Edmonton Journal

Attacked at home, nurtured in new land

AbdulWarda­k helps keep an ancient institutio­n alive as one of the world’s few rabab makers

- JEFF HOLUBITSKY Journal Staff Writer EDMONTON of section

As a boy AbdulWarda­k loved to sit at thefeet ofAfghanis­tan’s master musical instrument makers, watching their everymove as they handcrafte­d the 22-string rabab.

Today, alifetimel­ater andhalfa world away, those unintentio­nal lessons are helping to keep alive an ancient artistic tradition that has struggled to survive years of war and religious repression in his homeland.

Wardak, aformer high-rankingarm­y officer andprofess­or at anAfghanmi­litaryacad­emy, sayshe’s the only maker of the lute-like instrument outside Afghanista­n.

“My father andmy uncles played rababs because the rababis a very specialins­trument inAfghanis­tan,” he said Wednesday. “It is the national instrument.”

Afghan rababs differ in design and materials from those made in Iran or Pakistan, the 67-year-old says with pride, andarepriz­edas the world’s best.

Renowned English luthier John Bailey wroteina 2000 essay that the rabab has faced a perilous future.

“Likeother instrument­s ofmusic, it is not tolerated under Taliban control,” he wrote. “The excellent instrument­s madeby theQader family inKabulare no longer being produced, the family now being refugees in Pakistan.”

Wardak says two members of that family, his closeboyho­odfriends, have since returned home.

“ The family was the only one that made profession­al rababs,” he said. “They made rababs for several generation­s.”

Hedoesn’t want to talk politics, however.

“ When I was a child I played the rabab and had a lot of interest. But I never thought I wouldmake a rabab.”

 ?? PHOTOS: JOHN LUCAS, THE JOURNAL ?? Rabab maker Abdul Wardak, 67, works out of the woodworkin­g shop at the Strathcona Seniors Centre, right. Under Taliban rule, the rabab and other musical
instrument­s weren’t tolerated, and instrument makers were driven into exile. Some of the craftsmen...
PHOTOS: JOHN LUCAS, THE JOURNAL Rabab maker Abdul Wardak, 67, works out of the woodworkin­g shop at the Strathcona Seniors Centre, right. Under Taliban rule, the rabab and other musical instrument­s weren’t tolerated, and instrument makers were driven into exile. Some of the craftsmen...

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