The thought of a concert organised by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime to mark the end of a regional summit in Kabul discussing the impact of illegal narcotics on society filled me, if I’m honest, with a fair amount of dread. Live in the developing world long enough and you know there’ll be a string of dignitaries appearing on stage with the sole purpose of introducing the next VIP, until one of them finally runs out of words and the music starts.
Any band with a vague understanding of social justice these days is immediately packed off on a tour by the US State Department or the UN and ends up at these sort of things. If a young Robert Zimmerman was only now changing his name, I fear I’d learn of him at the Second Rumbek Congress on Action Against Female Genital Mutilation or some such, performing two short songs in front an audience on their mobile phones, shouting to be heard above the music while waiting for the buffet to open.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, the concert tonight featured the extraordinary talent of Ariana Delawari, a singer and songwriter of Afghan descent who lives in Los Angeles. Her gentle guitar and the striking cello of Robin Ryczek made a perfect backdrop for the sort of voice by which I would be grateful to be haunted.
While the world already has too many pretty West Coast singer songwriters, that cello gave her songs the feeling of a Nick Cave ballad – something the world needs more of. And it’s fair to say her version of Ahmad Zahir’s “Cheshme Siah Daree” was something a crowd pleaser. (see video above from another recent concert. It’s rather poor quality, but gives a flavour. For something slicker: http://vimeo.com/23995026)
This is the sort of thing I’ve been looking for in this part of the world for a long time: An artist that is creating something new and exciting from centuries old traditions. And to prove the point, she teamed up with a Falak singer from Tajikistan (whose name escapes me now), for a blending – if you’ll permit it – of old and new. (Incidentally falak music sounded much better with the cello than whatever the normal thing is).
The show ended with Pakistani rockers Noori.