Across the Border: Afghan Musicians exiled in Peshawar


2008 / 54 minutes

Directed by
John Baily
Country of production
United Kingdom

It is the year 2000 and most of Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban. Hearing that many of Afghanistain’s musicians are now in exile across the border in Pakistan, ethnomusicologist John Baily visits the city of Peshawar to assess the situation. How has the rubab lute, the national instrument of Afghanistan, fared? And what about London-based Ustad Asif Mahmoud’s relatives exiled in Peshawar, who Asif has not seen for ten years? Baily finds that many of Kabul’s professional musicians have opened business premises in Khalil House, a modern apartment block in Peshawar that also serves as an informal conservatory for the training of young musicians. Here are performers of both modern and traditional music. A visit to the rubab workshop of Essa Qaderi reveals the mystery of the egg shells glued inside the instrument. The film ends in the exiled musicians’ spiritual home, the Sufi khanawah run by Bacha Qandi Agha, an expert in the musical poetry of Bedil.

Language and subtitles
Original Version with English Subtitles
South Asia
Refugees / Displaced populations Music / Ethnomusicology Religion / Belief / Faith