skip to Main Content

Voices of Afghanistan

April 7, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Mānoa Campus, East-West Center; Imin Center/Jefferson Hall

Voices of Afghanistan bridges three generations of the finest traditional musicians from Afghanistan and Central Asia. Legendary Afghan songstress Ustad Farida Mahwash represents the country’s “golden age” of music–the 1970s. She is accompanied by composer, rubâb master and vocalist Homayoun Sakhi and the Sakhi Ensemble, which specializes both in the rich folkloric and classical traditions of Afghanistan and in bold contemporary works.

Sakhi, the group’s musical director, has devoted his life to studying the rich music of his region, and has emerged as one of its greatest living composers. The Sakhi Ensemble includes: Abbos Kosimov of Uzbekistan, considered one the most entertaining and explosive players of the Central Asian frame drum called doyra; Khalil Ragheb on harmonium and vocals, Ezmarai Aref on tabla (drums), and Pervez Sakhi on tula (flute).

A performance by the California-based Voices of Afghanistan is a journey through time and space, reprising the glories of the Afghan past and reaching all the way to its increasingly global contemporary life and expression. Sawol-jawab—the interplay of questions and answers—is the foundation upon which much of Afghan music rests. With implications beyond the stage, it posits that only the most thoughtfully constructed questions can elicit meaningful answers.

The musicians test this belief at every performance, creating an acoustically rich crossroad in which the musicians explore the interconnectedness of the seeker and sought, sacred and secular, traditional and contemporary. Afghanistan is a regional hub of cultural and social activity and is home to a vast array of musical genres. The ghazals, folk songs and traditional melodies spotlighted in Voces of Afghanistan concerts speak to the human need for love, grace and transcendence

The lasting significance of the ghazals (Sufi poetic songs), folk songs, and traditional melodies to be performed reflect their ability to speak to our very human need for love, grace, and transcendence. For example, ghazals derive from the heart of Sufi mysticism, blurring the boundaries between the erotic and the sacred.

Long considered “the voice of Afghanistan,” Ustad Mahwash is celebrated around the globe for her ghazal repertoire. Her personal story, like that of so many Afghan women, is one of unyielding perseverance (as witnessed by the great personal risk she encountered by performing in public during the early years of Taliban rule). Ustad is joined by the Sakhi Ensemble, which features some the most distinguished Afghan musicians in the Diaspora.

Under the artistic direction of rubab virtuoso Homayoun Sakhi, their work is offered to all as an exquisite reminder of the tenacious presence of love that no war can ever crush. Homayoun Sakhi’s personal background also illustrates the extraordinarily challenging conditions under which he and his fellow Afghan musicians have pursued their art.

Throughout his struggles, he has been exposed to numerous cultural streams and styles. As a result, Sakhi’s style has been shaped not only by the musical traditions to which Afghan music is geographically and historically linked, but by his lively interest in contemporary music from around the world. Sakhi composes music, including for the Kronos Quartet and SARA, and has even collaborated with jazz musicians. Parts of their performance may reflect his cosmopolitan experiences.

Ticket Information
$25 gen.; $20 seniors & military; $15 students

Event Sponsor
East-West Center, Mānoa Campus

More Information

Share by email