Sweet Nomad Girl: Folk Music from Afghanistan

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COMPOSERS: Afghan Traditional
LABELS: Metier World
WORKS: Nasar Jan (Dear Nasar)/Aushari, Naghmeh Bajekhaneh, Sefid Kheimeh (White Tents), Bada Bada, Shishkebab, Shah Koko Jan (Dear Shah Koko)/Uzbeki, Gol-E Bikhar (Rose Without Thorns), Siahmu Wa Jalali (Siahmu and Jalali), Gol-E Zard (Yellow Flower), Shirin Dokhtar-E Maldar (Sweet Nomad Girl), Jam-E Narenji (Tangerine Dress), Wa Wa Leili (Leili, How Wonderful!)
PERFORMER: Abdul Wahab Madadi, Victoria Doubleday (voice), John Baily (dutars)


This collection of traditional songs – recorded at concerts in Wiltshire and Sussex – had an unusual genesis. Musicologists John Baily and his wife Victoria Doubleday are leading conservationists of the traditional music of Afghanistan: living in Herat in the mid-1970s, they made priceless field recordings, and also turned themselves into kosher Afghan musicians – she as a singer, he as an exponent on the dutar lute.


Their pre-Taliban recordings are available on the Unesco and World Network labels; this new disc represents a more personal culmination. If Doubleday’s voice doesn’t quite have the edge a native singer would have, Baily’s fingerwork – on dutars of different kinds – is superb, and they’ve roped in Abdul Wahab Madadi, a Herati singer who really is the biz. The lyrics are drenched in youthful sensuality – ‘Under the sugar cane there are two girls with sugar lips’ – and the melodies have great charm. Michael Church