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Classical Rubab from Kabul | Summer 2022

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Course Information

Hofmann playing rubab

Rubab Workshop – One day

Our 2022 rubâb workshop is now open for registration! Sign up today for a specialist in-depth course with one of the UK's finest proponents of the Afghan Rubâb.

When: Mon 4th, Weds 6th, Thurs 7th and Fri 8th July, 18:30-21:00 BST

Where: Room R201 in SOAS Main Building

Delivery: In-person

Level: Intermediate & Expert; attendees should bring their own instrument


The rubâb is Afghanistan's national instrument, and is often called “the lion of instruments”. The characteristic sound of this plucked, two-chambered lute can be attributed to its construction, consisting of a single block of mulberry tree wood and affixed with goat skin; the sympathetic strings, tuned to the notes of a given mode, give the rubâb its special tone. Earlier iterations of this instrument were used widely throughout the Persianate world in both court and Sufi contexts, including in Afghanistan, Iran, India, Kashmir, and Xinjiang. The instrument is also the ancestor of the modern-day Indian sarod.

With Dr William Rees Hofmann (and Professor Emeritus Dr John Baily)



Course Code

Rubab Summer 22

Course Leader

Dr William Rees Hofmann (and Dr John Baily)
Course Description

The rubâb is regarded as the national instrument of Afghanistan. This two-chambered, plucked lute is used in the performance of a number of different genres, from the classical music of the Kabul court to Pashtun vernacular music. This workshop addresses compositions and techniques related to the classical repertoire of Afghanistan, concentrating on two genres: the multi-part instrumental composition variously called lâreh (instrumental piece), naghma-ye kashâl (extended instrumental piece) or naghma-ye chahârtuk (four-part instrumental piece); and shakl and naghma-ye klâsik (equivalent to alâp and gat in Hindustani music), which encourages melodic improvisation. We will also cover newer techniques derived from the playing styles of the Indian classical instrument the sarod (which was invented by Afghan rubâb players in India), and showcased by such musicians as Homayun Sakhi and Ghulam Jailani.

Instruction will be delivered by Dr William Rees Hofmann, with occasional visits by his teacher Dr John Baily, heir to the teaching of Ustad Nabi Gol of Kabul through his Herati students Amir Jan Khushnawaz and Amir Jan’s son Rahim. As well as learning “by ear” teaching will utilise the Romanised version of sargam notation, examples of which can be found on Baily’s Online Afghan Rubab Tutor (www.oart.eu). The workshop also coincides with the completion of Dr Baily’s handbook of classical rubab notations, copies of which will be made available exclusively to participants. A number of melodic modes (râgas) will be covered. The workshops are primarily aimed at those who have some experience in tuning and playing the rubâb, and have access to an instrument.

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Rubab Workshop – One day