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The Trip

by Volker Lankow

Time Machine 07:59


While I was working on this album, I remembered the first trip I took with Doctors Without Borders. It was the beginning of my first assignment in October 2000, which took me via Kazakhstan to Tajikistan and then to Afghanistan. I was in Dushanbe waiting to go on to Afghanistan. After a long wait in Dushanbe for a flight to southern Tajikistan, it was decided that I would travel by car from Dushanbe to Afghanistan. The flight was repeatedly postponed because of the persistent snow drifts over the Pamir Mountains. The flight route to Kholog in southern Tajikistan, I learned, is one of the most dangerous. So after 5 days of waiting, I traveled in a Landcruiser (with a local driver) from Dushanbe to the south of this then still foreign country. 9 years after the end of the Soviet Union, the after-effects of this time were still felt in Dushanbe. A fascinating journey began that I will never forget: The three-day drive to Afghanistan through the Pamir Mountains took us over high mountains, beyond the snow line. We drove over unpaved and dangerous roads, very close to gorges that dropped hundreds of metres. We drove over asphalt roads, along a border river, the Panj River. On the other side of the river was Afghanistan, just mountainous countryside criss-crossed by donkey trails. No road, no infrastructure. At some point the river widened, became a mighty stream, became a shimmering body of water. Far away on the other side was the mountainous district of Darwaz in Badakhshan/Afghanistan, without infrastructure, impenetrable, not accessible by motorised vehicles. At some point we arrived in Kholog, a small town in the south of Tajikistan. The next morning we drove to the Afghan border. There were border guards on the Tajik side, on the Afghan side the Northern Alliance border guards controlled the crossing. The border consisted of a barrier and a bridge. Crossing the bridge into Afghanistan was like crossing into another time. We crossed this bridge on foot because there was another car waiting for us on the Afghan side.
Only dirt roads. Almost no cars any more, people moved around on horses, donkeys or on foot. The few cars we encountered were all from humanitarian aid organisations. No private cars.
8 hours over bumpy roads through Badakshan province, past raging rivers, through elongated valleys, past rugged and snow-capped mountains, to the provincial capital of Badakshan, Faizabad.
The world did not think of Afghanistan in 2000. In 2000, Afghanistan was still a forgotten country that nobody was interested in. The trip to Afghanistan made me realise how forgotten this country is by the rest of the world. Actually a beautiful country, but overshadowed by unspeakable hopelessness. Before 2001 and after. And soon it will be forgotten again.
1 year later, October 2001, I was to return, the journey through Central Asia repeated and so much had changed. The country was sinking into another terrible war that would drag on for more than 20 years.
The music on this album is an attempt to describe these journeys. I hope I can render it musically.
Also in the following years until 2011 I returned several times to Afghanistan to different places and could see how the situation and the conflict intensified and worsened.


released April 22, 2021

Music played and produced by Volker Lankow

Photo by Volker Lankow


all rights reserved



Volker Lankow Berlin, Germany

Percussionist since the late seventies, Volker Lankow lives in Berlin, plays and collaborates in many diverse projects, such as together with Bernhard Wöstheinrich, Wolfgang Spahn, David Rothenberg, to name a few.
Volker works on many Solo projects, using percussion instruments and electronics, to develop his own vison of experimental sounds, drones and world music.
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