Sign up for our free newsletter
In the early ’80s, a young Afghan high school student now known simply as Quraishi fled his country ahead of impending battles between the Soviet Union and the Afghan mujahedeen. He traveled through the Afghan mountains to Pakistan and Iran before ending up in New York City with dreams of becoming a guitarist. But when he heard that religious extremists had banned the performance of traditional Afghan music back home, he decided to switch his focus to the rubab, a multi-stringed lute-like instrument that he taught himself to play after seeing his father, an instrument maker, happily plucking one. The speedy-fingered Quraishi, accompanied by dhol and tabla percussionists, delivers a mix of instrumental folk and raga that reflects Afghanistan’s position on the Silk Road trade route—there’s homegrown hypnotic strumming and rhythms with Indian-, Greek-, and Chinese-style fingerwork accents. But Quraishi’s sound is no “world music” hodgepodge. While the repetitive drone elements resemble the tones of South Asia, and one cut incorporates rural American banjo-style licks, this New York–based artist remains Afghan through and through. Quraishi performs at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free. (202) 467-4700. kennedy-center.org.