When the Soviet invasion started, Radio Kaboul continued to function as did the music school where I was teaching. The government in power exhorted the singers to interpret communist revolutionary songs. In 1992, after the departure of the Soviets and the arrival of the Mujahiddins, the music school was closed and all the instruments confiscated. The University of Fine Arts was closed as well. At the radio all the female artists were fired. With the Talibans this death penalty for cultural life as a whole was reinforced. They strictly forbid singing, even by men, as well as the instruments. Only the religous a capella singing was authorized.That extract from the sleeve notes by Afghan singer Ustad Mahwash for her CD Radio Kaboul - homage to Afghan composers really says it all. This is important music with an even more important message. Beautifully recorded, elegantly presented and also featuring musicians such as Prabhu Edouard on tabla, who we saw performing in Paris a couple of weeks ago with Jordi Savall and in Saint-Florent-le-Viel with Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya back in June.
I left the country six months after the arrival of the Mujahiddins, when Rābani was president. The greatest tragedy in my life was the closing of the musical lyceum. I am the only surviving teacher, the others died in exile or in the country in poverty. When my brother, Ibrahim Nassim, was forbidden to broadcast his songs, he died from sadness, like many of his friends. I want to pay a tribute to all great composers that were - Ustād Mohammad Hussain Sarāhang, who died in 1983, Ustad Mohammad Mashem, who died in Germany in 1995, Ustad Nabi Gol, who died in Kharābat in 1972, Fazel Ahmad Naymawaz, assasinated by the Communists in the 80s, as well as the young composer Wahid Qassemi.
They are all present in this CD. My best memories are the ones of Radio Kaboul, that was the happiest and most vital period of my life. Since I arrived in Europe I set myself the task of keeping alive Afghani music, in particular with the creation of the "Ensemble Kaboul" and with the help of the "Ateliers d'ethnomusicologie" in Geneva.
Radio Kaboul is released on the French Accords Croisés. This label was a real discovery for me on my recent trip to France. I returned with several of their CDs and others will be featured here in the coming weeks. Radio Kaboul was released back in 2003, but the tragedy of Afghanistan is even more relevant today than it was six years ago. So I'm nominating it as one of my CDs of the year because, as I've said before, age simply doesn't matter.
* Over the coming weeks I will be featuring here a personal selection of lesser-known music from around the world, including tracks from Radio Kaboul. As part of this project, on December 26th I will be presenting A World of Music, a two hour programme on Future Radio of music taken from the featured CDs, and this programme will also be available as a podcast. More from A World of Music here, and artists are in exile here.
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