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Robab and Dotar: Enchanting Folk Instruments of Afghanistan (In Dari)    
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Today’s Enlightening Entertainment will be presented in Dari and German, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Gulnar, Gulnar, O beloved Gulnar Your free flowing hair
Gulnar, Gulnar, O beloved Gulnar Your free flowing hair
with a nice hair clip You have set me on a whirlwind
with a nice hair clip You have set me on a whirlwind

Greetings music-loving viewers! Whether to celebrate the joys of life and love, or express spiritual longing, the music of Afghanistan has a long and rich history.

Words cannot fully describe the ancient beauty and sounds of Afghan traditional music.

Music tradition has always played a big role in Afghanistan. It brought together people from different ethnic backgrounds and bridged the gap between them.

O Heaven, I don’t say go not astray

The music of Afghanistan is also recognized by her instruments. Two important stringed instruments are the dotar and robab. Today, some of the most skilled and esteemed Afghan artists will introduce us to what these instruments – and Afghan music in general – are all about.

From her moonlit face, my ruined abode is lit tonight

The robab is a plucked string instrument with a distinct construction. Its hollow sound chamber is carved out of a single piece of mulberry wood, covered with a membrane.

Played with a pick, the robab has a deep sound characteristic of the Pashtun region in southeastern Afghanistan. It is often used to accompany folk songs.

Its soil is invaluable full of famous men
Its soil is invaluable full of famous men The world knows him
by the name of Balkhe Bami

The distinguished Afghan musician Daud Khan Sadozai is best known in Europe for his performances using the robab.

Could you tell us more about the robab?

Yes, the robab is found in many poems and amongst mystics the robab is spoken about and poetry is written about it. There are special shapes of robabs, but this robab, which is played in Afghanistan, has the most perfect shape. It has sympathetic strings, 14 of them, sometimes 15 sympathetic strings, three strings to play, and it’s hollow inside.

It is played as a solo instrument. And also in the orchestra, it is played as part of an ensemble and as an accompanying instrument. It is a very popular, widespread instrument in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. In Kashmir it is also played a bit, but in Afghanistan the most.

Ustad Sobeir Bachtiar, who has mastered both Afghan and Western musical instruments, further comments about the robab.

Robab is one of the oldest musical instruments of the East. In particular, it is very common in Afghanistan. It is said that in the old times, it was played with a bow. Nowadays it is played with a plectrum. Even in the ancient poetry books from thousands of years ago, the robab was mentioned. Rumi used to play robab himself and he also added one string to this instrument. Rudaki (famous Persian poet) was a musician too.

The mentioning of robab can be traced at least to the 7th century. It is described in Persian writings and Sufi poetry.

In old poems it is often found that instruments like the tschang, and the robab or barbat and so on, are mentioned. And in the circles of mystics, when they were sitting and meditating, the musical instruments played a big role. And if it was this type of robab or a different one, that doesn’t really matter.

The old instruments, traditional instruments, all have a beautiful soul. And if you play them, then you will also change after some time, and this kind of traditional music changes your character. And you feel what the mystics felt long ago. And in modern times, it is also played at gatherings where they meditate; there are always instruments involved.

Let us now enjoy a traditional Afghan musical composition performed by Ustad Sobeir Bachtair on the robab, accompanied by Vahid Kamran on the tabla.

Mr. Shamsuddin Masroor is a specialist of both the robab and the dotar. He introduces to us about the special qualities and history of the dotar.

Dotar has a long history in our country and it’s one of the native musical instruments from Herat, Afghanistan. No other country nor any other province besides Herat in Afghanistan is home to the dotar.

In Dari, “do” means “two” with “tar” meaning “strings.”

You may ask why dotar (meaning “two strings”) actually has a lot of strings on it. Well, before it came to Kabul, in Herat it did have only two strings and two adjusters on the top. Later it was brought to Kabul by master Mohammed Omar, who is a robab professor. He was an expert in robab.

Not only in Afghanistan, but also in the continent there wasn’t a musician like him. He made the initiative and added more strings and adjusters on the dotar. This is to make more sounds and to play more rags (melodic forms) and acts. The sound became more beautiful and vibrant.

In Afghanistan it’s only played in Herat province. Few players who are from Herat can play it. Playing it is very difficult. You need a lot of time, hard work, practice, and patience until you learn how to play it. It has a delicate, but sweet and beautiful sound. Other instruments like the guitar, sitar, violin and robab have a stronger sound. This one’s sound is delicate, but very beautiful. I love it, and from thousands of instruments I have chosen the dotar and robab. They have been my friends all my life. An Afghan musician is respected not only for their highly developed techniques and talent, but also for their sheer dedication to the art. When they play, we can see their intense concentration, yet at the same time, a complete love for music.

As far as music is concerned, I think we should do it for the inner enjoyment and contentment and not for fame, name and money. There is no limit; the more you practice, the better you can play. For this reason, it is good that one does not stay stagnant.

The Afghan artist is always immersed in the country’s deep-rooted music culture.

I am an artist, and through all my life I have tried not to copy others. I love music from all over the world. But this is my style, I love it since it’s originally from Afghanistan. That is what I have been doing since 50 years, singing with this style, and composing with the Afghan theme.

As a child, I was always very touched by it and in Afghanistan it was the custom, everywhere in cafés… even trucks had music playing and the speakers were outside and one could hear music all day long. In my family circle, my father was the one who always invited musicians.

And in the evenings they played music and it was very interesting for me and one day, by way of radio, there was no TV at that time, I became very interested in the robab sound. And then one day I also heard them live. That is how it started.

Mr. Sadozai, what is the nature of Afghan music?

We have classical music in Afghanistan and then we have traditional folklore music. Then we have the shepherds and nomads in the mountains who make music. And that actually is the original music in Afghanistan. And from this the many flourishing traditions in the cities are created.

Mr. Sadozai continues to discuss the unique aspect of Afghan music.

I find the main difference in our music is that we try to get so much out of the notes, so much yearning, so much love, so much pain, so much respect. So the notes are not played fleetingly but the notes are being joined together.

How? This pleading, where you call your lover or meditate on nature or on God, this is all done with a lot of respect and love. You try to extract a lot of colors and many ornaments. It is a learning process, of which a whole lifetime is not enough.

My advice for artists and especially youths and Afghan government departments is this: They should preserve our heritage and the original Afghan music.

Famed Afghan singer and instrumentalist Mr. Vaheed Kaacemy has been taking the traditional Afghan sounds and blending them with contemporary styles. Nevertheless, his music is firmly rooted in the folk music of his homeland.

And I'm in love with the folkloric songs, I love them. I always strive to deliver good messages, the messages of peace and reconciliation, and the message of happiness, to people.

I’m not asleep in the night to dream about you.
I’m not happy in the daytime to see misfortune.
I’m not happy in the daytime to see misfortune.
I turn the ground into river. Like fish that may be, I can see you in water.
Like fish that may be, I can see you in water.

We appreciate our most accomplished guests, Mr. Vaheed Kaacemy, Mr. Shamsuddin Masroor, Ustad Sobeir Bachtair, and Mr. Daud Khan Sadozai, for sharing your wonderful talents and insights about the music of Afghanistan. Through your devoted sharing with various audiences and students, may this soul-stirring heritage continue to be appreciated by evermore people worldwide.

Thank you for joining us today. Coming next is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May the Divine bless your life always.
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