A Glance at Afghan Music in the Last One Hundred Years

There has been scant serious research on Afghanistan's music in general, and its local and folk music in particular. Indeed, the Afghan's culture and literature have generally been ignored or undervalued in the last century.

While Khorasani music was the prevalent musical system in the major cities of Afghanistan particularly Kabul, Qandihar and Herat, Indian musical modes, melodies and instruments began to leave their mark on the Afghan musical traditions since late 19th century. Originally, musicians, both players and vocalists, traditionally performed exclusively for kings, princes or local khans. It was only later, in the reign of Abdul-Rahman khan, that the circle expanded and musical performances were allowed for members of privileged classes.

The current classical musical bands in Afghanistan usually comprise a main vocalist and a group of performers using string instruments. Ostad Qorban'Ali was the first pioneer musician who popularized the current style of musical performance. He was followed by a number of music masters who proceeded to write a variety of tunes and melodies, trained students, and sang both classical and folkloric songs. In the two decades prior to the onset of Soviet invasion and the Jihadist wars, Afghan governments adopted various measures to promote and popularize music in the country. These measures included the creation of departments of arts and music in Kabul University, encouraging the establishment of the union of musical performers, and sending talented students of music to European countries for advanced musical studies. At the wake of the catastrophic period of war, destruction and suppression, however, very little is left of what was once a blooming world of music and musicians in Kabul.

A. Wahab Madadi
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