The festival aims to open a door onto the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan and bridge the gap in the knowledge and understanding of a country too often associated with poverty and conflict.
Situated in a fertile valley in western Afghanistan, the ancient city of Herat is nationally recognised as a pre-eminent fount of the arts. An important trading centre, Herat has continuously absorbed new influences while maintaining the essential flavour of its own local culture.
Music is a vital part of Herati culture, even in the late 1990s, during the Taliban’s ban on music-making, Herati people took great risks gathering in secret to make and perform their music.
The festival features a tour of Herati musicians and several other events related to the culture of the region, including Afghan Tales, a storytelling event in partnership with Afghan Action and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The nationwide tour, Music from Herat, will feature a mixture of Herati vocal and instrumental music, along with the Afghan classical music that has been performed in Herat since the 1930s.
The festival also features several events at the Asian Music Centre, including Professor John Baily’s lecture on the music from Herat as well as screening his film The Annual Cycle of Music in Herat, featuring recordings of his visits to Afghanistan from 1973 to 1977, in the years before the Soviet occupation.
At the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall Professor Baily performs, along with Ustad Arif Mahmoud-Chisti, a master tabla player, a mixture of traditional Afghan folk and classical music in Roses and Nightingales.
At the Asian Music Centre, Dr Moya Carey, Iran Heritage Foundation Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, gives a lecture on the painting for Sultan Husayn Bayqara from Late Timurid Herat.
Afghan Tales is a family friendly event at the Asian Music Centre which takes us on a musical journey through the emerald pastures, snow-capped Pamir mountains and arid valleys of Afghanistan, a land of teaming bazaars and palaces inhabited by greedy kings, wicked viziers and jinn fairies. Drawing on Afghanistan’s rich oral heritage, Afghan Tales introduces the customs, religions and cultures that make up this fascinating country.