Persian Melodies – not really a review

I’ve been enjoying some of the fusions of classical Western and Persian music created by people like Afarin Mansouri so I took advantage of a free concert at the Four Seasons Centre to take in some actual Persian classical music.  It was a mixed bag of traditional, composed and improvised music and included both songs and instrumentals.  It was interesting and enjoyable.

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There were three musicians, all relatively recent newcomers to Canada and largely trained in Iran.  Padideh Ahrarnejad played the tar; which is a plucked string instrument somewhat like a lute.  Academic and musician Ali Massoudi accompanied on tombak which is a drum played with the fingers and capable of a rather remarkable range of sounds.  The vocal numbers were sung by Mahnaz Raad.

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I am, of course, no expert on this music.  To be honest I can’t even tell whether the songs were sung in classical Persian or Farsi (I suspect some of each).  I do though have a bit of a background in the traditional folk music of Great Britain and t seems to me that there are parallels especially in the vocals.  The voice is not “supported” and seems to be quite free in how it can play with pitch and rhythm.  The tar too is not limited to strict semi-tone intervals with some use of quarter tones.  There’s kind of a weird sonic consonance between the sung language (or at least one of them) with Scots Gaelic.  Any readers fluent in both Classical Persian and Gaelic please feel free to comment!

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There wasn’t much in the way of introduction and though a set list was provided most of the time several numbers were run together so it was really hard to figure out where one was in the programme so I can’t really comment on individual pieces.

All that said, and much not said, I think  that I came away with some kind of feel for the sound world of this music and for the considerable skills of the performers.  I would be more than willing to listen to more.

Photo Credit: Karen E. Reeves

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