Khan. Even as he made his way with the greats of Indian and Pakistani classical music, Salar kept up ties with his ancestral tradition, accompanying Afghan singers whose music is built around Farsi poetry and specialized musical ideas. Salar’s parents worried that their son was moving into a professional career at such a tender age, and insisted that he donate his earnings to organizations aiding people in Afghanistan. Salar participated in concerts connected with the annual Afghan/Iranian celebration, Nowroz. This was how he first performed with great Afghan singers such as Farida Mawaash, Ahmad Wali to name a few. Musicians were so amazed by the talent of this teenage boy that they never allowed him to remain in the background, but always insisted he be featured as a soloist during performances.

When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan in the mid-90s, a number of important musicians went into exile. Salar then began his long association with Homayun Sakhi, one of the great exponents of the 18-stringed rubab. Sakhi is a traditionalist who deepened Salar’s understanding of the distinctive tunings, modes, pitch bends, and rhythms of Afghan folk music.

After high school, Salar began attending the jazz program at Diablo Valley College in East Bay, and a new education began. He joined a variety of jazz combos playing tabla, and watched as his guru Zakir Hussain pursued his own cross-genre projects with world-class jazz artists, and even Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. These experiences gave Salar “a green light to experiment,” and he soon began developing new musical ideas with Dave Lewis, a trap drummer who's father also studied tabla with Hussain, and understood classical Indian rhythms. Sometimes Salar would fill in for Hussain, and in this way he made the leap from campus combos to “playing with the big cats.” To this day, Salar performs and records with Fareed Haque, an innovative jazz guitarist who has developed a unique audience for Indo-jazz fusion.

In 2004, Salar spent six weeks in Mumbai, deepening his study of classical tabla. He performed solo in halls filled with top-notch tabla players. This proved “an eye-opener,” showing him just how demanding a deeply informed audience could be. These listeners were not impressed by style and showmanship, but rather content, knowledge of theory, and virtuoso execution. “Those six weeks felt like five years,” he recalled. But after that, his guru deemed him ready to begin teaching, and soon Salar had 50 students, including some of the most talented tabla players in the United States.

Salar’s circle kept expanding from there. He began to get calls to work with Iranian music masters, including vocalist Shahram Nazeri, and his son Hafez Nazeri. He became the principle accompanist for Ahmad Wali, the most popular Afghan singer of Farsi ghazal’s from 1960 up to the present. Ghulam Ali Khan, master vocalist from Lahore, Pakistan, called on Salar to be part of his 2008-9 North American tour, introducing him to the Urdu music community. In 2005, Salar also began accompanying dance performances, in particular working with India’s Pandit Chitresh Das, founder of San Francisco’s Cchandam School of Dance, which has extensions around North America. Salar also continues to do proj