Award-winning Afghan-American artist brings Rubab to Australia

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Afghan American musician Qais Essar playing a sold-out Sydney show. Photo credit: Arezo Younes

Afghan American musician Qais Essar has turned heads in Australia as he arrived to perform in the country for the first time. The widely respected instrumentalist, composer and producer, is an Afghani traditional music virtuoso.

Essar performed to a sold-out crowd at Redfern earlier in August. Presented by Worlds Within Worlds, the Australian East Coast Tour saw audiences captivated by the ‘Master of the Afghan Rubab.’

“It’s my first time in Australia. I had a nice warm welcome and I am very happy to be here, Australia is great!” says Essar.

Born and raised in the United States of America, Essar studied Eastern classicalmusic. Since the Taliban banned music on their return to power last year, he now feels even more responsible for keeping Afghanistan’s traditional music alive.

Essar is known for his playing the Rubab, one of Afghanistan`s most traditional and oldest musical instruments. The Rubab is a three-stringed short-necked lute that is the earliest known bowed instrument, a national musical treasure of Afghanistan.

His first album, The Green Language, became Amazon’s number one bestseller in 2014, but Essar’s achievements do not stop there. He also won ‘Best Original Song’ at the Canadian Screen Awards, for his piece titled The Crown Sleeps and featured in Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-nominated film The Breadwinner.

Essar feels privileged that he can share his musical talent with audiences across the globe.

“I feel those of us that have the opportunity to continue the legacy of Afghan music should step up and be the voice for those that are silenced,” he says.

Lachlan Dale, one of the organisers of the event, enjoys hearing Essar’s classical Afghan music, particularly the sounds of the Rubab. He believes that sharing powerful music like his encourages Australians to support the Afghan community.

Event promoter Lachlan Dale at Essar’s Sydney Concert. Photo: Arezo Younes

“What is going on in Afghanistan now is really heart breaking for many reasons and one of the reasons is that Afghan musicians are no longer able to play music publicly or even practice privately in many cases,” he says.

Dale encourages Australians to stand with the Afghan community and donate to organisations that cover the heart of the issue where possible.

Murtaza Damoon who is a well-known Afghan Tabla player, shares Essar’s passion for music.

“I am very proud to be performing in front of Australian audiences with Qais Essar who is an amazing Rubab player,” he says.

Essar’s tour will stretch throughout the eastern states of Australia, with live performances in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Ballarat . He is excited to challenge the way Afghanistan is perceived.

“I feel that we have to step up and show the better face of Afghanistan to the world through our art and music and to introduce a counter narrative to what is being fed through the media because all you hear is about Taliban,” he says.

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