Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Abdollah Davami (1891-1980) & Mohammad Reza Lotfi - Radif Avazi - The Vocal Repertoire

Here we present some recordings by the greatest master of Vocal Radif (Radif Avazi) of the past century. He recorded his complete Radif in the 1970s. It was published first in 1995 as a set of four cassettes and later as a set of four CDs, with the addition of his Tasnif recordings on 78 rpm records from the early part of last century. Only three of the Dastgahs have an accompaniment on Tar, played by Mohammad Reza Lotfi, one of his many students. The other Dastgahs were performed by Davami without any accompaniment. I had asked my friend KF many many years ago to put the three Dastgahs with Lotfi on a CD for me. Here the result, together with the covers created by KF, based on the cover of the original cassette box. Many thanks to him.

Ostad Abdollah Davami had many students, the most prominent being Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Mahmud Karimi, himself the great master of vocal Radif of the following generation. Karimi recorded his own version of the Radif, released by Mahoor as a set of five CDs, which he taught to many students, amongst them Parisa. We had posted an LP by Karimi in 2016. 

"The founder of Persian vocal radif repertoire and a very great master of tasnif and tonbak, Ostad Abdollah Davami, was born in Ta village of Tafresh city, Iran, in 1891. As a teenager he discovered that he had a good, audible and suitable voice, so he decided to learn the elementary principles of Persian vocal music. One day he had gone to a gathering in the house of Majd-al-Mamalek that he met Ali Khan Nayeb-al-Saltaneh. After that he became the student of Ali Khan Nayeb-al-Saltaneh for learning radif and Haji Khan, Agha Jan, Sama' Hozur (santoor player) for learning tasnif, and the art of tonbak playing. Because of his talent in learning music, he became friend of great masters of his time such as Mirza Hossein Gholi (tar player), Hossein Khan (kamancheh player), Darvish Khan (tar and setar player), Malek-al-Zakerin (vocalist) and Mirza Abdallah (setar player). He has trained many students. He passed away in 1980."

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Hengameh Akhavan & Mohammad Reza Lotfi - Radio programs broadcast in the 1970s in Tehran, Iran

Here we post a cassette we received in mid or late 1980s from an Iranian lady running a shop of Iranian antique handicrafts in Cologne, Germany. I reguarly visited this very kind and very beautiful lady when I was in Cologne and also bought from her some very beautiful old saddle-bags made by nomadic Kords in Northern Khorasan. We always had long discussions about Iranian music, sitting in her shop surrounded by all these beautiful handicrafts. At that time it was still extremely difficult to find good recordings of Iranian traditional music, except for the few LPs released in the west. She always had one or two cassettes of either classical or regional music for me. I only have very few of these still as later most of them were republished on CD in Iran and from the early 1990s onwards one could obtain them through some Iranian shops in Cologne and Düsseldorf or with the help of an Iranian friend directly from Iran.

This cassette by Hengameh Akhavan was the most outstanding cassette I received from this lady. The music was also later republished on CD, in a series, released in the US, devoted to republish music programs from Iranian radio from before the revolution. These CDs were extremely difficult to get. I never succeeded to obtain this one. The only one I ever obtained - in an Iranian shop in Kensigton, London in the 1990s - was one by the singer Ghavami. The music of the radio program by Hengameh Akhawan sticks completely out from the rest of the music broadcast by Iranian radio.
Hengameh Akhavan was one of the two outstanding classical female vocalists coming up in Iran in the 1970s. The other one was Parisa. In 2013 we posted one of her cassettes and in 2017 an LP from Japan with one beautiful piece by her. 
Hengameh Akhavan was very inspired by and recreated a lot the repertoire of Qamar-ol-Moluk Vaziri (1905-1959), the greatest female voice in Iran ever. See on her:

Hengameh Akhavan in the period of these recordings

Lotfi around the same time

She never became really famous like Parisa and only rarely made tours to the west. Her style is a very pure, very intense old style - she studied under the great Radif master Adib Khansari - and, as we said, she was very inspired by the great Qamar ol-Moluk. 
The recordings we post here are parts of two different programs originally boadcast in the second half of the 1970s. She was accompanied on Tar by the great Mohammad Reza Lotfi (1947-2014) and on Tombak by Bijan Kamkar. At another time we might post one or two cassettes by Lotfi and share some memories. Here he plays in the very traditional Radif style he inherited from his teachers Ali Akbar Shahnazi and Sa'id Hormozi. Next we will post another recording by another singer, the legendary Radif master Abdollah Davami, also accompanied by Lotfi and from the same period.
These recordings were so different from most other Iranian music, especially from Radio programs, and so intense that I was completely blown away by them. The music is deeply emotional, but has not the slightest trace of sentimentality. This is so typical of old music - also in India - and completely got lost in todays music, where the music slips easily into sentimentality.

My friend KF made many years ago a CD out of this cassette and created the covers. Many thanks to him. And many thanks to that very kind Iranian lady. Unfortunately I lost contact with her after she gave up her shop.

Hengameh Akhavan today

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Iran 1 - A Musical Anthology of the Orient - Unesco Collection - LP published in Germany in the early 1960s

Here the LP I promised to post last week. It has a.o. two outstanding long recordings by the singer Golpayegani (born 1933), accompanied on side one by the great Radif master Nur Ali Borumand (1905-1977) and on side two by Asghar Bahari (1905-1995), the great Kemanche master.
Unfortunately the singer later didn't stick to the tradition he inherited from two of the greatest Radif masters of his time: Nur Ali Borumand and the great singer Adib Khansari (1901-1982). Instead he opted for more popular music and the big success.
We don't have Iran II on LP, only on CD. So we will not post it. Anyway, the reason to post this LP was only to point out an early LP containing authentic Dastgah music from Iran and not the deluded version of the so-called Radio musicians. In effect the Dastgah Segah with Nur Ali Borumand is the first publication from the repertoire of this music as it was transmitted by the great Radif masters and completely unknown to the general public, even in Iran. See our post on Dariush Tala'i.
On the musicians see:

The photos on the cover and in the booklet are not depicting the musicians performing on this LP.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Iran Vol. 2 - Anthologie de la musique traditionnelle - Majid Kiani - Santur - LP published in France in 1980

Here the second volume of this marvellous anthology, this time presenting the great Radif master Majid Kiani on Santur. He made a couple of tours to Europe and I was able to attend several times concerts in Holland and in Munich and Cologne, all in the 1990s, if I remember right.
He only released two LPs and one CD in Europe, but in Iran he has quite a number of releases, especially his excellent complete Radif on 4 CDs published in 1992 and a new recording of his Radif on 4 DVDs published in 2006. This LP and the two Radifs I listened to (and watched) many many times over the years. Especially the Radif from 1992, which I was able to obtain at an Iranian Festival in Düsseldorf when it just was published, was a feast for me.
In 2016 we posted a cassette in which he accompanies the great singer Rambod Sodeyf.

The sheer beauty of the music of Majid Kiani leads me to another remark about authentic traditional Dastgah music of Iran: this music has a very contemplative nature, as if contemplating the beauties of nature, an amazing landscape for example, or a very refined magnificent architecture, like one of the many beautiful mosques of Persia, or the secrets of creation and its Creator, expressing and explaining secrets which can't be expressed in words. In this the music is completely detached from the human sorrows and lifts one completely out of them. And this is the mark of all real great music of the Orient: it is never sentimental or dramatic and differs in this respect greatly from modern versions of it, which are always either sentimental or dramatic or both. All this is true also of other great traditions of Oriental music as the real great Indian Raga music or the Maqam music of Uzbekistan, for example.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Iran Vol. 1 - Anthologie de la musique traditionnelle - Dariush Tala'i - Setar & Tar - LP published in France in 1979

We will post now the first two volumes of this excellent series. In 2016 we posted already volume 3 & 4 of this series. See here
When this LP came out in 1979 I bought it immediately. It was for me one of the biggest openings in the domain of tradtional Oriental music I ever had. Before there were already a number of LPs of classical Persian music on the market, but the musicians on these were all from the generation of the so-called Radio musicians. Their aim was to please and entertain a huge public and often was quite sentimental. Their version of the classical Dastgah music lacked most times the depth and the refinement and the amazing inner archtitecture of that music, next to classical North Indian music perhaps the most refined musical tradition of the Orient. 
There was only one exception: on the LP Iran I - A Musical Anthology of the Orient - 4 released by the German label Bärenreiter in the early 1960s there were two long pieces by an excellent singer, on one side accompanied by his master Nur Ali Borumand. I remember well how fascinated I was by this singer and especially the extremely fluid and dense Tar playing of Nur Ali Borumand which was so different from everything else I had heard. By the way, he was one of the teachers of the artist we have here. We hope to be able to post this LP soon.
With this Anthology all of a sudden one was introduced to a completely different calibre of musicians, all students of the last great Radif masters. These Radif masters were completely unknown by the big public and they hardly ever were recorded, except for educational reasons. Nothing was published on LP or otherwise. Only long after their passing away, starting in the 1980s and the 1990s, an Iranian label, Mahoor, published step by step first on cassette and then on CD many recordings by these masters, from private collections or those of institutions. These masters included Ali Akbar Shahnazi, Sa'id Hormozi, Yusef Forutan, Nur Ali Borumand, Musa Mar'ufi, Adib Khansari, Abdollah Davami and some others. Also to this generation belongs the outstanding Abolhasan Saba (1902-1957), who was well-known by the general public as a violin player. But no one except some close musician friends knew that he was also the greatest Setar player of his generation, which he never played in public. Only when in the 1990s some CDs of his Setar playing were published music lovers became aware of his genius.
The last great Radif masters were/are Dariush Safvat, an outstanding Setar and Santur player and a student of Saba, and Hatam Askari (Asgari) Farahani (born 1933), the master of an amazing vocal Radif. In 2011 we posted a set of four cassettes of a short version of his Radif, accompanied on Setar by Dariush Safvat. See here

So when this first LP and the following volumes were released one had for the first time (with the exception mentioned above) the chance to hear the real Dastgah music, in its depth and refinement worlds away from what one was able to listen to before. These LPs were for years amongst my most favourite LPs and I listened to them hundreds and hundreds of times. This music has a depth and inner architecture or inner logic one hardly ever is able to fully grasp. This makes this music forever satisfying because there is always still something which one has not yet reached and which draws one deeper into this music. Todays musicians, with 2 or 3 exceptions next to the two artists we post here, are not really aware of the great heritage they have and don't dive deep into this shoreless ocean to explore it and come up with some never before heard jewels from its depths. They rather opt to create some compositions or do some improviations which the big public likes. One of these 2 or 3 exceptions, a wonderful musician, told once my Iranian friend, that before he starts to play he imagines all his teachers sitting in a half circle in front of him and only when he feels their presence he starts to play. This way he approaches the music with the utmost respect and performs in the spirit of the great tradition he had received from his masters. One feels with all the other well-known musicians that they don't do that and the result is a lack of respect for the tradtion and this makes their music in one way or the other trivial, unfortunately. They always opt for the fast success and not for the hard, but extremely rewarding work. Part of these remarks are, by the way, also true for every great tradition of the Orient, especially Raga music.
The producer of these LPs was the legendary musicologist Jean During, who introduced the west to many great musical traditions of Iran, Azerbaidjan, Central Asia and Baluchistan, by producing LPs and CDs, writing books and bringing these musicians for concerts to Europe.
He wrote a couple of years ago a wonderful book, one of the most excellent books on music I ever read: Musiques d'Iran - La tradition en question. In this book he shows in depth the different levels of Iranian Dastgah music and explains in a way never formulated before the nature of the Radif. This book was another big opening for me, as it formulated things I always felt more or less vaguely, but was unable to formulate..

The artists on these LPs continue the tradition of the great masters mentioned above. Dariush Tala'i became quite known through this LP and later his tours in Europe and other releases. I had the chance to see some of his concerts in Holland in the 1990s.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Orchestre De La Musique Marocaine Andalouse Sous La Direction De Moulay Ahmed Loukili ‎– Insiraf Koddam l'Maia & Insiraf Btaihi l'Maia - LP published in Morocco in the early 1970s or in the 1960s

Here volume 3 (33-011) from the series of 4 volumes of LPs by Moulay Ahmed Loukili. Unfortunately the sound quality is not the best. I guess these recordings are from the archives of Radio Maroc. On this LP are selections from the 5th and from the 3rd movement of Nouba Maya. No idea why they have it in this order. Usually the 3rd movement should come before the 5th one.
We are in the process of buying also volume 4 and hope that we can post it then next.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Orchestre De La Musique Marocaine Andalouse Sous La Direction De Moulay Ahmed Loukili ‎– Sanaye Mine Koddam Listihlal & Mawal Touma Insiraf Bhtaïhi Erak l'Ajam - LP published in Morocco probably in the early 1970s or in the 1960s

Here we continue our series for the beautiful nights of Ramadan. We here post two beautiful LPs by the great Moulay Ahmed Loukili and his orchestra. He was the artist attached to Moroccan radio in Rabat. He had many broadcasts there. One can find quite a number on YouTube, especially if one puts in his name in Arabic: 
مولاي أحمد الوكيلي
Noteworthy are these two channels: 

Our LP here is the second (33-010) of four volumes. The first volume we have only as a CD. So we will not post it here. Next we will post volume 3. In these recordings are some innovations regarding the instruments used in the orchestra, but in total the performances, especially the vocals, are in an old, very beautiful way.
On this LP we have on Side 1 selections from the 5th movement of Nouba Istihlal and on side 2 a Mawal (vocal improvisation) and parts of the 3rd movement of Nouba 'Irak al-'Ajam.

In 2011 we posted an LP which has one side by Moulay Ahmed Loukili and in 2012 another LP with one side by him. See there also detailed information on the artist.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Coran - Sourates 81-114 - Cheikh Hadj Al-Mehdi - Cinquantenaire du Cheikh al-Alawi 1934-1984 - Cassette published in France in 1984

Here another beautiful recording of Qur'an recitation, this time group recitation (Qira'a Jama'iya), which is - at least in this form - special to Morocco and Algeria. In Moroccan mosques often after the morning prayer and the sunset prayer a group of believers used to remain in the mosque, often forming a circle, and to recite one hizb (a sixtieth) of the Qur'an, thus completing every month an entire recitation of the Qur'an. At least it used to be this way a few decades ago. A good part of the reciters knew at that time the Qur'an still by heart, others were reading from the book.
Here we hear the last part of the Qur'an, called Juz' 'Amma, recited under the direction of Shaikh al-Mehdi, probably in the Zawiya of the Alawiya in Mostaghanem, Algeria. Shaikh al-Mehdi was the eldest son of Shaikh Adda Bentounes (1898-1952), the successor of Shaikh Ahmed Alawi (1869-1934), and was head of the Alawiya from 1952 till his death in 1975.
Only one side of this cassette has a recording, but the recording itself is complete.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Abd es-Sadeq Cheqara (Shekara) (1931-1998) - Chekara con la Orquesta Tetuan - LP published 1984 in Spain

Here we start a series of music for the beautiful nights of Ramadan.

Abd es-Sadeq Cheqara was a great singer of not only classical Arabo Andalusian music but also of old folk and Sufi traditions of his home town Tetuan. At the same time he was a virtuoso violin and 'ud player. In Morocco many LPs, cassettes and CDs by him were published over several decades.
We discovered this LP only recently. Unfortunately the copy we bought a couple of months ago is not in perfect shape, but as it seems to be quite rare and the music is very beautiful we decided to post it.
This LP contains next to Arabo Andalusian music on the second half of side 2 some examples of folk music.
By the same artist we posted in 2014 a beautiful LP published in Morocco in the 1970s. See here. In 2011 we posted a cassette of a Sufi ceremony with an Arabo-Andalusian ensemble, which is probably under his direction. See here.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Darkawa - Zawiya Darqawiya fi Madh Khayr al-Baria - A Sufi ceremony - Cassette from Morocco

Here we present a cassette from Morocco with a Dhikr ceremony of the Darqawiyah, a well-known Tariqa in Morocco, a branch of the Shadhiliyah.
The title of the cassette means: "The Zawiya (convent, place in which Dhikr ceremonies take place) of the Darqawa in Praise of the Best of Creation." This hints at the singing of poems of praises of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). But this cassette also contains Dhikr.
As our blogger friend Tim Abdellah who runs the wonderful blog wrote in response to our request for help with the title of this cassette:
"Sometimes poems bearing this phrase ("في مدح خير البرية" (fi madh khayr albaria)) in the title are short, and contain a series of verses beginning or ending successively with each letter of the alphabet, like this:
and this
Some of them, however are much, much longer. It turns out that the famous poem known as Qasidat al-Burda is actually called al-Kawākib ad-Durrīya fī Madḥ Khayr al-Barīya (الكواكب الدرية في مدح خير البرية) "The Celestial Lights in Praise of the Best of Creation". (
I wonder whether your tape contains a poem that is specifically Darqawi in origin, or one that is in general circulation and performed here by some Darqawi brothers. In any case, I'm looking forward to hearing it!
The j-card does read juz' 4 (part 4) الجزء:4 (that means it is volume 4 of a series)
Also, the very fine print reads: تنسيق: عبد الرحيم العمراني which means something like "arranged by Abderrahim Amrani". Amrani is a moqaddem of the Fez Hamadcha, and the musical director of their group as well. So it appears that he has his hand in more than just Hamadcha music in Fez - the contact email listed on the j-card for this Darqawa tape looks like:"
Many many thanks for your very generous and very appreciated help, Tim.

We had posted in 2011 a Dhikr accompanied by Arabo-Andalusian music from a branch of the Darqawiyah. See here
Last year we posted a cassette of Sama' (Sufi singing) of the Alawiyah, a well-known Tariqa in Algeria, which branched off of the Darqawiyah at the beginning of last century. See here.
Over the years we also posted a good number of other cassettes of Sufi singing from Morocco. See under the label Morocco here on the right side.

For infos on the Darqawiyah see:

The letters (Rasail) of Shaikh ad-Darqawi exist in several English and especially French translations.

Our dear friend Danny brought this cassette from a trip to Morocco last year. Many thanks for sharing so generously.

Sidi Ali ibn Mawlay Tayyeb ibn Mawlay al-Arabi Darqawi, a grandson of Shaikh ad-Darqawi, who apparently was a follower of Shaikh al-Alawi.