Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Afghanistan (RG/Southbound)

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Farhad Darya: Salaamalek
Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Afghanistan (RG/Southbound)

Although it would take an expert in this field to say whether this 15 track collection (with a bonus disc of mesmerising music by Ahmad Sham's qawwali group) is a fair overview, you can't help but get caught up in the swirling pop, evocative instrumentals and often quite thrilling Afghani "rock" on display.

Clearly much of this music isn't Taliban-approved because some of the artists -- notably the country's most famous star Farhad Darya, here with the exciting Salaamalek -- live outside the country.

Here too are the lively Setara Hussainzada who was contestant in the Afghan Star competiton (death threats after her headscarf slipped), a number of fokloric instrumentals on rubab, Sufi music, and the powerful voice of Mahwash whose Gar Konad Saheb-E-Man is a standout.

So from urban "idol" singers to the remote Pamir mountains, from Sufi spiritualism to block-rockin' beats, this is an ear-opening collection.

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Gavin Hancock - Dec 8, 2011

The Rough Guide series sometimes seems like it's going through the motions (another volume of labotomised electronic lounge music from Brazil? no thanks!) but now and again they pull something really worthwhile out of leftfield...this is one of those releases. Hope they keep covering more of the lesser noticed countries of the world.

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