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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