Ensemble Bakhtar is one of the principal groups specialising in the performance of traditional music from Afghanistan. The Ensemble’s members have studied with master musicians, most notably Zainab Herawi, Herat’s leading professional singer, Ustad Mahmoud and Ustad Mohammed Omar, respectively the tabla and rubab masters in Kabul. Members of Ensemble Bakhtar have performed at the Albert Hall, the Teatro Massimo Palermo for UNESCO, and for His Majesty Zahir Shah in Kabul.
Veronica Doubleday and John Baily are British ethnomusicologists and performers who spent over two years studying in Herat. Although both have written extensively on the music and the social situation of musicians in Afghanistan, their research extends to the music of Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and the South-Asian communities of Britain.
Matthaios Tsahourides was born in Greece, though his gradfather and teacher, a famous lyraplayer, originated from the Black Sea region of Turkey (Pontos). Matthaios’s main instrument, the Pontic lyra, also originates from this region. He also plays the viooin, the Greek lute and the oud.
Ustad Arif Mahmoud comes from a celebrated family of musicians in Kabul. He is the youngest of three tabla-playing brothers, sons of Ustad Mahmoud. His ancestor was one of a number of performers brought over from India as court musicians in the 1860s. These families have maintained the tradition of Indian music up to the present day. Ustad Arif plays in the Punjabi tabla style.