Bostonians are about to have a uncommon likelihood to listen to conventional Afghan music carried out by a few of its most-skilled masters. They are going to be gathering to carry out together with Afghan musicians who have been schooled in western classical music in Kabul however who now dwell in exile within the U.S. Billed as a Live performance in Solidarity with Afghan Musicians, it takes place on March 20th at 7:00 PM on the First Church, 11 Backyard Road, Cambridge. Produced in affiliation with the Longy Faculty of Music, the live performance is going on on the Persian New Yr, Nawroz, which is extensively celebrated in Afghanistan. The taking part musicians goal to direct consideration to “the Taliban’s inhumane ban on music and persecution of Afghan musicians.”
The live performance has been organized by Arson Fahim, who although solely 22, has already had successes as a pianist, composer and conductor. Two weeks earlier than the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, Arson left his house there to start out research on the Longy Faculty of Music. It was an sudden vacation spot for somebody born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, and who had not began enjoying piano till he was 12. Arson tells how just a few months after returning to Kabul, he was at a youngsters’s studying heart. “From behind a closed door got here this excellent sound. Somebody was enjoying an attractive piece of music on the piano,” he remembers. “I knew I mustn’t go in uninvited, however couldn’t assist myself.” The trainer was giving a lesson, however he let Arson stroll as much as the piano.
I gently touched it and pressed each single key, for the primary time in my life. From that second, I knew I needed to study piano. I needed to develop into a musician.
He says he took his first piano lesson that day.
Over his final seven years in Kabul, his life was fully entwined with the Afghanistan Nationwide Institute of Music (ANIM), which drew a number of of its school from amongst working musicians based mostly in Boston. They guided him in his piano research, particularly in performing Chopin whose music held a particular place for him. And when there was nobody to conduct the varsity’s orchestra, they taught him how to do this. Although he was too younger to have come to Boston when the AMIN orchestra performed two well-remembered live shows on the New England Conservatory in February 2013, he held on the tales his schoolmates instructed them of what it was prefer to carry out right here and on the Kennedy Middle and Carnegie Corridor. Different journeys took the orchestra to Sydney and Davos.
Arson was decided to be a part of that, particularly after ANIM’s founder, Ahmad Naser Sarmast, was injured and misplaced a lot of his listening to in a suicide bomb assault in 2014 when the orchestra was enjoying on a program being held to denounce suicide bombings. Arson may see firsthand the bitter irony of how the facility of music may result in tragedy. He was decided to make use of it for therapeutic. A 12 months later when a younger girl title Farkunda Malikzada drew worldwide headlines when she was attacked and murdered by a mob of males outdoors a mosque, he felt compelled to compose. What emerged was haunting piano solo imbued with the tonalities and rhythms of conventional Afghan music. A raft of different compositions have adopted.
He’d deliberate his travels to the U.S. to review at Longy lengthy earlier than the Taliban takeover two weeks after he left Kabul. Since then he has been deeply apprehensive about his dad and mom and sister who stay there. He’s additionally involved about the way forward for music there now that the Taliban have banned it. “Once they discover musical devices, they break them and burn them. My musician buddies have hidden their devices far-off from their houses in order that when the Taliban conduct raids, they discover nothing. It’s heart-breaking to see that within the twenty first Century, we’ve to cover one thing as lovely as music.”
His dream, he says, is to return to a post-Taliban Afghanistan and begin a music faculty within the excessive mountain valley of Bamyan that was as soon as graced by two monumental statues of the Buddha carved right into a cliffside.
I see such a robust message in having a music faculty in a spot the place they destroyed tradition and artwork. Afghan musicians world wide are going to do that. We’re not going to surrender.
Fahim had some attention-grabbing issues to say to Lee Eiseman and Steve Landrigan in a latest interview.
A.F. I wrote Damaged Mountain proper after the Taliban got here to energy and the federal government fell, and that was about two weeks after I had arrived right here and began my research at Longy. It was a really bizarre time. On one hand, I missed house and my buddies and apprehensive about them, however alternatively, simply having began this new journey the place I received to fulfill new individuals, and have new experiences, it excited me in regards to the future.
I used to be feeling this mixture of grief for my nation, and although being excited, on the identical time I felt responsible about being excited. In fact I needed to take care of all these feelings was by making music. In a single day, the Talban had just about banned music and the world noticed footage of them destroying devices and movies of them mainly simply torturing musicians in public, simply to make different individuals frightened of enjoying music or listening to music.
So I made a decision to placed on a live performance. I didn’t know lots of people right here then, however greater than 70 individuals volunteered. Due to COVID we needed to do the live performance on-line but it surely went nicely. We did preparations of Afghan songs and I wrote a chunk, Damaged Mountains, for that live performance. I made a decision to do it once more this 12 months. And this time I needed to ask some extra Afghan conventional musicians and composers and to revise Damaged Mountains for full orchestra. Which is strictly what I did. So, this time we’ve a rubab participant, probably the greatest on the earth.
We have now an Afghan younger feminine cellist and composer Meena Karimi who will probably be becoming a member of us. She is enjoying certainly one of her items referred to as Daybreak. We’re additionally enjoying a medley of Afghan track, by one other Afghan who organized it for the ensemble referred to as Qambar Nawshad. He’s presently the conductor for the Afghan Nationwide Symphony Orchestra, which evacuated to Portugal. One other piece is by Milad Yousufi, a graduate of Mannes Conservatory in New York who’s a composer, pianist composer artist and calligrapher. We’re additionally being joined by Negin Khpalwak, the primary ever feminine conductor of Afghanistan, and sort of an emblem of girl’s rights within the nation. And Qais Essar, one of many world’s main gamers of the rubab, the nationwide instrument of Afghanistan. So a whole lot of very inspiring individuals coming collectively for this occasion. And once more, we’ll additionally play Damaged Mountain because it’s so applicable for this event and nonetheless describes precisely how I felt.
Even the title is about Afghanistan. This place has a lot historical past and cultural and creative heritage. And these lovely “mountains” are being f taken away, being damaged
It conveys greater than something what I used to be going by way of, a combination of grief and unhappiness and ache and fear, but it surely additionally describes my simply anger for what occurred in my nation—each what the U.S. did in my nation in any case their enormous guarantees. In the long run the U.S. betrayed the nation, and let it die.
I don’t attempt to ship particular messages by way of the notes. You may solely uncover these actual meanings provided that you learn this system notes, or for those who hear me speak about it. There aren’t any phrases within the rating, although a soprano sings syllables. I hope my feelings come by way of the melodies
For me, one of the crucial vital issues that the Taliban took away was a lady’s rights, particularly since I’ve a 13-year-old sister whom I really like a lot.
And I needed to have the ability to categorical how I really feel in regards to the Taliban, not permitting girls and ladies to review and work. That’s one cause I wrote an element for a soprano soloist. Her excessive notes got here throughout just like the screams of frustration, of the lady of Afghanistan who’ve needed to undergo a lot during the last 100 years, and all through mainly our historical past particularly extra just lately within the final 40 years.
Is having women and men carry out collectively a radical factor?
Previously 20 years, we have been beginning to have this. We had our orchestra and girl enjoying in any respect was a really symbolic factor. Enjoying collectively was beginning to develop into increasingly widespread. However now right this moment, after all, there isn’t any music in any respect, not to mention music being performed by women and men collectively.
Inform us in regards to the gamers in your expanded model of Damaged Mountain and the live performance typically.
It’s principally volunteers from Longy but in addition from different music faculties round Boston, and even we’ve some individuals coming from different states, but it surely’s all volunteers. Even the Afghan musicians are volunteering to play this. I’m enjoying the piano for my very own piece.
The conductor is Dr. Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey. She’s an American who’s been within the UK for a while. She’s been researching Afghan music loads and he or she’s been to Afghanistan, she helped manage a tour of Zohra, the Afghan Girl’s Orchestra, to the UK.
Final summer season, I collaborated together with her on organizing a live performance with the Oxford Philharmonic the place we commissioned eight Afghan composers together with myself to put in writing new items for orchestra and Afghan devices. That is the primary time a gaggle of Afghan composers have been commissioned. So, she’ll be coming from the UK to conduct the live performance.
Are there Afghani conventional tunes in what you’re writing ?
Positively. Sure. A few of them are preparations of Afghan songs and our rubab participant will probably be enjoying a few items of Afghan conventional songs. But additionally within the items which can be compositions by Afghan composers we’re all impressed by our music, our heritage.
In my piece I take advantage of scales which can be extra widespread in Afghan music and sorts of rhythms which can be extra widespread in Afghan music.
What’s the origin of those scales and rhythms?
A king in India, despatched it to the King of Afghanistan as a present. Again then it wasn’t even Afghanistan, it was simply Persia. However Lots of Afghan music we use Saragam, which is the Hindustani, classical method of notating. The music relies extra on ragas and ghazals than any Western sort of notation.
So it’s impressed by that, however over the centuries, it has undoubtedly developed its personal voice. Over the previous few many years there have additionally been a whole lot of influences from western pop music, reminiscent of electrical keyboards. Western classical music was by no means actually that developed in Afghanistan. Our college received into it, however we by no means had an actual symphony orchestra which may play Mahler or these sort of items by way of extra simply enjoying preparations of songs which can be simplified for the ensemble.
Simply prior to now 10 years did we actually begin learning notation and Western Classical music, after which the varsity shut down earlier than we may actually construct experience. A lot of the school have been from European international locations or from America, with fairly just a few from Boston, together with a whole lot of graduates from NEC. So Bob Jordan and Derek Beckvold are two individuals who have been instructing in Afghanistan they have been amongst my academics. And so they helped me come to the come to the US.
They linked me with my outstanding host Mark, Churchill, they usually’ll be doing a free improv based mostly on Afghan melodies within the live performance.
Do you assume that the Taliban’s prohibition in opposition to music is one excessive of a pendulum that’s going to swing again to normalcy?
I undoubtedly assume so as a result of the Taliban took energy as soon as earlier than within the late 90s they usually tried to do the identical then. You would get your palms lower off for simply proudly owning a cassette; they’d nonetheless break devices and kill musicians, however as quickly as they misplaced energy, music resumed.
It’s extraordinarily vital for us to protect our conventional music, however I believe it’s additionally vital that for these of us who need to have the ability to play the piano or to play Beethoven or to put in writing within the fashion of western classical music to have the experience and information and the entry.
And we’ve conventional dances which can be so vital to our tradition. Previously 20 years day by day, once I sat within the automotive, individuals can be listening to music on the radio, and we had music reveals on the TV.
The rubab generates a lot musical vitality and other people might be nearly hypnotized by it.
For Afghans for me and a whole lot of my musician buddies, and even non-musician buddies, it’s extra about it being an emblem of our music. It’s simply so distinctly Afghan.
It’s quite common in Afghan music and it’s normally monophonic music. Musicians would make a melody simply as lovely as they might, and when they’re extra many musicians enjoying the identical factor collectively, they’re not essentially harmonizing it, however they’re all embellishing it alternative ways too.
I collect that subsequent Monday’s Longy live performance is free, however you’re encouraging individuals to contribute to sure organizations immediately moderately than by way of this occasion itself.
The live performance greater than something is about elevating consciousness. As a result of sadly, so many individuals even musicians right here within the U.S. don’t find out about what’s what these musicians are going through, and we wish extra individuals to find out about this to talk up about this for musicians. I’m hoping that they will simply say one thing on their social media or they will play a chunk of music and earlier than enjoying it, say, just a few phrases in regards to the musicians of Afghanistan and simply elevate consciousness about this.
And because the title of the live performance suggests the live performance in solidarity with African musicians. It’s about sending a message to the musicians inside Afghanistan. “Your artwork is actually worthwhile and other people world wide, nonetheless care in regards to the artwork, that you simply make the music that you simply make.”
Earlier than you got here to Longy you’d had by no means had composition classes.
I’d simply improvise on the piano and I did some preparations, however I by no means had a composition lesson. I used to be simply self-taught mainly. And I believe that’s a moderately truly a bonus for me as a result of I used to be by no means taught to evolve to a sure fashion. I simply needed to discover till I discovered one thing that labored for me. However lastly, with the ability to have a lesson with my composition trainer was Alexandra, du Bois, and he or she’s unimaginable, and he or she actually impressed me and simply, I believe greater than something she gave me the braveness to change from my piano main and deal with composition full time. Earlier than then I’s had no concept that that that is one thing you are able to do for a profession.
Longy additionally uncovered me to what music generally can do for communities and for social change. For instance, we don’t examine Western conventional classical principle in our courses. We have a look at music from world wide. Nonetheless, that’s within the Hindustani music or gamalan music or West African music. We attempt to discover all of the beauties and all of the issues that make musics from world wide.
I all the time beloved Afghan music, it was all the time proper there, I by no means actually thought of it. So taking a look at it by way of totally different sort of lens, nearly made me appreciated greater than I used to when it was all the time proper there.
I’m simply extraordinarily fortunate. I used to be born in Pakistan and I grew up listening to Urdu music, and with my household at house, we’d hearken to Afghan music. We had academics from India, so I’d pay attention Hindustani ragas. However throughout all this time, I additionally had entry to web, so I all the time listened to jazz and pop, however after all I really like classical music. That’s what I used to be learning. So I had so many influences that as a composer make my voice.
At this time it’s not about writing within the fashion of Mozart. It’s about having your individual distinctive voice. And I believe contemplating the locations the place I’ve lived. the languages, I’ve spoken and the individuals I’ve identified, I’ve developed a singular voice with out me studying having to seek for it that a lot. Lots of composers usually are not so lucky.
And naturally, I used to be fortunate in the way in which that I had entry to training, not all Afghans, have that. We solely had one music faculty within the nation that had about 200 or 300 college students and I used to be certainly one of them so out of hundreds of thousands. I used to be extremely luck and lucky not having to go work on the streets to generate profits to have dinner, I used to be capable of deal with research.
I used to be lucky, sure. However what being lucky means is within the U.S. could be very totally different than what that time period would imply in Afghanistan. If there’s a bomb blast and also you don’t die, you’re very lucky as a result of just about day by day just a few individuals die in blasts. Each Afghan has been very near it not less than just a few instances of their lives. For us, if a bomb, goes off at a spot the place we have been 5 minutes in the past, we predict, “Oh cool. I’m very lucky. I received to outlive.” So many Afghans are within the survival mode and we don’t have the posh of occupied with trauma
This live performance is a method of coping with that. Greater than something, the explanation I needed to do it was as a result of I used to be feeling responsible and depressed. The one place the place I may put my feelings and vitality with out feeling unhealthy about it, was this live performance.
For lots of Afghans, we take care of bother and anxiousness by laughing at it.
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