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Afghan musicians, Herat 1973

The classical music of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental (rāgas, naghmehs) and vocal forms (ghazals).[1] Many ustad, or professional musicians, are descended from Indian artists who emigrated to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s upon the invitation of Amir Sher Ali Khan.[2]

These north Indian musicians use Hindustani terminology and structures.[3] Afghan ragas, in contrast to Indian ones, tend to be more focused on rhythm, and are usually played with the tabla, imported from India, or the native zerbaghali, daireh or dohol, all percussive instruments.[1]

An important characteristic of the Afghan ghazal is that, unlike the Indian talas and ragas it is based on, Afghan ghazal features the "repetitive use of fast instrumental sections interpolated between units of text", an element derived from Pashtun music.[2]

Afghan ghazal is viewed as a "light-classical" form of Indian music, which uses Persian texts consisting of a series of rhyming couplets, many written by spiritual poets like Bedil, Sa'adi and Hafez.[2]

Musicians in Herat with tourist, 1973

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Doubleday, pg. 3
  2. ^ a b c Mikalina
  3. ^ Doubleday, pg. 3Many of the Kabuli professional 'master musicians' (known as ustad) are directly descended from musicians who came from India to play at the Afghan court in the 1860s. They maintain cultural and personal ties with India -- through discipleship or inter-marriage -- and they use the Hindustani musical theories and terminology, for example raga (melodic form) and tala (rhythmic cycle). (all emphasis in original)


  • Baily, John. "Music of Afghanistan: Professional Musicians in the City of Herat". 1988. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-25000-5
  • Baily, John. "The naghma-ye kashal of Afghanistan". 1997. British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 6, pp 117–163.
  • Baily, John. "A System of Modes Used in the Urban Music of Afghanistan". Ethnomusicology, Vol. 25, No 1, pp 1–39.
  • Doubleday, Veronica. "Red Light at the Crossroads". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 3–8. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • "Afghan Music Before the War". Mikalina. Archived from the original on November 4, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2005.