Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Ustad Mohammad Omar – Rabab
Ustad Zakir Hussain – Tabla
The rabab is a well-known Afghan musical instrument, it looks like a short-necked lute and is played with a plectrum called a shahbaz. This CD features Ustad Mohammad Omar - one of the rabab’s greatest players, in his only public concert in the United States. This CD also gives the listener a chance to listen to a very young Zakir Hussain (the concert was recorded in 1974).
In Kabul, during the 1860s, Indian classical musicians were invited to perform in the court of the ruler Amir Sher Ali Khan. From that time on, Hindustani classical music became established in Kabul and the descendants of these originally Indian musicians have maintained musical ties with India and Pakistan. Tracks 1,2 and 4 are actually based on Hindustani ragas with similar-sounding names.
The Ustad’s style of presentation is similar to the dhrupad style in Hindustani classical music. A piece starts with some improvisation called the shakal. Each raga is presented as a naghma. It consists of 4 sections beginning with the astai ( dhrupad sthayi) which has the principal melody repeated in different rhythmic settings. Then comes the antara which rejoins the main melody after taking it to a higher register. Bog (dhrupad abhoga) introduces a new short melody and the naghma ends with the sanchai (dhrupad sanchari) another short melody.
Track 01: Emen (raga Yaman) is played to a 16 beat cycle (Tintal). See if you can figure out where Ustad’s string breaks though he continues to play.
Track 02: Bopali (raga Bhupali) is played to a 10 beat cycle (Jhaptal). Check out the inserted paltas in this piece (a palta is a rhythmic or melodic theme that is varied and developed into a section. The palta is not a variation on the main melody).
Track 03: This is a tabla solo by a very young Zakir Hussain. The key thing is to tune out listening to the rabab totally as it simply plays a repetitive pattern which can be quite hypnotic. Concentrate on the tabla totally with Zakir calling out the bol (tabla notes) he is going to play on the tabla right before he plays them. The taal featured is Jhap taal (10 beat cycle). A very high energy piece! Excellent!
Track 04: Pelo (raga Pilu) is played to a 16 beat cycle (Tintal).