In 2008, the Aga Khan Music Inititative and the San Fracisco-based Kronos Quartet inaugurated a pioneering musical collaboration that brought the quartet together with leading musicians from Azerbaijan and Afghanistan to create music rooted Central Asian traditions.
Over a period of nine months, Kronos met with renowned Azerbajani vocalist Alim Qasimov and his ensemble, and with Afghan rubab virtuoso Homayin Sakhi, to compose, arrange, perform, and record a body of new work.
“Working with Kronos [America’s premier new music quartet], I realized that through music you can cross not only boundaries between different regions of Afghanistan, but even bigger boundaries, such as between East and West,” reveals Homayun Sakhi. “When we play together, the music really connects well and we all get a lot of pleasure from it.”
In early 2008, Alim Qasimov sent recordings of songs from his repertoire to David Harrington, founder and artistic director of the Kronos Quartet. Composer-arranger Jacob Garchik was commissioned to create string quartet arrangements of the songs.
When the arrangements were ready, Kronos and the Azerbaijan musicians merged Garchik’s notated arrangements with the Qasimov Ensemble’s extemporized vocal and instrumental melodies. Watch the video to see the results.
[audio:http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/audio/features/Leyla.mp3|titles=leyla|artists=Kronos Quartet and Alim Qasimov Ensemble]