Sunday, February 14, 2010

Persian Magic

As you may remember we visited Iran last April, and I wrote positively about our experience. Our timing was fortuitous. The Iranians were welcoming foreign tourists, including Americans, and weren’t engaging in violent demonstrations on the streets. If our trip were scheduled for this year we’d cancel it.

With all that has happened, my warm feelings for the Iranian people and interest and respect for Persian history and culture hasn’t diminished. So when Sandra suggested that we attend a concert at Zellerbach Hall on the Cal Berkeley campus called “Masters of Persian Music,” I was happy to say “Sure, let’s do it.”

The concert was last night. It was magical!

The program featured two acclaimed figures of Persian classical music: Hossein Alizadeh and Kayhan Kalhor. Alizadeh plays the tar (plucked lute.) Kalhor plays the kamancheh (spiked fiddle.) In addition to performing, Alizadeh has composed several film scores, for Gabbeh, A Time for Drunken Horses, and Turtles Can Fly. Kalhor is a three-time Grammy Award nominee.

The first half of the concert, with only these two playing, was seductive, mesmerizing. We were well and truly transported to a different time and place. After the intermission the virtuosos were joined by a singer and four other musicians – tombak (percussion,) santour (dulcimer,) a flute-like wind instrument called a nay, and a bass tar. The vocals were taken from classic Persian poetry.

The hall was full. I’d estimate that a third of the audience was Persian. The evening was about music, not politics. I overheard people talking, and their emphasis was on things cultural, a refreshing change from the news of the day, which is dominated by nuclear enrichment, sanctions, and repression.

Is it possible to live in a world in which this kind of Persian Magic is the norm, not the exception? Possible, yes. Likely anytime soon? Unfortunately, no. In the meantime, Masters of Persian Music can be found on iTunes. I’ve downloaded one album and will go looking for more after I’ve posted this message.


Post a Comment

<< Home