What do a real estate agent, a building contractor, a trucker, an HVAC repair man and a violin repair technician have in common? They are members of Atlanta’s premier Persian music group, Shourangiz Ensemble, which will perform at the Woodruff Arts Center on Saturday, Aug. 11.
The seven gifted and seasoned musicians, who were trained by musical masters in their native Iran, have come together to create a concert of Persian classical and folk music. As immigrants to the United States, they are working in fields vastly different from the work they did in Iran. But each of them also brought immense musical ability refined by training with the masters of their instruments. They play for the joy of bringing Persian music to the Persian American community in the Atlanta area as well as anyone who loves exquisite music.
Persian music is thousands of years old. There is evidence of the musical instrument, the santoor, on carvings from the Assyrian Empire. The Persian flute, the ney, is one of the oldest continuously played instruments in the world with a 5,000 year history. We have notations for Persian music from the 12th to 15th century and know that the rhythms of Persian music and poetry are parallel. The Shourangiz Ensemble will be performing tasnifs or ballads, songs composed in a slow meter. Many of the tasnifs are based on the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, two of the most famous Persian poets.
Shadi Fahan, the singer for the ensemble, was part of a famous ensemble of singers in Iran before moving to the US in 2004. The singer is the tone setter in Persian music, she interprets the lyrics and sets the mood. Jahangir Badiei has played the setar, a lute like instrument, since he was young. He has studied with many masters including Fariborz Azizi. Mr. Badiei also plays the instrument from which the ensemble takes its name, the shourangiz. The shourangiz is a relatively new instrument developed by Hossein Alizadeh. It has a skin face, six strings and a longer keyboard with more frets than the setar. Ehsan Gooniaei plays the setar and the dutar, a long-necked two stringed lute. Tar is the Persian word for string and is the root word for guitar and sitar. The instruments are works of art and Atlanta is fortunate to have a master instrument maker, Majid Ayati, who created many of the instruments played by the ensemble.
Mansoor Lofti plays the ancient Persian flute, the ney, having begun his musical training as a boy with the folk flute called the lalava. Arash Dehborzogi moved to Atlanta from Shiraz in 2016. He has been playing the santoor since age 9. The santoor is the grandfather of the piano and cousin of the hammered dulcimer. It has 72 strings made of copper and brass and a body of walnut wood. The instrument takes three to four years to be made because the wood must dry properly before the strings are fitted on it. Nima Ghadiri is a master of the def, most ancient of the frame drums often played in Sufi ceremonies. He was a popular musician in Iran before moving to the US. Tooraj Moshrefzadeh was also well known in Iran. He plays the tonbak, the Persian goblet drum.
The ensemble practices weekly but has increased rehearsal time to prepare for this concert, their first in this configuration, in Atlanta. The ensemble is encouraged and supported by producer Reza Sohrabi who has brought many fine Persian musicians to Atlanta including Silk Road Ensemble member Kayhan Kalhor and the Rohab Ensemble.
Tickets are on sale at www.woodruffcenter.org.
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, poet and musician. For more on his work www.tenminutemuse.wordpress.com.
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