Yes, it’s Nowrūz–the Persian New Year. Last year I had the pleasure of playing a Nowrūz party for a Bahá’í congregation. The best part of that–other than getting to eat traditional Persian food and desserts (yum)–was getting to hear two fabulous Persian Classical musicians. In MUNCIE, Indiana of all places! Here’s a short video I took of Ehsan and Behrouz Kousari (Santour and Zarb, respectively):
il Troubadore ended the celebration, but I could have just listened to the Kousari brothers forever! It turns out that Ehsan Kousari is also a Santour builder–there’s a short documentary of him at the EVIA (Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis) Digital Archive in a collection titled “Indiana Musical Instrument Makers and their Craft: Field Interviews and Demonstrations (2005).”
The description of Ehsan Kousari’s documentary states:
Ehsan Kousari builds santours, a Persian form of hammered dulcimer. Inspired by the instruments he heard and played in Iran, Kousari began building santours for himself as well as for professional players like his friend Kiu Haghighi from Chicago. Ehsan’s instruments are unique in that he adjusts sound posts within the instrument to produce a more perfect sound. While he uses native hardwoods for his boxes, his tapered zither pins and bridges are ordered from overseas.
And there are clips of it on youtube:
(see more below)
My wife had forwarded this NYT article, “Ringing In the Year 1390,” by Porochista Khakpour, and it reminded me of some things Elysia and I had been discussing about immigrants, or ethnic minorities experiences with being able to openly express aspects of their culture in the US. This particular story the author relates was especially relevant given some of that discussion:
And then as my mother and my father tried to enlist us in a silly song about the new year and my brother complained that he was carsick even though he wasn’t in the car — all in loud Persian — I realized the dining room, everyone a pink-faced blond except us, had gone silent and all eyes were looking our way. I, the self-conscious preteenager, shushed my family. I realized Nowruz was safest kept to the house.
Please read the article as it’ a beautiful depiction of immigrant life and a reminder that folk like these [like us] are as much Americans as anybody else–we just don’t have all the same advantages and head starts that natively born, or members of the majority ethnic population, have.
And I know I’ve felt the poignant pain of longing for something the author is relating:
With barely any cognizance of the revolution that brought us here 30 years ago, I was ready to be a card-carrying member of this world of hot dogs and strawberries; but by the time I got that card — citizenship, 20 years later — I found that I had joined my parents in the clumsy yet hopeful adulthood of immigrants.
Sometimes it’s referred to as the perpetual foreigner syndrome to outsiders–for us, it’s something a bit different as we make a bid to assimilate (or not, as the case may be) and how much we decide we want to completely leave behind ties to the motherland in the process.
Now, watch some more videos of an American talking about his craft of building Persian Santours! 😀