“If ever a pious man lets himself go to the sound of the rubab, he abandons his prayer rug for this instrument”
It is by this proverb that the concert of Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai was introduced on October 8, 2021 in the sweetness of an evening in Bayonne, South-West of France, organized as part of the annual Haizebegi festival. But for us, the adventure had started years before…
I remember at the beginning of the 2000s, after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, cultural events followed one after another in France: concerts by the great Masters of Afghan music, artists’ exhibitions, staging of Majrouh’s plays in de small venues, reissues of records of field recordings … For a newcomer like me in this field, it was the excitement. Passionate, I necessarily exaggerated things but I didn’t care. It took me 15 years before coming back down to realize that the wave had long crashed on the shore and that around me, strictly nobody cared about Afghan music. At that moment, accusing a little of the blow, I suddenly decided to stop the radio program of which I had been the host for 7 years and decided to put aside my extra-professional activities. A little rest at home … family first … quiet … but always to the sound of the rubab of course.
I decided then for the first time to join the big fair of social networks and after realizing that I had nothing to say on twitter, I created a simple Instagram page. And then I quickly realized that there were other avid music fans like me, spending their times looking for rare records, foremost among them our now late brother-in-sound Mads. Dear Mads, you had prepared us all well for this tragic outcome and yet we are speechless. Barely more a week before you left this world, I left for the Bordeaux airport where I had to pick up another of these friends from the web – Mathieu Clavel, multi-instrumentalist who was to accompany Daud Khan on stage in Bayonne the next day – and to barely got in the car, hearing the sound of a piece by Rokhshanah or another of those Kabul artists of the 70s who were so dear to you, our first conversations were for you, the tireless digger of which 80% of the playlist that flowed on my car radio between the airport and my apartment came from your findings of Kabuli 78 rpm records.
I will no longer receive your enthusiastic messages in the early morning on the tone of: “Hey Julien, check these records labels pictures and tell me what is written but please: it is confidential :)”. I will no longer spend evenings deciphering the labels of your latest contributions on discogs to update them, and I will miss that. I will no longer ship records to Denmark, praying that the postman does not lose your package on the way.
Instead, I’ll have a thought for you every time I listen to an Afghan 78 rpm. It is certain that you will not be forgotten.
So this last Friday, while I was taking my place in the audience, I almost for a moment believed myself back to that famous bubbling time of 15/20 years ago, when cultural events around Afghanistan were linked in France. But it must be said, since we know that the sound of rubab and songs no longer resonates in Herat, Kabul or the rest of Afghanistan, bitterness has somewhat replaced our excitement. And what about the rest of the bad news? Perhaps this is the reason why Daud Khan chooses to begin his concert in honor of the distant homeland with Da Zhmung Watan, before continuing with well-known ghazals, two of which are included on melodies from Ustad Sarahang, notably the well-known “In Tshe Chorist ke dar Dawre Qamar Mibinam?”.
Poems by Bedil, Hafiz, let me tell you that those who understand Persian surely got them that night. But those who didn’t like me also had reasons to be satisfied: Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai also sings, now you know that. After having played with the very big ones like Jordi Savall, Ustad Mahwash or Sima Bina, the master dazzled us over an hour during his Kabuli laments, accompanied by Mathieu Clavel sometimes on the Doyra drum, sometimes at the Dilruba and even for a moment in duo of rubabs.
The evening finally ended with a Bhairavi played on a sarod, the nostalgia of which could probably have moved the worst of heartless men.
11:00 pm curtain down on the stage, time to take the road to Bordeaux trying to retain the good advice of Hafiz: “Go and do good”
Julien Thiennot (October 2021)