Qais Essar’s Avant-Afghan Style


Today Qais Essar may live in Phoenix stateside, but his heart and soul carry a passion for Afghanistan. By fusing an avant-pop style with traditional Afghanistan sounds, he’s made a name for himself over a career that spans three decades. We talked about his life as an educator, cultural influence and more.

Kendra: An artist, producer and educator. What came first of the three and did you expect the other facets of your career to follow after that?

Qais Essar: Artist at inception, so I feel that I was born equipped with a set of special satellites that makes me more sensitive to things in the air. Everything else followed when I learned how to dial in and listen- trying to channel it, to recreate and arrange it, and at some point, to try to share what I have learned whilst listening.

There were no real expectations when I began formal musical education as a young boy, nor do I have any real expectations now as a grown man. I do have however, have hope, that what I am doing resonates with a few other people. That would be neat.

Kendra: Now you create traditional Afghanistan music, but live in Phoenix. How often have you headed overseas to the place itself?

Qais Essar: Though I perform internationally; providence hasn’t seen it fit for me to perform in Afghanistan itself in a professional capacity as of yet, though it is a labor of mine that will soon come to fruition. Until then, I will continue to work from, and work in, areas where there is not adequate representation of people of minority.

Kendra: It’s obvious that the cultures here and there are vastly different, but what’s the biggest that stands out to you?

Qais Essar: Deeper roots. America is not even two-hundred years old, whereas Afghanistan has a deep enriched culture spanning many hundreds of years. Everything seems heavier. I think we are very attached to our past. Parents often speak of those who came seven generations ago as if they were here today. We carry our ghosts.

Qais Essar’s favorite place in Afghanistan: Bagh-e Babur

Kendra: After nearly three decades in this business, what do you still hope to accomplish?

Qais Essar: I just want to be able to learn as much as possible, to perfect my craft to the best of my ability, and to be able to share my adventures in aural exploration with people far and wide.

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