Rag Sohni by Vahid Delahang is the second single off Afghan Music In Exile: Mashhad 2022, an album and film series showcasing the music of a culture under existential threat.
Recorded in Mashhad, Iran in May 2022, this album captures the talent and suspenseful expression of classical and folk Afghan musicians living in exile – to create art in Afghanistan would have invited attacks, arrest, torture or worse at the hands of the Taliban. With production and management from Michel Gasco (Badieh, Orontes and student of rubab maestro Nasim Khushnawaz) and co-production from Lachlan R. Dale (Worlds Within Worlds Records, Hashshashin & Black Aleph), this project culminates Gasco’s decade-long work with the Afghan community in Iran to create a snapshot in time – a historical marker for future generations to reflect on.
“I think this project will give the opportunity to those who don’t know about our music to hear it for the first time,” says Nasim Khushnawaz, a Herati rubab master who features on the release. “When people think of Afghanistan they think of war, I hope after this album they will also think about our beautiful music. I also hope this project will give us the opportunity to play for people who appreciate our music and our Afghan brothers living in the west.”
The record captures performances from some of Herat’s most important musical dynasties from the past century, including members of the Khushnawaz, Delahang and Hassanpour families. Listeners can expect broad stylistic and instrumental variation, including; Asef Habibi’s performance of a Kabuli ghazal, Jawad Tabesh’s rendition of a classical Afghan vocal piece, Valid Delahung’s talents with traditional Rubab compositions and a Herati Dotar piece from Gholam Sakhi Rassouli. Finally, Aziz Ahmad Amiri performs a moving and distinctive folk song composed by his father – the great singer Ustad Amir Mohammad.
“This project will have positive effects on art in Afghanistan, especially for those Afghans who don’t know the music of their country,” says Asef Habibi. “It also shows how interested our foreign friends are in the music and art of Afghanistan.”
The disastrous effects of the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021 has stifled the expression of Afghan musicians as a ban on music performance couples a new wave of oppression against the arts. Deprived of their livelihood, many artists are destitute, and many families are either starving or living in exile. This project aims to amplify the voice of these artists to ensure they are not forgotten. All profits from this release go directly back to the artists involved – with the hope this eases the substantial burden of living in a precarious situation while maintaining the rich and enduring musical traditions of Afghanistan.
“This album is one of a kind, and a celebration of a great culture that has been under unbearable pressure with extremists trying to silence it,” remarks Michel Gasco. “We hope that provides a gateway for new audiences into the rich musical history of Afghanistan.”
Afghan Music In Exile: Mashhad 2022 is out 23 June on Worlds Within Worlds. The second single, Rag Sohni by Vahid Delahang is out now.