Life Is A Heavy Burden

04/03/2022Strut/United Sounds Of Asia Releases Timeless Ghazals & Poetry By Afghanistan’s Nashenas

"Life is a Heavy Burden" is the title of the latest release on Strut Records, as the always stellar London-based imprint launches its new United Sounds of Asia series, a "project celebrating musical routes, journeys and histories across Asia [that is] helmed by the Paradise Bangkok founders Maft Sai (Zudrangma Records) and Chris Menist (Awkward Corners)." This is a special one, seeing as it is "the first compilation of legendary Afghan Ghazal singer Dr. Mohammad Sadiq Fitrar, aka Nashenas," but also because it was brought to fruition by influential Danish record collector Mads Nimann Jensen, who sadly passed away in 2021 and to whom this release is dedicated.

Nashenas first ventured into music in 1951 at the age of 16, when he began working at Afghanistan's national radio station, Radio Kabul, thus coming into contact with some of the leading figures in Afghan music. Having grown up listening to singers like Ustad Qasim Khan and Kundan Lal Saigal on his father's gramophone, his own on-air singing attempts were unsuccessful at first, until one day, "inspired by a movie he had seen at the cinema, Nashenas wrote a new poem and sang on air again after the evening news, using the name ‘Nashenas’ (meaning ‘unknown’) for the first time." The performance resonated with listeners and he was eventually awarded "a new weekend slot," where he "built his reputation through film song interpretations, famous poems set to music and his own compositions sung in Dari and Pashto."

With trouble brewing in Afghanistan, Nashenas was able to seek asylum for himself and his family in the '90s, eventually taking up residence in London and continuing to work as a musician. Today, aged 87, he is one of the oldest surviving musicians from Afghanistan.  "Life is a Heavy Burden: Ghazals & Poetry from Afghanistan" is a seven-track collection of singles originally released by the Royal label in Iran, recorded at the Radio Afghanistan Studios in Kabul. Compiled by Chris Menist and the aforementioned Mads Jensen, these songs tell tales of love and loss, empathy and introspection, a reflection on life, universally relatable despite the obvious language barriers, if only by their sincere, heartfelt delivery and the music's mantric quality. 

We picked album opener "The Way I Love My Beloved" to be the first track of our current monthly #Greedio selection and there is no doubt in our minds that Nashenas' reflections will have an equally soothing effect on others, in light of life's obvious burdens.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom