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Daud Khan is one of the very few practising artists in Europe to have inherited the rich and ancient musical tradition of his homeland, Afghanistan. This country, decimated by over the centuries by innumerable wars, was in times past, an obligatory point of call for exchanges between the great empires of old: China, Persia, India, Greece…

This continuous flow of cultures and races is apparent in the music of Afghanistan, which ranges from the refined music of the classical court, clearly influenced by Persia to the west (Herat), through to the colourful urban folklore of Kabul and surrounds, with many touches of Indian Raga.

Daud Khan brings all of these musical styles to life, accompanying his singing with the rubab, a 17 string Afghan lute whose origins have been lost in time and which the Indian people also claim as their own, having developed it into the Sarod we know today, an instrument which Daud also uses in his performances.

When performing in Spain, Daud is accompanied by the musicians:




rabab, ud, tar


dilruba, bendir, recorders



Daud Khan



Daud Khan was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1955. He studied the Rubab with one of the greatest maestros of all time, Ustad Muhammad Umar. He would later learn to play the Sarod, an instrument from North India which is directly descended from the Rubab, receiving instruction from the great Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, in India.

One of Amjad Ali Khan ancestors, called Muhammad Hashim Bangesh, took the Rubab from Ghazni (Afghanistan) to Gwalior (India) and his family was responsible for its development into the Sarod. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan represents the sixth generation of this family of musicians (senia gharana).

Daud frequently performs in Europe, the United States and India. He was honoured in the latter with the Ustad Hazif Ali Khan award in 1988, and again in 1995. Apart from this, he is head of studies at the Köln Academy for Indian Music in Germany. This school was founded by his maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and continues in his tradition of teaching traditional Afghan and Indian musical tradition.

The great Indian musician Amjad Ali Khan Saheb, who was my ustad (maestro) gave a very significant definition of classical Indian music which I consider valid also for the classical music of Afghanistan. He said ‘the meaning of classical Indian music is disciplined freedom'.

This means that we should learn the basic rules of Raga (the Indian theory of musical modes) and the various compositions based on this system, as well as the interpretative and expressive possibilities of each mode (Rag or Maqam).
Sometimes, “improvisation” leads us to believe that one can play one’s instrument spontaneously and with no deep understanding of the Raga. In actual fact, one can only really participate in the beauty and richness of a composition if one understands how to express the essential character of the mode.

Just as in Western classical music, many musicians in our tradition follow the teachings of a maestro (ustad) who has a very specific way of playing or singing. It is one way of keeping the hope for better, more peaceful times alive in the minds of those who listen to this music.


Daud Khan Sadozai

The music of Afghanistan

The Afghan government was officially recognized for the first time in 1847. Twelve different ethnic groups (including Tajikistanis, Uzbekistanis, Turkmen, Hazaragi, Balochi, Pashtun… ) were united in the same geographical space and had to somehow establish a unique identity.

All of these races contributed to the diversity of Afghan music and can be divided into three main cultural categories. From Kabul to Kandahar, the eastern and southern regions in contact with the Indo valley, have enjoyed frequent musical exchanges with the northern part of India. The music from Herat in the west has benefited from centuries of Persian influence. The northern part of Afghanistan has acquired a very peculiar aesthetic thanks to its borders with Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikstan. Perhaps one other musical movement could be mentioned – that of the Pashtun communities (currently representing around 40% of the population). We must also mention the wide differences between the agricultural population and the urban lifestyle of the cities such as Kabul or Herat.

Afghan music can be divided into three types: Popular, semi-classical and classical.
The popular genre has a great many songs which can be interpreted as instrumental pieces. Each song has three sections: verse, chorus and instrumental interludes.
Classical music is based on far more sophisticated concepts, closely related to the music of North India and its modes (Ragas). It entails the progressive development of a melody which expresses a pre-established emotional state. This is executed to complex rhythmic cycles of 10, 12, 14, 15 or 16 beats, called taal. Musicians of such renown as Ustad Muhammad Umar on the Rubab, or singer Ustad Qasim have taken classical Afghan music to new heights of refinement.

The semi-classical genre falls between these two extremes. Musicians working in this field combine popular structure with a more elaborate poetic and melodic inspiration.

One of the largest diasporas in history was caused first by Soviet rule and later by the Taliban. Millions of Afghanis emigrated all over the world, among them musicians like Daud Khan who still practice their art today after 20 years in exile.

The Rabab



The Rabab is known as the most traditional instrument in Afghan popular music. Most of the traditional repertoire can be played on this instrument, normally with strong rhythmic accentuation. The classic, though far less frequent, style of performance is characterized by its serious musical expression and meditative approach to the melodies. Since long ago, the rubab has played an important role in the Sufi musical tradition. Maulana Runi praised the instrument which is often mentioned in his poetry. Many other Medieval mystical poets sang the praises of the rabab.

The instrument is essentially a box carved from Mulberry wood and a lid. It is made using tensed and glued goatskin. The rabab has four types of strings, each with a different function. Three melody strings made from gut, two or three fixed tuning drone strings made from nylon (yuri), 10 -14 sympathetic strings made from steel and bronze, and one high string (chikari) which gives rhythmic accompaniment and is essential to rabab music.


Daud Khan "Tribute to Afghanistan", CD cover


Live concert at the Labyrinth Music Workshop in Houdetsi (Crete, Greece), 9/8/2013


 Raag Bhopali (25:09)

Live concert at the Mediathéque of Guincamp (Britanny, France), 29/9/2012


 Ghazal pashto (14:17)

 Nastaran/Tilang (15:29)

 Piloo (20:14)

 Bhairavi (15:51)

 Kirwani [fragment] (10:00)

 Bhairavi [bis] (6:56)

Live concert at the Sociedad Artística Manisense concert hall, Manises (Spain), 15/2/2012


 Rag Yaman

 Rag Tilang

 Afghan song

 Dance ins seven beats

 Sheikh Ahmad-e jam

Live concert at the Baltazar Dias Theater of Funchal (Madeira), 31st Festival de Música da Madeira, 10/6/2010



 Rag Puriya Kalyan (alap)

 Rag Puriya Kalyan (teen tal)

 Ghazal Pashto

 Per tropo fede/Rag Piloo

 Rag Kirwani (alap)


With Sima Bina atthe Cadogan Hall, Londres, UK (June 1, 2014)


BBC Persian interview

Live concert in Hagen (Germany), January 26th, 2013)


Extractes del concert

Live concert in Manises (Spain), 15/2/2012


Yaman Danza

Live concert at the Baltazar Dias Theater of Funchal (Madeira), 31st Festival de Música da Madeira, 10/6/2010




Live concert at the Espai Mediterrani festival in Valencia, Spain (June 12, 2015)



(fotos: Paco Valiente)

Live concert with Sima Bina at the Isala Theatre in Rotterdam (Holland), December 6, 2014)



Live concert with Sima Bina at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre (Los Angeles, California, USA, November 11, 2014)




(fotos: Hassan Zare)

Live concert with Sima Bina at the Cadogan Hall, London, UK (June 1, 2014)



Live concert at the Museum Guimet of Asiaitc Arts, Paris, France (December 13, 2013)


(fotos: Serge Noël-Ranaïvo)

 Live concert in Manises (February 15th, 2012)


(fotos: Javier González/Kontxi Díez)

Live concert in Tortosa, part of the “Entre Cultures” festival. November 2006.


(Photo: Lessy)





Dossier (PDF)