The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Aug 29, 2010

A Dulcimer, Hammered

After bringing a rousing tune on the Santur and Daff to a close, Peyman Heydarian announced that he and his percussionist had just played a Kurdish wedding song.

"It's very popular in Tehran," he said. "It's about a girl who doesn't want to get married."

"The Tehranis don't understand the lyrics," he added. "Which is probably why it's so popular. The Kurds know what it means, and that probably explains why the Kurds don't sing it much."

Peyman Heydarian is a man with a mission - to restore the glorious santur to its rightful place in the firmament of Persian music. I suspect it is a bit of an upward struggle - the aficionados die out and the young prefer modern music, especially the sugary synth promoted by the Iranian diaspora in Los Angeles and received right back in the homeland via satellite dishes. He has been researching the scales of this ancient instrument for years, and recently recovered a style that had disappeared from the oeuvre some time in the last couple of centuries.

The santur has a wide footprint, of course. It has become an intimate part of Hindustani classical music, most notably under Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. In the early Middle Ages, it spread into China. In Europe, where, under Arab musical influence, it became known as the hammered dulcimer, and remained part of the music scene for centuries.
Classical Persian music is based on a modal system of 7 main modes and 5 derivative modes which are collectively called Dastgah: Shur, Abu'Ata, Bayat-e-Tork, Afshari, Dashti, Homayun, Bayat-e-Esfehan, Segah, Chahargah, Mahur, Rast Panjgah, and Nava. Our programme consists of pieces in Shur, Mahur and Bayat-e-Esfehan and an abandoned mode, 'Maqam Saba.' (from the programme notes.)
At a concert I attended a few weeks ago (with Rochelle), Peyman and his percussionist Emad Rajabalipour performed rollicking pieces from the Persian and Kurdish classical tradition. Then they introduced the lovely Vicky Anastasiou who sang a Kurdish song with rivetting facility. Considering she is Greek, has no knowledge of Kurdish, and had only learnt the song in the past couple of days, it was an incredible performance.

Peyman is a multi-instrumentalist, and often participates in jamming sessions and concerts with like-minded musicians in the SOAS Rebetiko band. He is expert at the tar (Persian lute), the barbat (or the ud), and the piano and the daff. What's more, he has created innovative tuning system to be able to play the Celtic, Turkish, Greek, and early European repertoire. And in the second half of his concert, he invited musicians and singers from the audience to join him in making a jolly evening of it all.

There are more concerts coming up so I'll urge you to check to go check it out.


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