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Masters Of Classical Persian Music Together For The First Time

It started on a Saturday morning when my husband told me, "you are going to have your surprise Valentines Day gift this year." He would not tell me anything other than we are going to Berkeley (California) today.

At 5:00 PM we left our house and our first stop was at the Khayyam Restaurant* in Albany (California) for dinner. The Persian food was great, especially the fresh warm bread that comes out of the visible tanoor (oven) to your table. By this time I'm thinking, the theme is probably Persian tonight.

We left the restaurant and drove to the University of California at Berkeley. My husband is still not saying anything. When we approached the parking lot, all I could hear was people talking in Farsi (Persian) and I heard the name Shajarian. I'm still not sure where we are going.

Finally, we arrived at Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley, where performances are often held. As we entered I received that nights' playbill (program). Yes, it is true, the name Shajarian I heard earlier is related to performance tonight. I'm going to hear Masters of Classical Music with one of the most renowned vocalist, Mohammad Reza Shajarian. I have heard many of Shajarian's recordings (tapes) before but have not heard him live. (Shajarian CDs)

The giant Zellerbach Hall was full to capacity. Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the undisputed master of Persian classical is singing tonight. He is regarded as a national treasure by both musicians and music lovers. Shajarian's voice which has inspired other musicians is powerful, intensely emotional, and trained to perfection. In 1999, Shajarian received from UNESCO one of the Europe's highest honors, the prestigious Picasso Medal. In 2000, he was declared Iran's best classical vocalist by the Ministry of Culture in Iran. (Husbands comments in parenthesis -- His voice became more than a sound, it became an instrument that sent vibrations to my deepest being, communicating the thought and emotion of the songs. I only had to sit and receive them. It was a roller-coaster ride, up then down and up again, sad then happy, feeling calm and complete at the end.)

Accompanying Mr. Shajarian were Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian.

Hossein Alizadeh was declared by the Ministry of Culture in Iran countries best contemporary artist in 2000 is playing 'tar' (plucked flute). He founded the Aref Ensemble and performed with the Shayda Ensemble. Both ensembles are dedicated to promotion, enhancement and advancement of Persian classical music. (To watch and hear this incredibly talented musician in person was quite an experience, he is Iran's Eric Clapton.) (Hossein Alizadeh CDs)

Kayhan Kalhor, playing 'kamancheh' (spiked fiddle), has composed works for Iran's most renowned vocalists such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri. In 1991, he cofounded Dastan Ensemble. In 1997, he formed Ghazal Ensemble who has toured the world and performs Persian and Indian improvisations. Keyhan Kalhor began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious art organization at that time at the age of 17. (When I listen to his CDs I can picture him on stage moving with such emotion while he magically evokes incredible sounds from his instrument. ) (Kayhan Kalhor CDs)

Homayoun Shajarian, the son of the master vocalist M.R. Shajarian is playing 'tombak' (percussion) and accompanying his father as a vocalist as well. ("This was our first exposure to this young talented musician, who undoubtedly has a bright future.")

The first improvisations based on maqam Daad o Bidad were performed. The poetry was Zemestan (Winter) by Mehdi Akhavan Saless. After a short intermission, improvisations in Dastgah Nava based on themes by H. Alizadeh performed. The poetry was by Moulana Jallalidin Rumi. By this time, the entire Zellerbach Hall, young, old, Americans, Iranians, all were treated to a perfect performance of undoubtedly The Masters Of Persian Classical Music.

I feel the presence and complete silence from the audience. I'm going through different stages of emotions. Feeling of loss, sadness, pain of hejran (separation), and high appreciation for commitment and dedication. At one point, I found myself having hard time to sit on my chair. My heart wants to open up and flies and goes to the highest level that is capable of going. Yes, my heart is going mad by combination of Rumi poetry and this flawless performance. I feel love.

After the performance when my American husband (who knows only a little Farsi) and I shared our experiences it seemed we had similar experiences. So Masters Of Persian Classical Music along with Rumi poetry went much beyond the words. As we were leaving the auditorium, I heard a young American woman expressing to her friends, "I felt like going up the ladder and then dropping down."

I hope you enjoyed this story of the perfect Valentines Day Present, the perfect Moulana (Rumi) poetry, the perfect performance, the perfect night, the perfect dedication and commitment and the most perfect of all, love for this existence and God.

Modern and Classical Music CDs (featuring artists from this article)

About Persian Music

About Persian Poetry

Poetry Books


*We are sorry to report that the Khayyam Restaurant in Albany has closed, but there are many good Persian resturants in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you are a Persian resturant or know of one then send us your information - go to Resturants.

Persian Food - Resturants