S.A.R.A. “Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan”

S.A.R.A. "Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan"

So tonight I will be going to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to see S.A.R.A. (Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan).  This show will be exciting as I’ve spent so much time the past couple of years learning about the Uzbek doira through the career of Abbos Kosimov and he is actually a member of this ensemble!

Four of Asia’s most acclaimed musicians come together for a fusion of cultures and art forms to create SARA, featuring Salar Nader, who thrilled local audiences in Actors Theatre’s production of The Kite Runner, and Homayoun Sakhi, master of the rubâb (the national lute of Afghanistan). Drawing on centuries’ old heritages from throughout Central and South Asia, SARA explores musical styles both ancient and completely modern.

I had no idea this group existed until seeing some of the advertisements for this show recently.  This is going to be a nice prelude to my show tomorrow night with Raks Makam where I’ll be playing a doira solo with dancers.  This is a part of a tour with members of the Bellydance Superstars called Club Bellydance which features local acts in the first half of the show.

I never thought I would get a chance to Kosimov so soon–this will definitely be a treat, as will the show tomorrow night.  And just getting a chance to hear classical Afghani music will be a pleasure as there are so many similarities to South Asian classical music but I’ve never had a chance to hear the former live.

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on playing music from Central Asia…

Jessica and Taletha of Raks Makam dancing a Persian Dance at WorldFest in Louisville with the Crescent Moon Dancers (September 5, 2009). photo by Jon Silpayamanant

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a meeting with my partner, Jessica, for Raks Makam.  This comes on the tail end of me performing a fully fleshed out version of Kor Arab (otherwise known as Kor Ərəbin Mahnısı).  I had performed an excerpt of this within the context of a longer collage piece with one of my other dance/music duets, Secondhand, but had only worked out a version for solo cello and voice for Friday’s Terrabeat Cultural Showcase.

I’ve done a number of tunes from Central Asia with il Troubadore and Ahel El Nagam, but in those cases the tunes were either as an extension of Middle Eastern tunes for bellydancers, or Persian Pop (e.g. Googoosh).  Since Raks Makam is a project that focuses specifically on music and dance from Central Asia and the Silk Road, the material will be focusing more specifically on traditional and art music from those regions. 

Kor Arab fits in very nicely for a number of reasons.  First, it is a song written by Fikret Amirov, an Azerbaijani composer who was trained in the Soviet tradition as well as in the indigenous tradition of Mugham.  Second, the tune is, for all intents and purposes, a Mugham song.  The most recent recording of it (and the first I had the chance to hear several years ago) was by Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project.  It was sung by Alim Qasimov who is a master within the Mugham tradition in Azerbaijan.  The liner notes for the CD, “Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon,” says:

For the Silk Road Ensemble musicians, hearing the ethereal voice of Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Qasimov put their years of conservatory training into serious question.  As they delved into the mugham, they each wondered, “If this is how music should be played what have I been doing all these years?”

Really, that’s a question I ask of myself when I hear music from anywhere!

The obvious difficulty with working up solo versions of this music is distilling the music into two voices (voice/melody or voice/drum) rather than having at least three (voice/melody/drum).  One of the reasons for meeting with Jessica was to talk about our options.

Continue reading “on playing music from Central Asia…”