In Afghanistan, gender ideology profoundly affects musical life, as nearly all musical activity is segregated between women and men. Women perform primarily in small groups in domestic contexts, especially at private gatherings, weddings, and other rites of passage. The city of Herat was known for its professional female musicians, who had no parallels elsewhere in the country.
These 1970s recordings of women and children singing love songs, lullabies, and melodies based on traditional quatrains (chahârbeit), accompanying themselves on large frame drums (dâireh), tabla, and Indian portable harmonium, capture a time before the civil wars and ongoing political unrest that severely disrupted Afghani music-making.
Veronica Doubleday recorded this music during ethnomusicological fieldwork in Herat. John Baily, her husband, produced Afghanistan: The Traditional Music of Herat as a result of that same trip, documenting Afghanistan’s male-dominated classical music tradition.
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This album is part of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music. More than 125 albums are being released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to make the series publicly available again, including more than a dozen never-released albums of musical traditions from around the globe.