This collection of traditional songs – recorded in concerts at Wiltshire and Sussex – had an unusual genesis. Musicologists John Baily and his wife Veronica Doubleday are leading conservationists of the traditional music of Afghanistan: living in Herat in the mid-1970s, they made priceless field recordings, and also turned themselves into kosher Afghan musicians – she as a singer, he as an exponent on the dutar lute.
Their pre-Taliban recordings are avilable on the Unesco and World Network labels; this new disc represents a more personal culmination. If Doubleday’s voice doesn’t quite have the edge a native singer’s would have, Baily’s fingerwork – on dutars of different kinds – is superb, and they’ve roped in Abdul Wahab Madadi, a Herati singer who really is the biz. The lyrics are drenched in youthful sensuality – ‘Under the sugar cane there are two girls with sugar lips’ – and the melodies have great charm.