The Kennedy Center

Qais Essar


Qais Essar, international artist, composer, producer, and experienced live performer, carries on the traditional legacy of classical Afghan instrumentation, as established by Ustad Mohammad Omar Khan. A student of not only both classical and traditional forms but western music as well, Essar is able to also present the Rabab with a fresh new perspective. In composition, he strives to bring the age-old Rabab into the 21st century, in an innovative fashion. Essar has collaborated with many prominent artists and masters, covering the musical spectrum, performing domestically and internationally. With the premiere of The Green Language (his last album on July 29, 2014), a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Essar transports listeners through a sonic time portal from the ancient Hindu Kush to the modern era. With The Green Language, Essar sets his sights on bringing Afghan traditional sounds into the global music frontier, presenting a more modern, sensual, and hungry take on performing Rabab for a world audience than we have ever heard before. Essar followed the release of The Green Language with Klasik (EP) and I am Afghan, Afghani is Currency (EP).
The Rabab, an Afghan lute instrument, originating in Central Asia, can be dated back 2500 years. It is mentioned in countless works of Sufi poetry, having then, and continuing to still ensnare the hearts of its audience, with its charming and sweet tones used either in a classical or folk fashion. The pride of its people, it is carefully crafted from the finest wood, harvested from the mulberry trees native to Afghanistan, goat skin stretched across the top. With 3 core strings, 2-3 drone strings, and 11-15 sympathetic strings, depending on its size (tuned to the specific raga), its struck with a wooden plectrum, producing a deep ambient timbre, unrivaled.

Watch Past Performances

Video 12/18/2015: Qais Essar

The international artist, composer, producer, and practitioner of classical, traditional, and western music ensnares the hearts of his audience with his Rebab, and stories of life living as an Afghan refugee in America.

Qais Essar