Episodes:

Photo by Neil Greentree, FSG staff photographer.

Singing Rumi:
The Pejvak Ensemble

Enjoy energetic and contemplative music from this ensemble of Persian music specialists from the East and West Coasts performing traditional and original music with settings of poetry by Rumi and Faraz Minooei. Two members of the ensemble have appeared with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble: Faraz Minooei on santur (hammered dulcimer) and Pezhham Akhavass on tombak (hand drum). Ensemble leader Behfar Bahadoran on tār and setār (lutes) was the top prizewinner in an international competition for musicians in the Iranian diaspora. They are joined by Steve Bloom on percussion and the late vocalist Shohreh Majd. This performance took place in 2010 as part of the museum’s annual celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

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Left: Detail, https://asia.si.edu/object/F1932.53/
Right: Anton Belov, photo courtesy of Dispeker Artists

Inspired by the Mystics:
Anton Belov, baritone; Albert Kim, piano

Listen to the impact that medieval Persian poet Hafiz exerted on the Romantic movement in Europe through this compelling recital by the Russian-born baritone Anton Belov. He explores German musical settings derived from the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that was in turn inspired by the first translation of Hafiz’s Divan into a Western language in 1813. Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan (1818) combined his own Hafiz-inspired poems with Sufi poems by the Persian mystic. The resulting work inspired Beethoven, Schumann, Wolf, and Brahms and crossed the Atlantic to influence Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. These German works are paired with settings by Russian composers of the Biblical Song of Songs and poems by Azerbaijani writer Mizra Shafi Vazeh and Russian mystic Nikolai Minsky. This performance was recorded in concert in 2015 in conjunction with the exhibition Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy.

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Two musicians seated on the floor, playing kamanchech (Persian fiddle) and tar (Persian lute)

Photo by Mohammad Kheirkah Zoyari

Masters of Persian Music:
Hossein Alizadeh and Kayhan Kalhor

Two of Iran’s most celebrated soloists joined forces in this performance of Persian classical music recorded at the Freer Gallery in 1997. In solos and duets, they explore the improvisational styles and emotive expressiveness unique to Persian music. Hossein Alizadeh, on the tār (Persian lute), has received two Grammy nominations, recorded more than two dozen CDs, and composed original soundtracks for award-winning feature films. Kayhan Kalhor, on the kamāncheh (Persian fiddle), was a founding member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad ensemble, earned three Grammy nominations, and recorded with the ground-breaking ensemble Brooklyn Rider. Alizadeh and Kalhor are accompanied by Pejman Hadadi on dombak.

(Photo by Mohammad Kheirkah Zoyari)

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Experience soulful and celebratory music from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Shashmaqam, an ensemble of prominent artists from New York’s Central Asian community. This performance was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia.

Music of Central Asia: Shashmaqam

Experience soulful and celebratory music from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Shashmaqam, an ensemble of prominent artists from New York’s Central Asian community. The ensemble specializes in wedding music for vocals, lute (tar), accordion, and percussion, as well as the region’s classical repertoire for which the group is named. This performance was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia.

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Nowruz Performance

Persian Music: Sahba Motallebi, tār

Sahba Motallebi performs classical and original music for Iranian lutes as part of the Freer|Sackler’s Persian New Year celebration. She is one of the few women worldwide who plays these instruments in major concert halls. Motallebi specializes in Persian classical music, a tradition of virtuoso improvisation based on melodic modes chosen to reflect the mood of the musician and the occasion.

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Masters of the Persian Santur: Dariush Saghafi and Kazem Davoudian

Two virtuosos of the Iranian hammered dulcimer explore the subtle nuances and dramatic flair of Persian classical music on this ancient instrument. Their improvisations, performed at the Freer Gallery of Art in 2014, are based on the Persian dastgāhs, melodic modes that are comparable in richness and history to the ragas of India.

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The full ensemble heard on this podcast includes (left to right) Basel Rajoub, tenor saxophone; Kenan Adnawi, ‘ud; Naghib Shanbehzadeh, percussion; and Saeid Shanbehzadeh, Persian bagpipe. (Photo by Scott Friedlander © 2014, used with permission.)

Sound: The Encounter: Jazz from Iran and Syria

Four jazz-oriented artists from the Middle East merge the musical traditions for Persian and Arab bagpipe, double clarinet, lute, and drums along with the Western saxophone. Together they forge new sounds that transport ancient melodies into modern idioms. This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery on December 12, 2013, and was presented in cooperation with the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

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Kayhan Kalhor uses a plucking technique in performing on the traditionally bowed instrument. He and Behrouz Jamali take a bow following their performance at the Freer Gallery on March 17, 2012.

Persian Classical Music:
Kayhan Kalhor, kamanche

Hear this three-time Grammy nominee and original member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble return to his roots in this performance of Persian classical music on kamanche, the traditional Iranian fiddle. Kayhan Kalhor’s fluid and compelling improvisations on the classic Persian modes have brought this venerable music tradition to new heights for audiences around the world. This performance was recorded at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art on March 17, 2012.

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Persian Classical Music: Bahman Panahi, tar and setar; Ali Mojallal, tombak

Enjoy a recital by the Paris-based Iranian virtuoso Bahman Panahi, who made his American debut in 2009 at Harvard University. He is one of the leading exponents of Persian classical music, an improvisational tradition related to the ragas of India. Trained in calligraphy as well as music, Panahi has appeared in concerts and workshops throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, and has performed at Carnegie Hall. This concert was recorded in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on Friday, October 30, 2009, in conjunction with the exhibition Falnama: The Book of Omens.

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Music for the Persian New Year: Mamak Khadem

Iranian-born vocalist Mamak Khadem, formerly of the Persian-fusion band Axiom of Choice, performs songs inspired by melodies from Armenia, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, and Turkey, as well as music from Iran. Her ensemble features Ole Mathisen, clarinet and saxophone; Jamshied Sharifi, keyboard; Hamid Saeidi, santur (hammered dulcimer); and Ben Wittman, percussion. This performance was recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery on March 7, 2009, as part of the Freer and Sackler’s celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

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