Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Mohsen Saifi (b. 1989) is an academic, guitarist, conductor and composer now based in Germany. As a Lecturer at the Kabul University Music Department from 2012 until the abrupt closure of the department by the Taliban in August 2021, he served as the department’s programme manager and the conductor of the orchestra. He conducted the University’s leading musical ensembles, including in his own compositions and arrangements, for numerous prestigious events in Kabul involving the US embassy, Kabul University, and ministries of the erstwhile government of Afghanistan.
Asta Boro (Pace Slowly) (2022)
Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, horn in F, trumpet in Bb, trombone, percussion, rubab, dutar, sitar, harmonium, tabla and strings
Premiere: 5 July 2022, Spitalfields Music Festival, London. Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra w/Saphawat Simab, rubab, Shahbaz Hussain, tabla, Yusuf Mahmoud, harmonium, Mehboob Nadeem, sitar, and William Rees Hoffman, dutar. Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, conductor
Commissioned for The Orchestral Music of Afghanistan: Looking Forward project
About Asta Boro
Asta Boro is one of the most traditional wedding songs in Afghanistan and is performed in almost all ceremonies to signal the ceremonial entrance or exit of the bride and groom. The words of the song suggest that the groom and bride pace (or walk) slowly for the sake of the most memorable moments of their life and should try to create as much love as possible.
The poem expresses patience to the bride and groom with the lyrics, "During the journey of life (love) you don't have to hurry and pass from it quickly. Try to pace slowly and enjoy as much as you can. The moments of Love never should be missed." Nowadays, the song works as a presentation song for the families to present their newly married couples to the guests at the wedding ceremony in a beautiful fashion.
I chose this song because it has such a unique traditional composition. I believe it is the most beautiful song in 7/8 time to be written, like Take Five by Dave Brubeck written in 5/4 time which is the best 5/4 composition in the history of music.
To my knowledge, this is the first orchestral arrangement of Asta Boro, which I hope will preserve this lovely song for next generations and share it with the rest of the world, especially since there is limited awareness about Afghan culture outside of Afghanistan. The Taliban has been trying to remove the lovely flavours of Afghanistan’s cultures and show that the country doesn't know anything other than war. It is upon us to reveal all those lovely pleasures of Afghan culture to the world.
– Mohsen Saifi , June 2022
Saifi's arrangement is purely instrumental, but here is the original text of the first stanza which would normally be sung at the wedding and forms the basis of this arrangement.
فرزند عزیزِ من که داماد شدی، آستا برو، ماهِ من آستا برو!
My lovely son which you becoming a groom, step Slowly my dear step slowly
صد شکر خدا جوان شدی شاد شدی، آستا برو، ماه من آستا برو!
Hundreds thanks to God you are now young and happy, step slowly my dear step slowly
با تازه عروس همچو شمشاد قدت، آستا برو ماه من آستا برو!
Your stature with the new bride which is like a boxwood, step slowly my dear step slowly
ای سرو پدر قرین شمشاد شدی، آستا برو ماه من آستا برو
Oh father's Cypress tree, you are now paired with a boxwood step slowly my dear step slowly