Classical Rubab Music from Kabul

The rubâb is regarded as the national instrument of Afghanistan. This two-chambered, plucked lute is used in the performance of a number of different genres, from the classical music of the Kabul court to Pashtun vernacular music. In recent years there has been an increasing interest in this instrument as an aspect of “world music”. This workshop addresses compositions and techniques related to the classical repertoire of Afghanistan, concentrating on two genres: the multi-part instrumental composition variously called lâreh (instrumental piece), naghma-ye kashâl (extended instrumental piece) or naghma-ye chahârtuk (four-part instrumental piece); and shakl and naghma-ye klâsik (equivalent to alap and gat in Hindustani music), which encourages melodic improvisation.

Instruction will be delivered by William Rees Hofmann, and John Baily, heir to the teaching of Ustad Nabi Gol of Kabul through his Herati students Amir Jan Khushnawaz and Amir Jan’s son Rahim. As well as learning “by ear” teaching will utilise the Romanised version of sargam notation, examples of which can be found on Baily’s On-line Afghan Rubab Tutor ( A number of melodic modes (râgs) will be covered, including Bhupâli, Yeman, Pâri, Âhir Beiru and Bhimpalasi. The workshops are primarily aimed at those who have some experience in tuning and playing the rubâb.