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).”
For the Silk Road Ensemble musicians, hearing the ethereal voice of Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Qasimov put their years of conservatory training into serious question. As they delved into the mugham, they each wondered, “If this is how music should be played what have I been doing all these years?”
The quote above is from the liner notes to Kor Arab (otherwise known as Kor Ərəbin Mahnısı) which is track ten on the Silk Road Project CD, Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon. The music was written by Fikret Amirov and the lyrics by Hüsayn Cavid.
Since I spent some time thinking about the origins of bowed string playing a couple of days ago I knew that I really wanted to say something about this instrument which I had just discovered while writing the post about origins.
The chaganeh is one of the few examples of world bowed strings that really closely matches the physical set-up of a cello and I was just thrilled to see a picture of it at the Wikipedia entry for kamancheh as I was writing the post mentioned above. The kamancheh itself is an upright bowed spike fiddle as is the chaganeh, but as you can see from the photo above, the spike of the chaganeh is long enough, and the body of the instrument is big enough, that a musician can sit in a chair and play it upright and held between the legs.
As noted in the Wikipedia entry, the instrument is said to come from Azerbaijan, but with the little time I’ve had to look it up, I have come across other references stating the chaganeh originated in Iran. Until I know more about the instrument I’ll simply say it’s of Central Asian origins.
The only video clip I’ve been able to find is this: