LEGENDARY SINGER USTAD FARIDA MAWASH PERFORMS AT THE FREMONT MAIN LIBRARY
It is not often that we get a chance to meet a living legend. Fremont residents will be able to do that on Saturday, March 14, from 2-4 p.m. when Afghanistan’s icon Ustad Farida Mawash will give a community concert at the Fremont Main Library.
As Afghanistan’s most popular female singer in the 1960s and ’70s, her beautiful vibrant voice was heard daily over Radio Kabul. Mawash’s career in Afghanistan came to an abrupt end with the occupation of the Russian army in 1979 and the new regime of the Taliban which forbade any kind of musical expression. Her many recitals and performances at the national and local levels in the United States eventually put her in the limelight again. Her music is still sold globally in Afghan communities and major world capitals.
Mahwash is the only Afghan woman to attain the title of “Ustad” meaning “master,” which was bestowed on her by the Ministry of Culture in 1977. Mahwash’ contributions to the musical tradition of Afghanistan was recognized and honored during the golden era of Afghanistan.
She endured the Soviet invasion and the Taliban ban on music in her country until 1989, when she fled its civil war and became a refugee, but now she calls Fremont her home away from home.
Ustad Farida Mahwash, was born Farida Gulali Ayubi, in 1947, Kabul, Afghanistan into a conservative Afghan family. Her mother was a Quran teacher, and inspired Farida with her beautiful voice and a religious upbringing. Upon completing her studies, Farida found support and inspiration at Kabul Radio, whose director discovered her talent for singing.
She is one of the most beloved singers throughout Central Asia. She sings mostly in Dari, but is universally understood with her underlying tones of emotional soulfulness. Her melodies are sung with such a wistful and supple voice which moves the heart and enlightens the soul.
She reiterates Afghanistan’s deep-rooted musical traditions with romantic ghazals and folk songs, which are her specialty. The lyrics are reminiscent of Rumi’s classical Persian poetry.
Being away from her motherland didn’t prevent her to continue singing. In 2001, Hossein Arman, head of an exiled Afghani band based in Switzerland, invited Mahwash to join the Ensemble Kaboul, with whom she embarked on international tours. This group was composed of fellow-refugees and it opened the doors to countless concerts and the award-winning 2003 album Radio Kaboul. This rich collection pays homage to the disappeared or exiled composers and musicians of Afghan radio’s golden era.
This group performed at some of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe to sophisticated audiences who were bedazzled with this unique musical expression. The world now acknowledged her fame and gave her recognition for her beautiful voice and style. In Europe she received the Golden Voice Award and in the United States the Janis Joplin Award.
Later that year, Mahwash received a prestigious BBC World Music Award, both for her artistic excellence and for her work in speaking on behalf of thousands of orphaned Afghan children.
In 2007, Mahwash followed up with a recording secular and sacred love poems, Ghazals Afghans recorded by Accords Croises /Harmonia Mundi.
In 2012 Ustad Mawash grouped with other local musicians and Voices of Afghanistan was formed. Under the direction of music producer Dawn Elder and Afghan musical director Homayoun Sakhi, these musicians gained recognition for their expertise and professionalism. “Voices of Afghanistan” was nominated for Six Grammy Awards in Folsom, California.
Mahwash, Homayoun Sakhi and the group began recording a new album with renowned world music producer Dawn Elder and Sam Nappi at World Harmony Studios. Ustad Mahwash, Homayoun Sakhi and the group are joined by a host of notable celebrity musicians and singers including Grammy winning singer Angelique Kidjo. The album “Love Songs for Humanity” was released by World Harmony Studios/D E Music Records in 2013.
In 2013, Ustad Mawash together with Kabir Howaida (piano) received the coveted Rumi Awards in Las Vegas. Kabir Howeida is a renowned pianist and composer who will join Ustad Mawash in Fremont for the March 14, 2015 concert.
For most of her years, Mahwash has been Afghanistan’s best-loved singer. Yet its only female Master Musician (Ustad) has lived in exile since 1991. Afghan’s deep rooted musical tradition is carried on by Mawash in her albums. “Ghazal Afghans” which was recorded in 2007 and « Radio Kabul » recorded in 2003 are still available. ‘Art’ says Ustad Farida Mahwash, ‘is about affection and kindness.’
The Afghan traditional music is also still carried on in 2015 with Ustad Mawash’s new team of renowned artists consisting of Khalil Rahgeb (Harmonium), Kabir Howaida (Piano), and Eshan Ahmad (Tabla).
Ragheb is a master of the harmonium. He is also a singer and composer. For 16 years as a television presenter for Afghan Television, Ragheb first played with Mawash in 1977, at the same time as he was working with another Afghan icon, Ahmad Zahir. The event of Zahirs untimely death in his prime in 1979 during political turmoil drove Ragheb into exile, more than a decade before Mahwash herself. So their reunion in this group has a depth of nostalgia which is unparalleled amongst other musicians.
Kabir Howaida is a renowened piano player and composer and brother of the late Zahir Howaida, who was a famous singer and composer in Afghanistan and abroad. The famous and late Ahmed Zahir, as well as Zahir Howaida, Kabir Howaida, and Khalil Ragheb knew and worked with each other as a team. Kabir’s has performed at home and abroad and has received the 2013 Rumi Award together with Ustad Mawash.
Ehsan Ahmad, master of the tabla, is a new member to this group, with the traditional talent and repertoire, Ahmad will take the drums (tabla) to new heights.
Mawash with her spellbound, soulful voice is giving new life to ghazals in her songs. The ghazal is an ancient Persian form of verse. The form is ancient and an integral part of Arabic and Persian poetry long before the rise of Islam. Ghazals were written by Rumi and Hafiz of Persia who have become the dominant figures in Sufi mysticism. Ghazals express the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. They are quite haunting, with long soft syllables, rhymed in two stanzas. Ghazals invoke melancholy, unrequited love, longing, and the metaphysical questions of Sufism.
Mahwash left Afghanistan in 1991 and has since settled in Fremont. Today, Ustad Mahwash still expresses enthusiam to continue touring the world bringing her country’s music and songs under the spotlight. She is full of personal grace, kindness and goodwill. She is Afghanistan’s Ambassador of Love.