Dastgah – poetry in music
Homayoun Shajarian & Dastan-Ensemble
Traditionelle persische Kunstmusik
Berlin, Samstag 09.02.2008 20:00
rbb Grosser Sendesaal
Homayoun Shajarian – Gesang | Hamid Motebassem – Tar und Setar | Pejman Hadadi und Behnam Samani – Perkussion | Saeed Farajpouri – Kamanche | Hossein Behroozinia – Barbat
“Of the hundred melodies he played, he chose thirty sweet-sounding songs”, reported the twelfth century epic poet Nizami, describing the performance of thirty songs (alhan) and a hundred melodies (dastan-ha) at the pre-Islamic Sassanid court.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, musicologists wrote magnificent, systematic treatises on music that remain undisputedly authoritative to this day. For the most part, the music has been passed down through the generations from master to pupil (sineh be-sineh: “from breast to breast”). In the nineteenth century, a form of traditional art music (radif) developed, whose range of melodies and improvisations have been transcribed and notated and in which a certain cross-fertilisation with European culture is evident.
The radif is based on various modes (dastgah-ha).
Dastgah – the tonal anchor of traditional art music – consists of dast (hand) and gah (place, time). In other words, depending on the sequence – how or where the hand is placed or the time selected for the music – contemplative or emotional responses are triggered. We discover the realms of the dastgah by wandering through its many picturesque places (gushe-ha). The gushe-ha themselves are based on just three or four notes, and develop from these only to return to the starting point (forud). A dastgah cannot be performed without gathering and coordinating these elements.
Improvisation is a central tenet of Iranian music. The performance of a dastgah, which is improvised ad hoc, is shaped by the mood of the musician and the sensitivity of the listeners: it is a reciprocal dialogue between the meditation of sound and the implosion of silence.
“How many more words will you waste, O Sa’di, on the science of music?
The secrets of the heart are revealed only to the ear of the soul”
(Sa’di, 13th century).
There are seven primary modes or dastgah-ha, from which five secondary modes (avaz-ha) are derived:
- dastgah-e Shur
avaz-e Bayat-e Tork
Of course, various dastgah-ha can be mixed together. This is known as morakkab-chani and morakkab-navazi.
Each dastgah has a specific tonality that makes the mind sing and the feelings dance:
- Mahur conveys serene boldness,
Chahargah subdued joy. Shur – a broadly sweeping dastgah – is majestic and earnest, while
Dashti and Afshari represent deep sadness.
Segah leads into a mystic dimension and
Homayun induces sweet melancholy.
A dastgah is made up of five parts which can be varied in any way:
- pishdaramad (introduction),
The most important traditional Iranian instruments are
Belonging to the lute family, the tar appeared in its present form in the middle of the eighteenth century. The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb-skin covering the top. The long fingerboard has twenty-six to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and there are three double courses of strings. Its range is about two and one- half octaves, and is played with a small brass plectrum.setar
The ancestry of the Setar can be traced to the ancient Tanbur of pre-Islamic Persia. It is made from thin mulberry wood and its fingerboard has twenty-five or
twenty-six adjustable gut frets. Setar is literally translated as “three strings”. however, in its present form, it has four strings and it is suspected that Setar
initially had only three strings. Because of its delicacy and intimate sonority, the Setar is the preferred instrument of Sufi mysticsbarbat (short-necked lute),
The Barbat is an ancient instrument of Persian origin, refined during the Arab age into the current form of Oud. After Tanboor it is the oldest string instrument in Iran. In 800 B.C a kind of Barbat was used. In some books the invention of this instrument is a scribed to Barbad. As it is told in some books, the reason to name this instrument Barbat is that this name is the Arabic form of Barbad, but in some other books it is told that Bat means chest, so the similarity between the form of a Barbat and the chest of a drake is the other reason for its name. After Islam’s attack to Iran this instrument was taken to Arabia and after a while it came back to Iran with a bit change in it. For Islamic culture penetrated in to Europe, this instrument was used is some parts with different names , for example in Italy it was called “Lotto”, in France “Loth” in Portugal “Aland” a and in Spain “Loud”. This instrument was abolished in Safavidth period by an unknown reason (maybe because of the religious fanaticism), even till recent decades.kamancheh (upright spike fiddle)
The Kamancheh is the traditional classical bowed lute of Persian classical music and dates back to antiquity. It has a small, hollowed hardwood body with a thin stretched fish-skin membrane. Its neck is cylindrical, and it has four strings. Often known as the “spiked fiddle”, because of the spike protruding from its lower end, it is played vertically in the manner of the European viol. The bowstrings are pulled by the player which accommodates subtle tone variations. It is suspected that the fourth string was added in the early twentieth century as the result of the introduction of western violin to Iran.
The Tombak is a chalice-shaped drum carved from solid mulberry wood. It is covered at the wide end by a membrane of lamb or goat skin. The technique of this instrument uses both hands and consists of rolling and snapping the fingers in various ways. The rich variety of tones and textures on this instrument allows the player to punctuate and ornament the melodic phrases as well as create rhythmical patterns.
daf (frame drum)
The Daf is a type of frame drum that is depicted in many Persian miniatures and has reliefs from centuries ago. Although it appears at first sight to be a relatively simple instrument, the daf has the potential of producing intricate rhythmic patterns and sounds. The daf is equipped with metal rings on the inside which add a jingle effect to the sound. The frame is covered with goat-skin.
Dammam is a large drum in one piece. The drum is covered with goatskin, which is secured by a cord, which is knotted seven times, and made from the fibers of a date palm. It is played with a wooden stick and/or with the hand. In the south of Iran it is played in religious ceremonies and kept in the Mosque.
Nai (flute) and santur (dulcimer) were not used in this concert.
Iranian music includes court music, rural melodies (motreb), mystic songs of the Dervish order (khaneqah), and especially folk music and religious music: passion plays (ta’ziyeh), tales of the suffering of martyrs (rouzeh and nouheh). All these forms are inter-related, influence each other and nurture each other and are closely related to the dastgah. It is this many-faceted interaction that makes Iranian music so rich: “No player plays this melody, no nightingale can sing it” (Sa’di).
Persian poetry is a shared cultural heritage that is also an expression of the experiences of real life. The Divan of Hafis is in every home. It is a book of wisdom that people consult, love and recite. Hafis speaks “the tongue of that which is concealed”. His Divan can be opened at any page to reveal mysteries, advice and prophecies.
At gatherings, people often indulge in a poetry game (mosha’ereh) involving two sides. One begins by reciting a verse. The final letter of that verse has to be taken as the first letter of the opponent’s verse.
Poetry pervades all walks of social life. Goethe wrote “We shall say little of these poems, for they are to be enjoyed, and we are meant to be in harmony with them”.
The expression of mystic love in Persian poetry is so charged with eroticism that it is difficult to distinguish between earthly and divine love. This ambiguity can even extend to subject and object. Candle and moth, rose and nightingale, wine and inebriation – to name but a few – are among the literary idioms that are the heart of the language. The poetry is carried by this range of associations. Decoding it reveals archetypal images.
In the Middle East, music and poetry are inextricable linked. Both contain melody, rhythm, tonality and silence. Poetry is nurtured by rhythm and by the magical sound of music, while music is nurtured by the succinctness and tangible structure of poetry. We may speak here of the music of words and the grammar of music – a vibrant aesthetic symbiosis. Inseparbly interwoven, they are in dialogue with one another.
Homayoun Shajarian is a Persian classical music vocalist, as well as a Tombak and Kamancheh player. He was born (21 May 1975) in Tehran in a music-dedicated family. He is the son of Mohammad Reza Shajarian, who is in turn the grand master vocalist of traditional Persian music. He began studying knowledge of technique and rhythm under supervision of Nasser Farhangfar, master of Tombak, at the age of five. Afterwards, he also continued learning Tombak under Jamshid Mohebbi’s supervision. He commenced learning Persian traditional vocal Avaz under father’s supervision and gained knowledge of Avaz techniques and voice-producing. Simultaneously, he attended Tehran Conservatory of Music and chose Kamancheh as his professional instrument as well as being tutored by Kamran Darogheh and Ardeshir Kamkar. He joined Ava Music Ensemble in 1991. He accompanied father, Hossein Alizadeh and Keyhan Kalhor in concerts of Ava Music Ensemble, playing Tombak. From 1999 on, he started accompanying father also on vocals. He has performed in several famous festivals including: Fez Festival (Morocco), Kölner Philharmonie, Berliner Philhatmonie, Royal Festival Hall London, New York World Music Institute and Paris Theatre.
Nasim-e Wasl, Na-shakiba, Showgh-e doest, Naghsh-e khyal, Ba Setareh-ha
Dastan, the most renowned ensemble of Iranian art music today, was founded in 1991 by Hamid Motebassem. Morteza Ayan, Mohammad Ali Kiani Nejad, Keyhan Kalhor and Ardeshir Kamkar were among its first members.
Since 2000, Said Farajpoori, Hossein Behroozi-Nia, Pejman Hadadi, Behnam Samani and Hamid Motebassem have formed the main core of the ensemble. Apart from concert tours in Iran, all the members of the ensemble, each a master musician, have toured Europe and the USA with such famous vocalists as Parissa, Sima Bina, Iraj Bastami, Bijan Kamkar and Shahram Nazeri. Ensemble Dastan has performed at many international festivals and concerts and has been presented by the WDR, HR and SFB broadcasting stations, by the Kölner Philharmonie, by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, by the World Music Institute in New York and by RASA in Utrecht, Netherlands.
In 2003, the French Ministry of Culture awarded them the accolade “best music of the year” for their production Shoorideh with Parissa.
Hamid Motebassem, Tar and Setar player (long-necked lutes); composer.
Born 1958 in Mashad. Studied at the art school and conservatory of Teheran.
Masters: his father; Habibollah Salehi; Zeydollah Toloie, Houshang Zarif, Hossein Alizadeh and Mohammad Reza Lotfi.
Has worked with Ensemble Aref, founder of Ensemble Dastan.
Said Farajpoory, Kamancheh player (spike fiddle); composer.
Born 1961 in Sanandadj.
Masters: Hassan Kamkar, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, Hossein Alizadeh.
Has worked with Ensembles Sheyda and Aref, Mohammad Reza Shadjarian and Parviz Meshkatian.
Hossein Behroozi-nia, Barbat player (short-necked lute); composer.
Born 1962 in Teheran. Studied at the conservatory of Teheran.
Masters: Reza Vohdani, Mansour Nariman and Mohammad Reza Lotfi.
Director of the Center for the Preservation of Persian Music.
Behnam Samani, Daf (frame drum), Damam (cylinder drum).
Born 1967 in Chahar-Mahal.
Masters: Djamshid Mohebbi.
Has worked with Ensembles Karavane and Zarbang. Founder of Ensemble Samani.
Pejman Hadadi, Tonbak (beaker drum), Pendariq (frame drum).
Born 1969 in Teheran.
Masters: Asdollah Hedjazi, Bahman Radjabi.
Has worked with great Iranian artists as well as with Indian, Turkish and American musicians.
Homayoun Shajarian& Dastan Tour in Europe January & February 2008
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