To the Other Side of Samarkand

“To the Other Side of Samarkand”, a joint album by Iranian and Afghan musicians, has recently been released by the Naghmeh Haft Eqlim Art and Cultural Institute in Tehran.“To the Other Side of Samarkand” is the debut album of Afghan pop singer Aref Jafari, who is also the composer of the album.

Music has always been a part of Afghans’ lives but since the late 1970s the country has been involved in constant wars and people were less concerned about music. As such, music in Afghanistan has been suppressed and recording for outsiders is minimal, despite a rich musical heritage.

Located on the crossroads between many trade routes, Afghanistan’s music tradition was influenced by Arabs, Persians, Indians, Mongolians, Chinese and many others passing through. Thus Afghan music features a mix of Persian melodies, Arab scales, Indian compositional principles as well as sounds from ethnic groups such as the Pashtuns or Tajiks and the instruments used range from Indian Tablas to long-necked lutes.

During the 1990s, the Taliban governments banned instrumental music and much public music-making. In spite of arrests and destruction of musical instruments, musicians have continued to play their trade into the present. The multi-ethnic city of Kabul has long been the regional cultural capital, but outsiders have tended to focus on the city of Herat, which is home to traditions more closely related to Iranian music than in the rest of the country. Lyrics throughout most of Afghanistan are typically in Dari (Persian) and Pashto.

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