Voices of Afghanistan share songs of hope

By From page B4 | February 26, 2014

FOLOSM — Despite enduring great personal risk in their homeland when music was controlled, censored and finally banned altogether, Ustad Farida Mahwash and Homayoun Sakhi persevered in developing their musical talent independently. Now working together as Voices of Afghanistan, these remarkable artists bring together and perform a blend of ghazals, Afghan folk songs imbued with Sufi mysticism and ever-evolving new takes on Afghanistan’s musical legacy.

On March 2 Harris Center for the Arts is pleased to present what Opera News/SF Magazine has proclaimed “The passionate mixing of sensual and sacred was uncontainable … these gifted artists left us cheering for the art that endures devastation.”

Through their spellbinding performances, they purvey hope for a new era of freedom and joy yet to come in their beloved homeland as they present Love Songs for Humanity. In addition they are joined by the Sakhi Ensemble, including Abbos Kosimov, Khalil Ragheb, Perviz Sakhi and Ezmarrai Aref.

Long considered “the voice of Afghanistan,” and the first woman to be granted the honorific title of Ustad (Maestra), Mahwash is celebrated around the globe for her ghazal repertoire. Mahwash’s story 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. After decades of political turmoil, 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 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and she was granted political asylum in the United States in 1992.

Mahwash was born into a conservative Afghan family. Her mother was a Quran teacher and religion loomed large throughout her upbringing. For many years, her interest in music was suppressed. Upon completing her studies, Farida accepted a position in the Kabul Radio Station. There, she was discovered by the station’s director who encouraged her to pursue singing as a career. Her robust and mellifluous voice and her command of the subtle art of ornamentation have gone on to dazzle audiences worldwide, as she shares her country’s rich musical heritage through performances and recordings.

Sakhi was born in Kabul in 1976 into one of Afghanistan’s leading musical families. From the age of 10 he studied rubâb — the lute-like national instrument of Afghanistan — with his father, Ghulam Sakhi. Sakhi’s personal story illustrates the extraordinarily challenging conditions under which he and his fellow Afghan musicians have pursued their art. During Afghanistan’s many years of armed conflict, the classical rubâb style to which Sakhi had devoted his career not only survived but reached new creative heights. He was granted residency in the United States and settled in Fremont.

Sakha has sought out the finest available artists from Central Asia to accompany him in The Sakhi Ensemble. Also, as a composer, he has created works for Kronos Quartet, Hannibal Lokumbe and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He has collaborated with celebrated musicians from around the globe, most recently Ustad Farida Mahwash. Sakhi is now creating some of his most passionate compositions to date for Mahwash, and Voices of Afghanistan.

Voices of Afghanistan: Love Songs for Humanity will perform at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 2. Tickets are $25 to $35 with premium seats available for $45; students with ID pay $12. Purchase tickets online at harriscenter.net or from Harris Center ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.

Three Stages


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