Naujawanan Baidar: Khedmat Be Khalq LP
Iconoclastic Afghan-American street music project Naujawanan Baidar makes its long anticipated return with "Khedmat Be Khalq," its third album and first new release in three years.
Originally planned as a "studio debut" in the classic sense, a veritable avalanche of setbacks tangled and delayed the recording process over a span of several years as compounded tragedies - both international and personal - disrupted the project's intended transition from simply being a ramshackle demo/home-recording outlet for founder N.R. Safi (The Myrrors, et al) into a properly working band. At the end of the day the process of assembling what would eventually become "Khedmat Be Khalq" became a lot like that of the previous two releases: gnarled and sun-baked tracks cut up and collated into a blown out collage of sound.
If there is any obvious difference this time around it is perhaps to be found in the increased focus of the material. Whereas the group's previous two projects ran the gamut from sparse acoustic improvisations to tape-loop-inspired noise, "Khedmat Be Khalq" presents a more unified hybrid of Afghan folks styles and electric energy, further exploring Safi's "maximalist minimalism" approach. Tape-saturated and over-amplified Afghan rubab, armonia, and ghichak meet pounding multi-layered rhythms that at times hint at 1970s-1980s industrial music or the heady throb of German krautrock groups like Faust or Amon Düül. Perhaps nowhere is this unique combination more striking than in Naujawanan Baidar's swirling re-arrangement of the Afghan folk classic "Raftim Az Ayn Baagh" that closes the album. The rubab melody that serves as the song's core is warped into something that in all honesty wouldn't sound particularly out of place spun between early Savage Republic and Crash Worship.
Lyrically the album moves away from the more abstract and impressionistic style of Safi's earlier material towards a concrete attempt to address the struggle of the Afghan masses from the complicated perspective of the international diaspora. The songs here work to draw out and examine the contradictions and challenges faced by a people once again locked in the talons of a sociopathic religious fundamentalism, connecting the country's position to the current global fight against imperialism, militarism, and resurgent fascism, and attempting to recover obscured historical fragments and lessons surrounding the proud radical history of Afghanistan's diverse population over countless decades of intensive struggle. It is here that Naujawanan Baidar's "street music" aesthetic blossoms into a sort of avant garde agitprop - a militant soundtrack angling at a revolution.