Peter ten Hoopen   P E T E R   T E N   H O O P E N   music archivist

Performing for Ustad 'Baba' Allauddin
Khan and friends in Maihar, Madhya
Pradesh, India, December 1970, on
the grounds of the Maihar Music College
that Baba founded. From left to right:
Shyam Bihari Pathak, Peter ten Hoopen
(sitar), Lakhan Pande, Ustad Allauddin
Khan, Ustad Rahkmat Khan, Jawaharlal
Sunni (tabla), Udhaiban Singh Thakur.

Born in the Netherlands. Studied psychology at Amsterdam University while working as a journalist and translator. In 1968, inspired by a deepening love for Asian music, began a three year journey through the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, collecting material for Across the Bedrock of Islam, another work of non-fiction, and feature articles, photographing for Syndication International, studying sitar at the feet of Ravi Shankar's father in law, the violent saint Ustad Allauddin Khan, India's most revered musician of all time, and recording traditional Afghani music for the legendary Folkways Records (now a department of the Smithsonian) and the Elektra Nonesuch series. Both are represented in musicological collections world-wide, from Berkeley, Yale, Wesleyan, and Stanford, to Haifa and Osaka University. The 18 songs constitute a substantial part of the body of existing recordings from Afghanistan in the pre-war period, Afghanistan at the time being a country with weak record keeping and access limited to the adventurous. [More facts of life...]

The original idea was to record the music played in the Kabuli teahouses, so I spoke to some of the teahouse musicians, trying to set up recording sessions. They were warm to the idea, and amazingly professional: "You don't want to do that here, my friend. You get too much background noise. All these guys chattering, cracking sunflower seeds, hawking and spitting - why don't you come over to the studio?" I feared they were having me on, but the next morning rode over in one of Kabul's two dozen taxis, and found some twenty musicians willing to work with me. I am forever grateful for their joyful cooperation. It has allowed to save for posterity a music that was little heard at the time, and rarely recorded.

Recordings were made in the winter of 1968/69 in Kabul, Afghanistan, with members of the Radio Afghanistan Orchestra, in their freezing studio on the outskirts of town. The recording equipment consisted of a Uher 4200 Reporter Stereo portable open reel recorder, the field reporter's workhorse of the sixties and much of the seventies, with two AKG cardioid music microphones (not the Uher speech mike in the picture) - and no mixing board. Few archivists of ethnic music in the field carried mixing equipment, or even a second microphone, keen as they were to keep the total gear portable. The strap of the Uher 4200 recorder, weighing 3.8 kg even without its brick-size power unit, could cut deep into the shoulder.

With such technical limitations it was quite a challenge to achieve a proper sound balance when recording with a band of instruments of greatly varying acoustic impact, such as bowed strings, wind instruments and drums. Most of the work with the Afghani musicians, about 50 hours in all spread over several weeks, went into arranging and rearranging their seating relative to the two microphones, making a test recording, listening, asking a few people to move, et cetera. The artists were immensely patient. Some, notably Ustad Muhammad Omar and Moussa Kassimi, would take an active part and come up with alternative seating arrangements to create a better overall balance. Hearing them now reminds me of a line in a song sung by Hamida Rokhshana, then a young singer, by now one of the great masters of Afghani traditional music: "Let me be near you, oh my love, or die near you of a tormented heart.'
Peter ten Hoopen   R E C O R D  A L B U M S  ethnic music
  The Teahouse Music of Afghanistan
Folkways Ethnic Records FE 4255, 1977.

Recordings made in Kabul, winter 1968/1969, with members of the Radio Afghanistan Orchestra. Recordings and sleevenotes by Peter ten Hoopen. Published by the legendary Moses Asch's Folkways, after his death reissued on LP and CD (FE 4361) by the Smithsonian Institution. The site offers brief samples of the recorded piece. At the site You can also download liner notes.

  Afghanistan, Music from the Crossroads
Elektra Nonesuch H-72053, 1973

Recordings made in Kabul, winter 1968/1969, with members of the Radio Afghanistan Orchestra. Published in Elektra's now historical Nonesuch Series (according to Dirty Linen 'a fabled achievement in the history of world music'), directed by Teresa Sterne. Recordings by Peter ten Hoopen. Liner notes by Peter ten Hoopen and Prof. Mark Slobin, Wesleyan University. Five Stars in Rolling Stones Record Guide 1983.

Peter ten Hoopen   S I T A R  F O R  S A L E  Vintage Hiren Roy
sitar   Commissioned via Nikhil Banerjee, concert ready

As I am not playing sitar anymore and have not done for many years (as my guru used to explain: ones requires three hours of practice a day just to not lose existing skills) I have decided to sell my sitars. The beautiful, deep sounding Rikki Ram from 1969 is already gone. The even better 1970 Hiren Roy is still available. See its page on the website of Toss Levy: Vintage Hiren Roy.
Peter ten Hoopen   I D E N T I F I C A T I O N  R E Q U E S T  Kabuli music
  Do you recognize this singer?

A few years ago and Afghan friend of a friend sent me a number of songs popular in Afghanistan around 2000-2010. One of these I liked extremely well. It is archetypical for the kind of song one would hear in the Kabuli teahouses, and similar to a track by Aziz Gaznavi I recorded myself, published on the Folkways album. It makes me deeply nostalgic. You can listen to the wonderful mystery song here: Afghanistan - Traditional Teahouse Music - Artists unknown.mp3 Please click on the typewriter below and let me know who you recognize: vocalist and or members of the small band. Yes of course I tried Shazam - but to no avail. Your help will be much appreciated, bonus points given.


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