Led by Iranian master instrumentalist and composer Hossein Alizadeh, the Hamavayan Ensemble performs new interpretations of classical Persian music. The unique ensemble features female vocalist Afsaneh Rasaei and male vocalist Pouria Akhavass with musicians Pejman Hadadi (tombak, daf-percussion); Ali Boustan (setar-lute); Hossein’s fraternal twin sons Nima Alizadeh (robab-lute) and Saba Alizadeh (kamancheh-spike fiddle) and Hossein Alizadeh on the shurangiz, a new instrument designed by him.
The six-string shurangiz, the newest of Alizadeh’s many innovations in the Persian classical tradition, is considered a cross between a tar, setar and tanbur (all Persian lutes) and played by combining all those instruments’ techniques.
Hafez Nazeri is one of Iran’s most influential and admired new composers. Son of the legendary musician Shahram Nazeri, Hafez began voice lessons at the age of three, where his brilliance became evident as he gained the first place in many voice competitions.
At the age of seven, he studied the ancient instruments of Tanbur and Setar (two types of Persian lutes). Thereafter, Hafez became intrigued by the Daf, a percussion instrument, which he self-taught creating a unique technique now emulated by many of Iran’s young Daf players. His serious study of voice and Setar continued into the development of his own distinctive polyphonic combination of voice and instrumentation. He is considered to have extended the technique of Setar playing, and has received praise from Setar players and craftsmen alike.
By the age of nine, Hafez had already begun to perform alongside his father in many of European and the Middle-Eastern most prestigious music festivals. At the age of sixteen he had already performed at festivals such as of The Sfinks Festival in Belgium, Festa del Popolo in Italy; Theatre de la Ville in Paris and Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon.
In the year 2000, Hafez assembled a talented group of young performers called The Rumi Ensemble. The group performed Hafez’s original musical compositions in a series of landmark concerts in twenty Iranian cities. Record-breaking audiences attended sold out performances, which were praised for their novel approach to orchestration, harmony and mode. These musical innovations not only reached younger audiences, many of whom were newly attracted to Persian classical music, but also deeply influenced the musical scenes in Iran and beyond. Selected pieces from the tour were preformed by The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in London?s Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as by other musicians in various musical festivals throughout the world, such as Sweden and the Theatre de la Ville in Paris, and many other festivals.
Hafez’s international appeal led to many invitations to speak at various media outlets including many radio stations such as KPBS, KPFK, KPFA, UC Berkeley Radio and NPR in the United States.
In 2005, Hafez, along with new members of his Rumi Ensemble, launched a vastly successful North American tour called In the Path of Rumi, which began with a sold out performance at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles followed by a first-time performance at Irvine’s City Hall.
In the midst of the tour, Hafez received many accolades and awards for his ground-breaking approach to traditional Persian music. With the Rumi Ensemble, Hafez aspired to create a world view of traditional Persian music, assembling artists from four different nationalities, and pioneering a new style of music, which he calls Post-Classical Persian Music.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) together with the Iranian Student Group has honored Hafez with the Distinguished Young Composer Award for his creativity and innovation in music. The Kurdish American Education Society under the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO,) and A.I.P.A. have given Hafez awards of recognition for innovations in Persian traditional composition. Irvine City Hall has presented him with an honor in recognition of his efforts in introducing the music of Rumi abroad.
After his concert in San Diego, the Mayor and the Chairman of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, for the first time in the history of Persian Music in a major US cosmopolitan city, declared the day of the concert, February 25th, 2006 as Hafez Naferi Day throughout San Diego County.
He has been interviewed and has performed live on major national US TV stations such as CNN, during Live from CNN program in Atlanta, and Fox channel 5.
He received a recognition award from the Congress of the United States for his musical achievements, and has also been invited for a lecture to Harvard University and was given a Recognition Award for his endeavors in introducing Rumi to the west and for his innovations in Persian music.
Hafez has completed his studies in Composition and Conducting from New York’s Mannes College of Music, and is interested in building a musical bridge between eastern and western cultures.
Ensemble Shanbehzadeh plays traditional music of the Persian Gulf, from the town of Boushehr. Songs, dances, music and rhythms. The music of Bushehr is an amalgam of the traditions of Persians, Arabs, African and Indian, who met centuries ago at this cultural crossroads in the south of Iran on the edge of the Persian Gulf. This diversity is the result of an astonishing richness of traditions, where the music plays a vital part in all the aspects of the life: religion, work, social events, dramas and fears.
The Ensemble, directed by Saeid Shanbehzadeh has delighted audiences in Iran, Europe and North America with the rhythms and subtle melodies of this astonishing music.
The principal instruments include Neyanban (Iranian bagpipe), Neyjofti (double flute), Dammam (percussion with double face), Zarbetempo (percussions), traditional flute, Senj (kind of cymbal), Boogh (horn). Saied Shanbehzadeh plays the neyanban (Iranian bagpipe) and presents the music of Bushehr, Iran, where he was born, including wedding music, love songs and religious pieces, with moods ranging from celebration to meditation and trance-inducing rhythms.
The Bushehri region in southern Ian is a cultural center. For centuries, Persian, Arab, African and Indian influences have encountered one another there, leaving their mark on the music too. And this diversity of influences, especially its black roots, has been an inspiration above all to the singer and bandleader, who has been living in France for several years now. He leads an ensemble of Iranian and French musicians who are devoted to playing an eclectic mix of traditional rhythms and jazz, with strains of the nayanban, a type of bagpipes made of lambskin. Their drive shows that Iranian music more than a mix of the mystical and the melancholic: it is also an invitation to let go and celebrate.
Saeid Shanbehzadeh started playing music at the age of seven in his native town of Bushehr in the south of Iran, with the old masters of the music of the region. He began with percussion, singing, then learning the neyanb?nn (pipes), neydjofti (double flute) and traditional dance.
At 20 he founded the group the Shanbehzadeh Ensemble and won the first prize at the ?Fajr? Festival in Tehran in 1990. He also continues to do research and write articles on the music of Southern Iran, which are published in Iranian newspapers. In 1996 he was invited by the University of Toronto to teach for six months and he was named in 1998 the professor and director of the House of Culture, Music and the Arts of the Isle of Kish in Iran. He has composed music for and acted in several Iranian films.
Naghib Shanbehzadeh: tombak, zarbetempo – He started to learn music in Bushehr and in Kish with his father at the age of three and plays the traditional percussion of Southern Iran (damm?m, doholgap, pipe, kesser, tempo). He has worked for two years on the Tombak in Tehran with the master Mahmoud Farahmand.
Azam Ali is internationally recognized for her work with Vas and Niyaz. Vas was the critically-acclaimed, best selling, world music duo she co-founded in 1996 with percussionist Greg Ellis. From 1997- 2004 Vas released four albums on the Narada label. Their music, which they described as “alternative world,” focused mainly on the ancient relationship between the drum and voice.
Their distinct cinematic sound blended influences of Indian, Persian, Western and other musical styles into a unique configuration that transcended categorization and cultural specificity. Though in their early days Vas drew many comparisons to Dead Can Dance, they patiently surpassed that comparison with each album they released, earning them their place in the musical hierarchy of bands whose innovation set a standard to which others to aspire.
In 2002 Azam released her first self produced highly successful solo album, Portals of Grace, which featured her singing renditions of ancient Western European medieval songs. Azam?s exceptional voice and emotive performances on this album earned her much critical acclaim and once and for all solidified her place as a highly respected singer in the World music scene.
Azam Ali, who resided in Los Angeles for several years, was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up in India from the age of four in the small town of Panchgani, a beautiful hill station in the state of Maharashtra. There she attended an international co-educational boarding school for eleven years, all the while absorbing India’s rich music and culture throughout her formative years.
The course Azam would eventually choose in her life would be very much influenced by her fortuitous upbringing in a school that emphasized the importance of the arts and spirituality, and aimed through moral and academic excellence, to produce promoters of social transformation imbued with the spirit of service to humanity. It is this objective that would take shape in Azam’s music in the coming years.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 changed the course of Azam’s life as it did for many other Iranians. Unwilling to bring her daughter back to a country filled with uncertainty, her mother decided to give up her home, and together they moved to America in 1985 when Azam was just a teenager.
Shortly after moving to the United States, Azam fell in love with the Persian santur (hammered dulcimer) and it became clear to Azam that she wanted to pursue a career in music.
Though she had an innate gift for singing since she was a child and sang often at home and school functions, Azam had no particular interest in becoming a vocalist. She had her heart set on becoming an instrumentalist and so began studying the santur under the guidance of Persian master Manoocher Sadeghi.
During the eight years of her extensive studies with Ustad Sadeghi in which she became an accomplished hammered dulcimer player, Azam began to realize that she was unable to express the full range of emotions she experienced through her instrument. It was during one of these lessons that her teacher heard her sing for the first time. Completely taken, he told her that her voice had a rare emotional quality about it which should be cultivated and nurtured. It was through his encouragement that Azam began to explore her voice as the vehicle through which she would finally be able to fully express herself.
While pursuing formal training in various vocal traditions like Western classical, Indian, Persian, and Eastern European, Azam’s true passion has been to explore the immense potential of the human voice, specifically its capability to transcend language, cultural, and spiritual barriers when expressing pure emotion. When asked about her approach to singing Azam explains, “What intrigues me most about the human voice is its ability to make all things transparent through its power of transformation. The voice is not just a conduit for words. For me it is like an abstract dream in which everything makes perfect sense.”
“I am pertinacious in my need to expand. By nature, I am not one who can physically remain in one place for too long. I imagine that is the case because I have been transplanted enough times in my life that I am well aware of the influence the external environment has on the inner one, and how that can affect perception. So naturally, my music is going to reflect this inability to remain static, and this inability to identify myself with just one specific culture.
I think of all the different music that I have done and will continue to do almost as photographs of my evolution, and just like photographs, in some I may look great and in some I may not. What matters to me is that I risk, I, trust, I strive, and let things unfold as they may.”
“Having been born in Iran and grown up in India, my introduction to the music of Medieval Europe came a little after 1985 when I arrived in the United States. What initially struck me about the music was how similar the melodic sensibility was to the music of my heritage. I could not help but feel the same shudder of awe when I first heard the music of Hildegard Von Bingen as I did when I was a child walking by temples in India and hearing prayers and chants sung through the sound of ringing bells. I felt that even though the musical approach was quite different due to cultural differences, the root desire of the music, to commune with God and sing his praises, evoked the same sentiments. At times I feel this music strikes a chord within me that is as old as my soul itself and transcends the confines and myths of illusory time and space.
It is hard for me to regard this body of work as a solo debut, given that these are all traditional pieces which have been around since before my lifetime and have been interpreted or recorded by numerous musical theorists and performers. I think of this album rather as a small detour from my work with Vas, not only to pay tribute to some of the music and composers that have inspired me on my musical journey, but to explore through these compositions the correlation between the music of Medieval Europe and the music of the Arab world.
Although any evidence as to the influence of Arabic music on the music of Medieval Europe proves to be highly ambiguous, there are many that believe the influence was great. Albeit, there are many purists who dispute this theory thus shying away from introducing any Arabic elements into their work. All this having been said, it is important to note that the evidence with respect to the true performances of some of these pieces, is veiled in the mystery of that time thus leaving much room for the numerous interpretations and theories that exist.
My intent was to give this music a contemporary feel in hopes of exposing its beauty to people who with absolutely no reference point may find the more purist, academic approach to be too austere or inaccessible. However, having a vast collection of Medieval music myself, I highly encourage anyone who responds to the works here to seek out the source of where this music comes from and to discover this magnificent treasure trove of our human legacy. It is for this reason I decided to show the many colors of Medieval music by uniting the works of various regions and composers on one canvas.
But mainly my desire to do this project was born of a need to communicate with this music in my own way; to honor the memory and echo the sentiments of all the magnificent voices that have sung these songs throughout the ages and kept them alive for all of us. I have abandoned all rules and restrictions in order to interpret these songs and chants in a way most natural to me and have sung them as honestly as possible, given that I do not speak the languages represented.
I believe that all artistic creation is a direct response to an innate call each artist receives. Sometimes that call comes in the form of nature, love, an experience etc., but for me that call has most often come in the form of music. I am constantly interacting with the music that I discover and love. I see this interplay as an ongoing dialogue and a longing in our quest for the divine. In Medieval times the voice was regarded in the highest esteem, above all other instruments, for it reflected the purest image of God. I share this sentiment in that for me singing and praying are one in the same.
I see the human voice as a reflection of our truest self that is within us, through which we can mirror forth, either through prayer or song, the beauty and the Grace of God.”
Azam’s immense talent and ability to adapt her voice to any musical style have drawn the attention of many diverse artists and film composers. Azam has collaborated in the studio and on stage with numerous artists: Serj Tankian of System of a Down, The Crystal Method, Pat Mastellato and Trey Gunn of King Crimson, Dredg, Chris Vrenna formerly of Nine Inch Nails, Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor, Buckethead, Steve Stevens, film composer Tyler Bates, Mercan Dede, the world renowned Japanese group Kodo, Zakir Hussain, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and Mickey Hart with whom she also toured for two years as a lead singer in his group Bembe Orisha.
Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo were Azam’s original collaborators in her latest musical venture, Niyaz. Released on Six Degrees Records, the debut album Niyaz blended ancient Persian and Urdu Sufi poetry, rich acoustic instrumentation, and modern electronics.
Although originally formed in California in 2004, Niyaz is currently based in Montreal, Canada. The most recent version of Niyaz features Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali.
Azam’s distinctive voice can also be heard on numerous film and television scores among which include Matrix Revolutions, Godsend, Papparazi, 300, Children of Dune, Earthsea, Dawn of the Dead, Alias, and The Agency.
Tar and setar virtuoso Dariush Talai is recognized today as one of the finest performers of traditional Persian music. He was born in 1952 and his tar studies at the age of 10 with Maestro Ali-Akbar Shahnazi. Talai continued his studies with other teachers such as Abdollah Davami.
Talai is not just a leading exponent but also a philosopher and aesthetician of Persian music. He has invented a system of notation, codifying the concept of the radif, and also added a complete analysis of its syntax and modal structure
Iran Vol.1: Anthologie De La Musique Traditionnelle (Ocora, 1979)
Tradition Classique De L’Iran : Le Tar (Harmonia Mundi, 1980)
Le Son Direct Du Concert Iran Du 11 Mai 1982 Sur France Musique (Ocora, 1988)
Musique Iranienne (Harmonia Mundi, 1989)
Iran Les Maitres De La Musique Traditionnelle Volume 1 (Ocora, 1991)
Iran Les Maitres De La Musique Traditionnelle Vol. 3 (Ocora, 1992) Radif 1 (Al Sur, 1994) Radif 2 – The Integral Repertory of Persian Art Music (Al Sur, 1994) Radif 3 (Al Sur, 1994) Radif 4 (Al Sur, 1994) Radif 5 (Al Sur, 1994)
Farah – Musique Pour Schéhérazade (Amori, 1995)
Setar Solo – Shur, Bayat-e Esfahan, Segah (Mahoor Institute Of Culture And Art, 1998)
Daryoush Tala’i Madjid Khaladj En Concert (Al Sur, 2000)
Saye Rowshan – Solo Tar (Mahoor Institute Of Culture And Art, 2003)
Chahargah (Mahoor Institute Of Culture And Art, 2003) Calligraphies Vocales • L’Art Du Chant Classique Persan (Accords Croisés, 2004)
Delgosha – Tar & Setar Improvising (Barbad Music, 2010)
War & Peace – Avaz-e Bayat-e Esfahan, Dastgah-e Segah (Mahoor Institute Of Culture And Art, 2012)
Saeid Shanbehzadeh leads the Bushehri Traditional Music Ensemble. The group provides a rare insight into the fascinating music and dance traditions of the Persian Gulf region of southern Iran.
Music from Bushehr reflects its long and varied history during which it has changed from a quiet fishing village to a war zone to international trading center and back again repeatedly. Over time, immigrants to the city have included Arabs, Indians, Africans, Armenians and Jews, who have been trading in cloth, metals, spices, indigo, tea, rice, sugar, pottery, porcelain, and wood for shipbuilding.
Located along the northeast coast of the Persian Gulf, the city of Bushehr also shares in the region’s long history of harvesting the sea, including the pearl diving which is known to have been practiced there since before 2000 BC.
Fishermen’s songs, called naymeh or naghmeh, describe the courage of sailors and the lives of saints, or entertain with humorous lyrics. Dancelike instrumental music called bandari (from the harbors) is thought to represent the city’s oldest instrumental musical form. Improvised songs of humor and satire, called yasl-khani, accompany work with the help of rhythmic hand-clapping.
Among the region’s musical instruments presented at the festival will be the ney-anbon (earliest-known bagpipes, originating thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia), ney-hindi (indian flute), damman-ishkun (double-headed bass drum), boogh (ram’s horn trumpet) and senj (metal castanets). In a dance known as maulidi, performed around the birthday of the prophet Mohammed (s.a.w.), dancers sit in a circle and move their upper torsos in rhythm, gradually entering into a state of trance.
Saeid has studied with the greatest Bushehri masters since he was a child and today he is a master of the ney-anbon, dammam and traditional dance.
His ethnomusicological research has allowed him to collect an immense repertory of Bushehri music in all its forms.
Hour Saeid lives in Paris, where he works with the Cie Montalvo/Hervieu, National choreographic center of Créteil and Val de Marls, for the creation 2002 “Babelle Heureuse.
Behnam Samani was born in 1967 in Tschaher Mahai Bakhtiari in Iran. He studied tombak for 13 years with D. Mohebi in Isfahan. He has been performing in Europe since 1987 and has collaborated with some of the most celebrated iranian musicians including F. Paewar, M. Zarief and R. Badie. He has also worked with international artists such as H. Charasia, D. Schneider and H. Mitschke on several theatre and music projects. Behnam Samani has performed with Zarbang and Karavane and leads the Ensemble Samani.
Behnam Samani has performed in some distinguished festivals including the Music Festival in Sao Paolo, Persian Music Festival in Munich, Persian Music Festival in Sweden and Italy, Rhythm Stick Festival in London and Rhythm Festival DU Zurich and has played in such prestigious concert halls as the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Gasteig in Munich and Rasa in Utrecht. He has performed for the SWF and WDR Radio Stations and has made numerous recordings and television appearances.
Ali Akbar Moradi, from Kermanshah is the extraordinary tanbur player from Kurdistan of Iran. He has a unique style that sets him apart from other players of this ancient instrument. He’s a leading composer, teacher and a consummate performer of the sacred Kurdish music of Iran.
He has won many awards including two honorary diplomas at major music festivals in Iran. Moradi has performed as a soloist and with ensembles in festivals throughout the world.
Tombak master Ali Reza Analouei was born in Esfahan, Iran. His grandfather, Naser Ali was a renowned Master of Sufism (a worldview and way of life which affirms the noblest aspects of Human character). Inspired by this example, Dr. Analouei has undertaken the lifetime quest to amplify and apply the concepts of Sufism, Erfaan, and music within his playing, his teaching, and his personal development.
He has always been inspired by, and closely followed the work and style of Iran’s late master of tombak, Jahangeer Malek. Over the past two decades Dr. Analouei has played internationally in many concerts and ensembles, including various radio and television shows.
He is the founder of the Sama Ensemble, and is currently a member of several important music groups based in the Mid-Atlantic U.S.
At the age of ten he began playing tombak, earning him a prize from Tehran high schools, and then became a member of the Kakh-e Javanaan (youth club) Ensemble.
Hossein Omoumi was born in 1944 in Isfahan, Iran, and commenced his musical education singing with his father. At age 14, he studied the ney, the traditional reed flute of Iran.
At the same time as he was studying architecture, Hossein was accepted as a tutorial student at the National Superior Conservatory of Music in Tehran. He worked with maestros Mahmud Karimi and Farhad Fakhreddini, and subsequently went on to study with acclaimed ney master Hassan Kassaei.
His career as a performer has included appearances at many major festivals and concert halls in Europe and the United States.
A distinguished scholar and teacher of Persian music, he taught at the National Conservatory, Tehran University, and the Center for Preservation and Dissemination of Music in Tehran; the Center for Oriental Music Studies (CEMO) of Sorbonne University in Paris; and the ethnomusicology departments of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle.
Currently, he is the Maseeh Professor in Persian Performing Arts of Music at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He has done wide-ranging research on the ney and Iranian percussion, and arranged and composed lessons to teach the standards of classical Persian music under the title of ‘Pish Radif.’
The movie Classical Persian Music – Hossein Omoumi from Isfahan to Irvine, that documents his goal to make classical Persian music widely available, was released in 2017, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.