By NAHID MASSOUD Special to the Palisadian-Post I heard Ustad Mahwash’s splendid voice on Saturday, January 15, at the Getty Center’s Harold Williams Auditorium. The sound took me back to my adolescent days in Afghanistan. Tears rolled down my eyes as memories of Kabul flooded my consciousness. The first song, ‘Mullah Mamad Jaan,’ was one of the most popular numbers of its time. It was always played during Afghani New Year, Nowrose, which is the 21st of March and the beginning of spring season. Radio Kabul played this and other Afghan songs over and over. The sound of music filled streets of the city and the narrow lanes of the bazaars, while shopkeepers hustled and hawked their wares. You could hear the voice of Ustad Mahwash everywhere as part of a kind of perpetual background music to the activities of men, women and children, all wearing colorful native Afghan clothes as part of the seasonal festivities. Nowrose is a particularly exciting time. The smell of spring was in the air, the scent of plants and budding trees mingled with the smells on the streets, everyone making mewai (our special Nowrose fruit dish). In the streets, farmers in from the country seemed excited, ready for the new planting season. All that seems a long time ago, the peaceful Kabul of my youth when people listened to music and lived peacefully despite their differences. It has vanished into a landscape devastated by war and destruction. Yet musical experiences can take you to a past that has gone, as Ustad Mahwash did for me, bringing what was repressed so vividly alive in the present. The powerful lyrics of her songs of god, love, and loss touched another part of me that I had forgotten. The ghazals penetrated my soul, made me remember my favorite composer, Ustad Naynawaz, who wrote wonderful songs that were often sung by the handsome, great and very popular Ahmed Zaher, whom I heard in person many times (he was the brother of my best friend). Unfortunately, both Naynawaz and Zaher were casualties of the Soviet war, assassinated while still in their prime. The melodies sung by Ustad Mahwash at the Getty in both Dari and Pashto languages were representative of popular Afghan music of the sixties and seventies. Their beauty was underscored by the excellent musicians who accompanied her’Aziz Herawi on dutar, Ehsan Ahmadi on tabla, and Ahmad Khalil Rageb on harmonium. As the first woman Ustad (maestro) in Afghanistan, Mahwash is not only a master musician but was in those days a role model, a strong woman who managed to turn her talent into a brilliant career against all the obstacles that usually prevented women from succeeding. I left the Ustad Mahwash concert full of sorrow over the years of war and destruction of my homeland. It’s so hard to imagine how, during the Taliban regime, such a musical people had to live without music. Mahwash’s powerful voice was a reminder of how much the Afghan people have suffered and lost in this last quarter century. The concert taught me how in exile you can come to appreciate in a new way the meaning of a past that is forever lost, but can be resurrected momentarily through the power of music and song. Palisadian Nahid Massoud, a native of Kabul, is a psychiatric nurse who works at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. She came to America on a student visa in 1977 and was given political asylum in the U.S. after the Soviet invasion endangered her family, all of whom later escaped to the U.S. With the aid of her husband, history professor and author Robert Rosenstone, Nahid directs Sharq, an art space at her home devoted to contemporary works by artists from the East. The next exhibit, ‘The Fire Next Time,’ opens March 5 and will feature Persian artist Kamran Moojedi.