Voices of Afghanistan
Ustad Farida Mahwash, one of Afghanistan's best-loved singers, joins internationally renowned composer and rubâb or Afghan lute virtuouso Homayoun Sakhi in a celebration of their country's diverse musical heritage. Since relocating to the West, the members of Voices of Afghanistan have triumphed over censorship and the prohibition of women singing in public to reach new creative heights. Singing in Pashto and Dari (a dialect of modern Persian), the ensemble offers an acoustically rich experience filled with poetic ghazals (songs of love and longing), Sufi songs of devotion, and traditional folk melodies. Ultimately, they explore the interconnectedness of the seeker and sought, the sacred and secular, and the traditional and contemporary.
The first woman to be granted the honorific title of ustad (maestra), Farida Mahwash is celebrated for her ghazal repertoire and her passionate yet refined, powerful, and haunting voice. After decades of political turmoil and great personal risk encountered performing in public during the early years of Taliban rule, she was forced to leave Afghanistan in 1991. She moved to Pakistan where she took refuge from the two warring sides of the time, each of which warned her to sing for their cause or else face assassination. Her plight was recognized by UNHCR, and she was granted political asylum in the United States. The New York Times states Ustad Mahwash’s “beautifully expressive voice retains remarkable range, flexibility, and soul-searing intensity. And her spirit continues to soar.”
Celebrated performer, teacher, and composer, Homayoun Sakhi is the most innovative player of Afghanistan's national instrument, the rubâb. He has earned global acclaim for a soaring technique, melodic flair, and unparalleled style. Born into one of Afghanistan’s leading musical families, Sakhi persevered through extraordinarily challenging conditions to pursue the original rubâb style that he had developed. In addition to his role as musical director of Voices of Afghanistan, he also leads the Sakhi Ensemble, which is composed of the most distinguished Afghan musicians in the diaspora, in creating music alive with the sounds of their country's vibrant heritage. As a solo artist, he has performed with everyone from Kronos Quartet to opera director Peter Sellars.
Together these remarkable Afghan artists give hope of an era of freedom and joy yet to come through their music for their beloved homeland. In the words of Asia Society Texas Center Director of Programs Sabrina Lynn Motley, “Voices of Afghanistan is an exquisite reminder of the tenacious presence of love that no war can ever crush.”
A day prior to the performance, Sakhi Ensemble member Abbos Kosimov will share the excitement of the doyra, a framed drum, at a special percussion workshop presented as a part of Asia Society Texas Center’s Central Asia and Silk Road Family Day on Houston Museum District Day, on September 15, 2012.