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Fleurs d'exil
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cd cover With "The Kite Runner," Kahled Hosseini's brilliant novel of Afghanistan, the buzz of every book club in the country, and with the international situation being what it is, the release of this CD is timely, to say the least. This debut album gives us a solid introduction to the folk and semi-classical music of Afghanistan. The album's title, Flowers of Exile, refers to the Afghani diaspora forced by Russian and U.S. invasions, the ravages of war, and internal Taliban persecution. (Stories exist of musicians in Afghanistan hiding or burying their instruments to keep them from being confiscated or destroyed by the Taliban.)

Situated in the middle of central Asia as it is, it stands to reason that Afghanistan would absorb sounds from the cultures surrounding it. Persian poetry and the influence of the rag and tala systems and instrumentation of Northern India are in evidence here, mixed in with the amalgam of Afghani indigenous cultures. The resulting sound is rich, yet with a filigreed delicacy. Robab, harmonium, tabla, dholak, flute, and saxophone come together to create a sound that relies more on contrast than blend for its appeal. There is a refreshing lack of pretense and flash on this release. The voices are frank and open and the playing serves the melody, not vice versa. Unfortunately, the English translation in the liner notes is full of fractured grammar, necessitating multiple readings to get the gist of what Pierre Fassy and Massoud Raonaq have written. There's a lot of good information here; it's just difficult to get at. But this is a minor drawback to a promising debut. - Peggy Latkovich

Available from cdRoots

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