The Transcendence of Dust: A Review of Yusuf Misdaq’s Album "Dust of Time"


The point of intersection of the timeless with time, that is the occupation of the saint

T.S. Eliot, Dry Salvages


I feel we can confidently substitute ‘the artist’ for the saint in Eliot’s statement above. After all, both the artist and saint are in the business, for a lack of a better term, of translating a speck of the ineffable into the infinite waters of expression, appearing as incessant oceans and tidal waves, one after the other. In our present day and age, art is also one of the last available paths to sainthood, at least for the lay person.

And yet, to capture this intersection in one of the crafts of art is a matter of excellence that requires, at least, a lifetime to prefect. To be able to express in the mundane language of this world what is subtly beyond our purview requires the artist to be at the right place and time, always. It is an ethereal gift that behooves the craftsman to give himself to the meeting between vertical and horizontal horizons.


Yusuf Misdaq’s latest album Dust of Time performs Eliot’s homage in an unprecedented musical paradise, as is always expected of this artist and evident in his other works. To be able to tell a story so rich in its details purely through sound is a refined talent that Misdaq has and wields eloquently in this collection of odes.


The title of the album, Dust of Time, arrives at the shore of the artist’s creativity from a recent voyage to his homeland of Afghanistan, city of Kabul and recurring visits to the shrines of saints in a country sacred in both, its riveting history and tumultuous presence in the present moment. The title of this collection also arrives serendipitously to the shore of the listener as a perfect union of the symbolic transcendence represented by Khaaq, dust; perhaps even more so by its ancient ancestor, Garrd.


One would suppose that Misdaq is the one who hosts the sands of his land in a musical conversation about their history, but his craftsmanship yields another, more sonorous reality: he is merely a humble listener and exquisite translator, sitting at the side of that sacred dust, as it hosts the past, present and future of Afghanistan in an ephemeral moment … as it also adds to these worldly accounts the breath of baraka (divine grace) that continues to give life to these events in the present moment, to the ear of its musicians, like Yusuf.


It would be remiss not to mention also Misdaq’s unique ability to decipher the sacred in the profane, to highlight the transcendent meanings in the mundane movements of everyday life. It is this sanctified vision that not only allows this artist to open a window for us to communicate with his homeland’s sacred dust, but to also direct the musical gazes of his audience towards the mountain peak of universality, where all, regardless of religion, race, color or language may understand one another at the highest possible register: divine audition.

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