Homayun Sakhi

Afghan rubab player

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Homayun SakhiKabul-born Sakhi has made a name for himself as one of the greatest performers of the Afghan rubab – a lute-like stringed instrument with a history stretching back 2,000 years. On 17 August he’s performing with his trio at the Edinburgh International Festival. We spoke to him ahead of the concert to find out more.

Tell us a bit about the instrument you play.
It’s originally from Afghanistan and it’s a folk, stringed instruments which is like a lute. I started learning when I was ten years old, from my father and it took about 26 years to learn. I play traditional Afghanistan folk music, music in the Pashto and Herati styles and also what we call Afghani classical. The Pashto style is originally from Afghanistan but the Afghani classical style has been influenced by styles from North India.

In 1992 you left Afghanistan for Peshawar in Pakistan – a place of refuge for many Afghans at that time – and started playing music there. Can you tell us a bit about that?
That time was difficult for me. I opened a small school and a few students came. Slowly, slowly people there listened to my rubab. Music was important to the Afghan community there because they had left their home, they were in a different country, and they missed their own land. That’s why they listened to the music.

What kind of music will you be playing at the Edinburgh Festival?
I’ll be playing with tabla player Salar Nader and doyra player Abbos Kosimov and we'll be performing a piece I composed called 'Rangin Kaman' which means rainbow. In this composition I’ve chosen musical colours from across the [Middle East] region and mixed them all.

As well as your concert, you’ll also be giving a masterclass in Edinburgh on 16 August. Why have you decided to do that?
Culture is a family tradition for me and that’s why I want to introduce the rubab to more people, because a lot of people from different countries don’t know about this instrument. I want to introduce people to it and teach everywhere.

How would describe the rubab and the music you play to someone who had never heard it before?
Everyone feels this music, there is nothing forced about it. I remember I went to Washington Seattle to perform and one person came to the concert, and he cried. And I asked him if he’d heard the music before, if he’d been to Afghanistan and he said ‘No, this is my first time’. That was the effect of the music.