Various Artists

Afghanistan Untouched

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Recorded originally around 1968, this double album of Afghan music was remastered and re-released in the aftermath of the fighting in Afghanistan post-2001. The recordings themselves were luckily made before the bulk of the 20th century woes of Afghanistan, just predating the overthrow of Zahir Shah and the ensuing Soviet invasion, anti-Soviet fighting, civil war, and the Taliban's rise (and elimination of musical performance). The focus of the album is largely on folk performance, with only sparing attention paid to the musicians of Kabul and Herat, and somewhat more attention paid to the rural performers or urban-dwelling rural-styled performers. The first disc deals pretty exclusively with the Uzbek and Tajik immigrant cultures from the northern end of the nation, who share the bulk of their styles with their fully Central Asian or Persian counterparts, though there is some divergence between the performances given different events pre- and post-migration. The songs cover a good deal of ground geographically, hailing from the Kataghan region, Badakhshan, and the Wakhan corridor, among many others. Despite this dispersion, the music holds remarkable similarities from song to song, performer to performer, partially due to the intermingling over the last few centuries. The second disc diversifies the mix a bit, with music from the Hazaras (from the central area of the country) opening the disc, followed quickly by the dominant Pashtuns, who collectively contribute another five songs or so. Some Herati music shows off the colors of one of the major cities, and some Northern Kazakh tunes continue the movement. The last ethnic group represented is that of the Turkmen, also from the north, who contribute a couple of works for the dotar. The album ends on a basic exposition of drum rhythms on the zirbaghali. Overall, the remastering quality is quite nice, with only the occasional dip in quality based on old tape damage. The performances are quite good, with semiprofessional musicians once again proving themselves just as good as full professionals, but the real reason to pick up this album is to experience the grand diversity of culture within Afghanistan's makeshift melting pot of ethnic groups. Give it a listen or two.

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