Afghanistan's music relies heavily on instruments, unaccompanied singing is not considered music.. A sect of Kabul, the Chishti Sufi, use the rubab, tabla and harmonium in their worship (pictured below). This kind of music is referred to as tatti, which means "food for the soul".
- The rubab is a string instrument that originated in Afghanistan carved from a single piece of wood from the trunk of a mulberry tree.. Also known as "the lion of instruments" the rubab is one of the two national instruments of Afghanistan.
- The tabla is an Indian percussion instrument frequently used in combination with the harmonium.
- The harmonium is also an Indian instrument. It is unique in that you pump it to produce sound. Originally the pumping was done with foot pedals but newer models had hand pumps.
Radio Kabul made music available to people all across the country. During the 1960s and 70s, Radio Kabul played both traditional and modern Afghan artists such as Ustad Mohammad Hussain Sarahang, classical artist, and Ustad Farida Mahwash, one of the most notable pop singers.
In 1977 Farida Mahwash became the first woman to earn the honorary title Ustad, meaning master. This was very controversial because until this point, the title was reserved for men.
She now lives in CA and tours with Voices of Afghanistan.
One of her most popular songs, “O Bacha (Oh Boy),” brings together half a dozen regional songs into one. She learned this complicated piece and recorded it in a one day. This earned her the title Ustad.
Icon Ahmad Zahir, sometimes called "The King of Afghan Music" produced rock/pop music similar to Elvis Presley. His songs are mostly in Persian, based on famous poetry He also has some songs in Pashto and English. Zahir is regarded as one of the greatest in Afghan culture, arts, entertainment and history.