Album Review: Farhot – Kabul Fire Vol.2 [Kabul Fire Records; January 2021]

Finding one’s place within a diaspora away from your motherland can be an integral part of self-discovery. This is certainly true of Hamburg-based producer Farhot, who has now followed-up his eight-year-old debut with Kabul Fire Vol. 2 (released via his own label Kabul Fire Records) which explores this part of his identity even further to draw attention to Afghanistan’s rich culture.

Like his previous effort, Vol 1, Farhot continues to blend Afghan music with conventional hip-hop production. But Vol 2. adds a more socio-political context to the music, fuelled by Farhot’s discovery of art, films and documentaries from Afghanistan where he had not been since moving to Germany as a baby.

The introductory track ‘Bale Bale‘ is built around a piano theme that Farhot played on a 100-year old piano, using an old piano he found. These chords are repeated in later tracks like ‘Azadi’ (meaning freedom in Urdu).

The third track, ‘Yak Sher‘, is the standout and emotional highpoint of the album. There’s a sadness that immediately pours out through the opening string sections, feeling like a sucker punch compared to what came before. But as more layers are introduced, the hope of a brighter future and appreciation for Afghanistan, despite its conflicts, shines through.

Social commentary features prominently in this project. In ‘Check’, rapper Juju Rogers and vocalist Nneka tell us not to turn a blind eye but to appease the suffering of citizens from war and bombings.

Afghan-German visual artist Moshtari Bilal speaks in ‘Sampling Watana / Biya Bachem‘, drawing a parallel between sampling methods in music and how the Afghan diaspora, although separated, can be brought together whilst also acknowledging everyone’s different experiences.

Besides this, Farhot offers plenty of different flavours as the record spins like a conveyor belt of appetisers. There are the jazzy piano chords of ‘Kishmish’, lo-fi sensibilities with ‘Baqi Manda‘; to the point where the most conventional ‘Feel Ugly‘ (featuring soulful vocals from Tiggs Da Author) is the most left-field and out-of-place.

Whilst the album would benefit from more emotional moments, the quality of Farhot’s production hasn’t wavered. By providing a context for his musical influences with Afghani media samples, it adds a personal touch.