Farhot ‘Kabul Fire Vol. 2’ LP (Kabul Fire) 3/5

Hip-hop producer Farhot lives and works in Hamburg but was born in Afghanistan arriving in Europe in the 80s. This new release, Kabul Fire Vol 2 is a follow up to his solo debut Vol 1 from 2013 and continues to seek to resolve his Western upbringing and existence to his Afghan roots. “Sampling Afghani sounds is a way of bringing us all back together”

The piano and beats intro of “Bale Bale” flows into “Kalun” set the tone of funky hip-hop with Afghan flavours with some old school arrangements. The subtle beauty of ‘Yak Sher” is a stand-out, framed with melancholic strings and melodic bass. “Kishmish” is a bass and beats instrumental which bridges the pedestrian rap/pop of “Check” featuring JuJu Rogers and Nneka and the lead single, the bluesy, gospely “Feel Ugly” with a croon from Tiggs Da Author. “Azadi” is a return to the pace and power from the earlier tracks with tough syncopated beats, fragmented keys and intelligent, evocative samples. “Pul” is more refined with swagger. “Sampling Watana” is exciting, really more soundscape than hip-hop instrumental and is vaguely reminiscent of 80s experimental artists such as Negativland. “Arusi” is a more conventional hip-hop instrumental with a loping beat. Flutes flutter around “Ahange Qadimi” and the bass is set to stun. Another top track, “Baqi Manda” like ‘Yak Sher” has a richness with a moving melody. The outro “Shirin” is a reprise of “Bale Bale”.

This is a more enjoyable and cohesive work than Vol 1 with more emphasis on Afghan sounds and issues. Farhot admits Vol 1 “felt more like a beats and pieces album”. The album is most successful where it more embraces the fusion of West and East especially on tracks like “Yak Sher”, “Ahange Qadimi” and “Baqi Manda”. There are a few tracks which don’t follow this concept which means that unfortunately, for me sometimes the album loses focus and coherence. However, there are a load of exciting and inventive tunes on here so I hope it’s not another 8 years before we can hear Vol 3.

Kevin Ward