Sonic Transcedence Of the Week

Listening to the Masters of Persian Music, I feel as if I’m wandering the dusty, sun-drenched streets of a Middle Eastern city where people stare at me because I’m the only American. I stop to rest in a café, where classical music plays from the speakers. But this is not your typical Beethoven or Mozart — it’s Persian classical music, complete with the lute, spike fiddle, drums, and even contemporary poetry. Even the song’s names are poetic: “Kisses of Rain,” “Comforting Beloved,” and “Armenian Romances,” to name a few. In my daydream, a couple of women in chadors come into the café and sit down at the table across from me. They make me realize how new all of this is to me, the culture, music, and city, all calling out to me to learn and try new things. I learn from a tea-sipping male patron that each group member, each of whom hails from Iran, has had extensive training in his field. Vocalist Möhammad Reza Shajarian studied under five masters and in 1999 received the prestigious Picasso Medal award from UNESCO. His son, Homayoun Shajarian, has performed around the world and is said to have a voice that rivals that of his father. Maestro Hossein Alizadeh graduated from the Tehran Music Conservatory and has composed a number of orchestral works and film scores. Kayhan Kalhor, a virtuoso of the spike fiddle, is the standout of the group, having begun his music studies at age 7 and composed works for cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I thank the kind stranger for his input and leave the café with a newfound appreciation of a culture and its music that can be so mysterious and wondrous at the same time. See the Masters of Persian Music perform live on Tuesday, February 28, 8 p.m., at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535.

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