Saturday, February 18, 2012


Mr. Shafiq Ghani
10" x 12", oil on wood, 2012
I've been watching and listening to a string of videos featuring Afghan musicians playing an instrument called rebab.  I have this wonderful recording of a rebab solo and I wanted to hear similar performances. (When doing a word search for rebab, Google suggests I have misspelled rehab, YouTube thinks I want to see Rehab by Amy Winehouse.) The rebab is really a great instrument and all recordings I found have this certain intensity, very deep and emotional. One of the outstanding performances was a one and a half minute solo by Mr. Shafiq Ghani, pictured above. The video is beautiful but disturbingly gritty, made with a low resolution hand held camera, it bizarrely reminded me of images from war torn areas made by some soldier's cheap camera. But on the video was not a prisoner of war, instead this master rebab player performs a brilliant piece of music. I used the image of Mr. Shafic Ghani to illustrate this anonymous rebab solo from the album Afghanistan et Iran: Musee de l'Homme Collection (1969), that features field recordings made by J.C. and S. Lubtchansky in 1956. The lira, a prominent instrument in early Western classical music, is a direct derivation of the rebab, and I can almost imagine how some medieval and early Renaissance music may have sounded like by listening to 20th and 21st Century recordings of the rebab made in Afghanistan.
What I find so intriguing about traditional instrumental music from the middle east is the timeless quality of it. Save for evolving recording techniques it is nearly impossible to date recordings just by listening to it. The experience of time seems to happen there on a whole other level as we experience it here. Maybe it's not linear as ours, I don't know, maybe nothing changes. Maybe it's good, maybe it isn't, but for a music fanatic like me it's certainly good that there are still pockets in the world where Globalization doesn't get a grip on and traditions have not become obsolete.

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