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Qais Essar is back with a new addition to his opus “I Am Afghan, Afghani Is Currency.” Volume III, “Zahir” extends his lyrical statement about Afghanistan and Afghan identity. It’s a sweeping five-song collection of mood-focused tracks, each of which seems to centralize and distill the essence of feeling. It’s as if Essar led with his soul rather than his trusty rabab.

In this album, Essar has reworked some of the gold standards of both Indian classical and Afghan music, like Taranasaz’s “Khoda Buwad Ham Rahet” which he has presented without lyrics as his first single. This, in addition to his usual mastery over his instrument and message, solidifies this album as a crystallization of the past and future both of South Asian music.

“I like to joke about how this [album] is an olive branch to the purists of rabab and lovers of traditional Afghan/ North Indian Classical music that I alienate with my contemporary works. But these EP’s, and this series are born from times of reflection – in between albums, in between scoring, in between productions, in between touring,” Essar told Kajal. “My core foundation is the music that I grew up with, and it is what I return to when everything is quiet, and I need to recharge. In a world where our traditional and classical music are a thing of antiquity, presenting this music in this way is just as much rebellion as pairing the rabab with a Moog synthesizer. These projects inspire me really, as I revisit and pay homage to artists that had a role in my development, there is a whole new sense of appreciation for their work, and influence on me.”

Essar’s leisurely concentration on the songs in this collection shines through. They don’t feel urgent or pointed, simply peaceful.


The collection will be released this Friday, March 15 through Worlds Within Worlds. 

Photography by Negine Jasmine