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Kayhan Kalhor: Night Silence Desert

Persian classical musical tradition remains one of the world’s unsung musical treasures, no doubt in part because of Iran’s retreat from western ways in the past quarter century. The music mines an ancient and deep well of feeling, an expression that can be sublime and sensuous, by turns. Kayhan Kalhor (b. 1963) is helping to bridge that gap of cultural obscurity. The young master of the kamancheh-the small bowed string instrument considered the ancestor of modern string instruments-Kalhor has collaborated with and composed for the Kronos Quartet. With the fascinating album Night Silence Desert, Kalhor arranged a musical meeting between himself and the revered Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian, whose vocal technique combines remarkable degrees of control and passion. His ambitions went further, writing the “Night Silence Desert” suite, seeking to merge the folk-related maqam music and the classical modes of the radif. Other indigenous instruments in the collective texture include the double-reed ghooshmeh, the two-stringed lute, dotar and the frame drum called the daf. Whatever attention this album may or may not get in the current crush of world-music releases, it deserves the wide-open ears of aficionados and newcomers alike.

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