Gulab Afridi – The Colours Of Rubab (Worlds Within Worlds)


Pakastaini Gulab Afridi is a folk and classical artist hailing from Peshawar. He plays the rubab, a lute like instrument, variants of which appear in Afghanistan, India and Tajikistan, and he’s synthesized numerous approaches into his playing. He’s something of a virtuoso, there’s a great youtube clip of him covering the global pop hit ‘Despacito’ – and its really good. Check it out here.

This however feels significantly more refined, stately even, playing alongside Murad Afridi‘s tabla. His music is more about plugging into the emotions than technical gymnastics – though they do appear from time to time. In fact at times you can’t help but marvel at the fact that he isn’t working with overdubs – it’s amazing what two hands can do. On these four acoustic instrumental pieces he’s fusing traditions from Afghanistan and Pakistan, thanks to the time he has spent in both Kabul and Peshawar – though given the rise of the Taliban you’d have to assume visits to Afghanistan would rare these days.

His music seems to balance both the composed and improvisation, with him repeatedly returning to a central motif of a piece throughout his long sprawling works, before deviating again. He plays these somewhat cyclical runs of notes, creating structures in his playing that is reinforced via the tabla. His control nothing short of extraordinary, one moment engaging with some playful call and response with the tabla, at others seemingly off on his own as the tabla scrambles to catch up. That said the duo feel pretty intuitive, with each afforded plenty of space to stretch out, interact, build momentum and accentuate each others movements.

Indian classical music is ubiquitous in the west, and whilst there are links to the duo format and ragas, The Colours of Rubab is quite different. Whilst retaining quite a stately and traditional style, Afridi’s ability to harness the (rarely heard in the west) traditions of Pakistan and Afghanistan within his unique style is what makes this music so special.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.