Artist Profiles: Ustad Mohammad Omar

Ustad Mohammad Omar
Ustad Mohammad Omar

Ustad Mohammad Omar, one of Afghanistan’s finest rabab players, became the first Afghan musician to teach in the United States of America when he arrived at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1974.

In 1979, Ustad Mohammad Omar appeared as a guest on the album Embryo’s Reise by German jazz-rock and world music band Embryo.

In 2002, Smithsonian Folkways released an album titled Ustad Mohammad Omar, Virtuoso from Afghanistan. This CD documents his only public performance in the United States of America.

Playing his rabab, a short-necked lute that is plucked with a plectrum called a shahbaz, and accompanied on the tabla by a young Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Omar shared Afghan traditional music with the West in this memorable and important concert. Hussain and Omar had never met before that day, nor did they speak a common language, but their musical voices intertwine magically on this classic recording. The music is steeped in the traditions of Afghanistan and that country’s own relationship to Indian and Pakistani musical influences, but this virtuoso performance stands alone as a triumph of Eastern music.

Ustad Mohammad Omar passed away in 1980.


Music of Afghanistan (Smithsonian Folkways)

Embryo’s Reise (Schneeball 20, 1979)

Ustad Mohammad Omar, Virtuoso From Afghanistan (Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40439, 2002)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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