Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio

Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio
Photo Credit: tablafortwo.com
16.6K
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In Washington DC, a musical duo who blend ancient Afghan talas (beats) with Bollywood songs, ghazals and a new-fangled approach to playing tabla are beginning to make waves across concert halls in the USA. A chance but clearly fateful meeting connected and inspired Masood Omari, a refugee from Kabul with Abigail Adams Greenway, a colourful Pennsylvanian artist, to form Tabla for Two the subject of this week’s Sunday Sounds.

Camel Caravan Waltz

Play

In a time that seems so distant as to be mythical, Afghanistan was not known as the most dangerous place on earth. And in that time there was no more recognised image of the country and its people than the camel caravan. Silhouetted humps swaying rhythmically and mirroring the very mountains of the Silk Road. So famous were the camels that when in the 1860s a very young Australia needed a reliable way to explore and map the vast dry interior of the continent, they turned to the karawan drivers of the Hindu Kush. This mesmerising composition by Masood Omari in classic waltz metre is a perfect introduction to Tabla for Two’s musical approach – grounded in traditional sensibility, structurally lithe and slightly haunting.

Penda Shutam (Old Afghan song)

Play

Masood fled Afghanistan when he was 15 and settled in Islamabad.

“My father was an educator in Ghazni, but the family moved to Kabul where I was born, because he was tagged for death.”

“My family was not musical but my brother studied with the great UstadFateh Ali Khan. He’s a fine singer and lives in Holland. Music is a gift from God. It is so beautiful. My uncle was a tabla player, and I used to play along on water pails.”

Omari studied under an Afghan master of the Punjab gharana, Ustad Arif Chishti, from whom he received his gurnami. Unusual for most tabla players, Masood’s sings as he plays. His earthy voice fits perfectly the cadence and sound of this old Afghan love song.

Abigail Adams Greenway claims she was not seeking a musical career when she met Masood.

“I have been a visual artist for many years but was laid low by a debilitating health issue. My life essentially stopped. I was unable to return to painting and art for 3 years.”

When she was strong enough to engage again, one of the first people Abigail met was a Pakistani truck painter from Peshawar who was in Washington, sponsored by the Smithsonian. A friendship grew and eventually Greenway asked Ghulam to paint her car in the style of a Pakistani lorry.

Counterclockwise

Play

Soon after, Abigail met Masood, who was visiting from Boston, at a small Afghan curio shop. With a long-standing love of music she was overjoyed to discover that Masood was a classically trained tabla player. Inspired, and no doubt eager to grab life fully once again after a long difficult patch, Abigail began studying tabla with Masood.

“I jumped in whole-heartedly, practicing every day, sometimes up to 18 hours!”

“We are interested in teaching sound and beat,” Masood told me. “The tabla comprises of the Baya (bass) and the Daya (treble) drum. Abigail plays three Daya and I accompany on regular tabla and dholak and other things! The approach is quite innovative.”

This piece represents the “new” sound Massod and Abigail are pursuing. Called Counterclockwise because the three Dayas are played in a counter clockwise motion adding to the rhythmic complexity and structures.

Pardesiyon se naa ankhiyan milana

Play

Masood loves to compose but admits it can be challenging.

“Especially for 17 and 11 and 13 beat taals. These are old beats that have fallen out of style. No one really sings them any more.”

One thing that is always sung, from Kabul to Washington, is old Hindi film songs. As a composer Masood is especially drawn to the often elegant compositions of some of Mumbai’ greatest filmi composer duos, such as Kalyanji-Anandji. Accompanied by Abigail on the harmonium, Masood gives an expressive and imaginative interpretation of the 1965 hit from Jab Jab Phool Khile that mixes Dari with the original Hindi lyrics.

Hai Sharmaauun kis kis ko bataauun

Play

Tabla for Two’s take on these old filmi songs is both reverential and subversive. In the tabla and harmonium, resides the evocative, eternal sound of the subcontinent. But step back just a bit and you can get a glimpse of the sleight of hand. What was originally a rather raucous “item” number in a mela is slowed down, into a heartfelt love ballad. Abigail plays the harmonium to great effect, treating the instrument as a drone of sorts, hardly moving her fingers beyond two or three keys. Masood’s voice is as lonely as the dusky hills in which the duo sit.

In Table for Two I catch the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio. “Just” a couple of musicians with basic instruments playing their hearts out while reconfiguring the sound’s original purpose. That they are but two makes the magic even more delightful.

Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio
Photo Credit: tablafortwo.com
16.6K
Total Views

In Washington DC, a musical duo who blend ancient Afghan talas (beats) with Bollywood songs, ghazals and a new-fangled approach to playing tabla are beginning to make waves across concert halls in the USA. A chance but clearly fateful meeting connected and inspired Masood Omari, a refugee from Kabul with Abigail Adams Greenway, a colourful Pennsylvanian artist, to form Tabla for Two the subject of this week’s Sunday Sounds.

Camel Caravan Waltz

Play

In a time that seems so distant as to be mythical, Afghanistan was not known as the most dangerous place on earth. And in that time there was no more recognised image of the country and its people than the camel caravan. Silhouetted humps swaying rhythmically and mirroring the very mountains of the Silk Road. So famous were the camels that when in the 1860s a very young Australia needed a reliable way to explore and map the vast dry interior of the continent, they turned to the karawan drivers of the Hindu Kush. This mesmerising composition by Masood Omari in classic waltz metre is a perfect introduction to Tabla for Two’s musical approach – grounded in traditional sensibility, structurally lithe and slightly haunting.

Penda Shutam (Old Afghan song)

Play

Masood fled Afghanistan when he was 15 and settled in Islamabad.

“My father was an educator in Ghazni, but the family moved to Kabul where I was born, because he was tagged for death.”

“My family was not musical but my brother studied with the great UstadFateh Ali Khan. He’s a fine singer and lives in Holland. Music is a gift from God. It is so beautiful. My uncle was a tabla player, and I used to play along on water pails.”

Omari studied under an Afghan master of the Punjab gharana, Ustad Arif Chishti, from whom he received his gurnami. Unusual for most tabla players, Masood’s sings as he plays. His earthy voice fits perfectly the cadence and sound of this old Afghan love song.

Abigail Adams Greenway claims she was not seeking a musical career when she met Masood.

“I have been a visual artist for many years but was laid low by a debilitating health issue. My life essentially stopped. I was unable to return to painting and art for 3 years.”

When she was strong enough to engage again, one of the first people Abigail met was a Pakistani truck painter from Peshawar who was in Washington, sponsored by the Smithsonian. A friendship grew and eventually Greenway asked Ghulam to paint her car in the style of a Pakistani lorry.

Counterclockwise

Play

Soon after, Abigail met Masood, who was visiting from Boston, at a small Afghan curio shop. With a long-standing love of music she was overjoyed to discover that Masood was a classically trained tabla player. Inspired, and no doubt eager to grab life fully once again after a long difficult patch, Abigail began studying tabla with Masood.

“I jumped in whole-heartedly, practicing every day, sometimes up to 18 hours!”

“We are interested in teaching sound and beat,” Masood told me. “The tabla comprises of the Baya (bass) and the Daya (treble) drum. Abigail plays three Daya and I accompany on regular tabla and dholak and other things! The approach is quite innovative.”

This piece represents the “new” sound Massod and Abigail are pursuing. Called Counterclockwise because the three Dayas are played in a counter clockwise motion adding to the rhythmic complexity and structures.

Pardesiyon se naa ankhiyan milana

Play

Masood loves to compose but admits it can be challenging.

“Especially for 17 and 11 and 13 beat taals. These are old beats that have fallen out of style. No one really sings them any more.”

One thing that is always sung, from Kabul to Washington, is old Hindi film songs. As a composer Masood is especially drawn to the often elegant compositions of some of Mumbai’ greatest filmi composer duos, such as Kalyanji-Anandji. Accompanied by Abigail on the harmonium, Masood gives an expressive and imaginative interpretation of the 1965 hit from Jab Jab Phool Khile that mixes Dari with the original Hindi lyrics.

Hai Sharmaauun kis kis ko bataauun

Play

Tabla for Two’s take on these old filmi songs is both reverential and subversive. In the tabla and harmonium, resides the evocative, eternal sound of the subcontinent. But step back just a bit and you can get a glimpse of the sleight of hand. What was originally a rather raucous “item” number in a mela is slowed down, into a heartfelt love ballad. Abigail plays the harmonium to great effect, treating the instrument as a drone of sorts, hardly moving her fingers beyond two or three keys. Masood’s voice is as lonely as the dusky hills in which the duo sit.

In Table for Two I catch the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio. “Just” a couple of musicians with basic instruments playing their hearts out while reconfiguring the sound’s original purpose. That they are but two makes the magic even more delightful.

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