Friday, 29 June 2018

Madjid Kiani - Santour - Radif - LP released in 1977 in France

Now we continue with our Iran series. There will be two more posts after this one. Then there will be three posts by the outstanding Kemencheh master Habil Aliyev from Azerbaijan. Then a Ney cassette from Turkey, a double LP of traditional music from Tajikistan and finally an LP with music from Afghanistan. After this we will return to Indian classical music, insha'Allah. So now back to Iran:

Around the same time the two outstanding LPs by Dariush Tala'i and Majid Kiani were released on Ocora, Harmonia Mundi also released LPs by these artists. First we post the one by Majid Kiani released in 1977. These four LPs are perhaps the most beautiful ones of authentic Iranian music ever published. They were for a long time my favourite LPs and are still. Just now while preparing these posts I have listened to each of them again at least 10 times and will certainly many more times.

Regarding the term Radif, on which all classical Iranian music is based, we have included into the download files a pdf file taken from the booklet, written by the Radif master Dariush Tala'i, to the 5 CDs by him: Radif - Volume I to V, released by Al Sur in 1994 in France (ALCD 116 to 120). 
The Radif is a very refined and rich system of modes and melodies, very different from the Raga system and also the Near Eastern Maqam system. The Radif is normally never played in its entirety, except for educational reasons. The musician either chooses parts from a Dastgah of the Radif and performs them, eventually adding some improvisations and developments. Or the main body of the performance is improvisation and development based on a limited amount of selections from a Dastgah from the Radif. In order that these really turn out well with depth and meaning the musician needs a deep understanding of the Radif, which most of the contemporary and even a lot of the older musicians don't have. In effect the Radif is something, one has to dive deep into and the really good and authentic musicians never stop to do that.
Today the Radif is most times understood just as a body of modes and melodies, from which one can borrow pieces freely and then create ones own thing out of it. They don't realise that there are many meanings and secrets hidden in it and many levels of understanding, which only unfold slowly if one dives deep into it and searches to discover them. And this search never has an end. This is also true for the listener. Musicians like Majid Kiani and Dariush Tala'i are completely permeated by the Radif.
All this is described in a very detailed way by Jean During in his excellent book Musiques d'Iran - La tradition en question.
See also:

Comments function to our posts didn't work for over a month

Dear music lovers, it slowly dawned on me only two days ago that the comments function doesn't work anymore since over a month. First I thought that I don't receive any comments because the music I posted recently definitely interests most visitors of this blog much less than Indian music.
My dear blogger friend Richard from Flat, Black and Classical: Indian Classical Music on Vinyl and Cassette signaled a similar problem recently. This finally made me think that with the comment function on my blog something must be wrong. I contacted Richard and his response was very helpful, as always. Now everything works again and by now I moderated almost all of the comments. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

G. S. Sachdev (Gurbachan Singh Sachdev) (1935-2018) passed away - In his memory his second LP released in India in 1976

This morning I received the sad news that G.S. Sachdev has passed away from my dear blogger friend Richard at: Flat, Black and Classical: Indian Classical Music on Vinyl and Cassette. May he rest in peace.

Gurbachan Singh Sachdev was a well-known Indian performer of the Bansuri (Bamboo Flute). He was initially a protege of Vijay Raghav Rao, with whom he studied for twelve years intensively. He then continued his studies with Ravi Shankar and later with Ali Akbar Khan. He holds a degree in music from Gandharav Mandal University in Bombay. A big part of his life he spend in the US teaching, giving concerts and recording. I saw him twice in Amsterdam, I guess in the late 1990s or early 2000s. He seemed to be a very gentle and humble man. I only had a short talk with him. He had a very devote public in Holland. I remember that I was surprised that he was so well-known in Holland. Probably from previous concert tours.


Saturday, 23 June 2018

Mohammad Reza Shajarian - Mahur - Concert in 1989 - Cassette produced to be sold at the 1989 European tour.

Here a concert by the very well-known Mohammad Reza Shajarian (born 1940), a very accomplished singer who touched publics world wide with his very refined, deep, introverted art. The 1989 tour was especially noteworthy as the repertoire and the musicians were the most traditional imaginable. He was accompanied just by a trio of very traditional artists. 
Especially Dariush Pirniakan, the Setar player, is a great master of both the Tar and Setar. He studied with the great Radif masters of mid last century, especially Ali Akbar Shahnazi, more or less the same masters Dariush Tala'i had, but he seems to stick even closer to what he had inherited. Mahoor released a while ago two solo CDs by him, both on Tar, both outstandingly beautiful. He worked in the late 1980s and early 1990s very closely with Shajarian and made about seven CDs with him: the three volumes from this tour of 1989, first published as cassettes, in Mahur, in Abu 'Ata and in Bayat-e Zand & Afshari, from the tour a year later one in Shur with the same group except that as Tombak player for the first time Shajarians son Homayoun Shajarian appeared. And then three CDs with Ensemble Ava under his direction: "Aram-e Jan" - Concert in Afshari, "Rosvaye Del" - Concert in Segah and "Aseman 'Eshgh" also in Segah.
The other two musicians are Jamshid Andalibi, a fine Ney player, and Morteza Ayan, who plays very elegantly the Tombak. 
I was at a couple of these concerts and bought this cassette at their concert in Cologne. In total I saw over the years at least fifteen concerts by Shajarian, most times with my wife who loved his music very much. At the last ones I was a little sceptical if the concert would still touch me and went there mainly because my wife wanted to go, but it always did touch me surprisingly strongly. He is a strongly introverted artist and hardly moves, everything coming from the chest. The maximum movement I noticed was that in very intense moments his hand would rise about a centimeter or two from his knee and then fall back on it again.

On the artist see:
He published over 30 CDs and DVDs. There exist also some books written on him and his art. In 2016 we posted another cassette by him.

One good thing about the 1979 revolution in Iran related to music: as popular, westernised and night club (casino) music was forbidden, including the entertainment version of classical Iranian music played on the radio, a young generation educated by the great Radif masters at the Center for Preservation and Propagation of Iranian Music received an enormous chance to come forward. Starting in the early 1980s singers like Shajarian and many others and instrumentalists like Dariush Tala'i had many cassette and later CD releases and had many chances to give concerts. In this era also the publication of the existing recordings of the great masters, who were completely ignored before, started in exemplary editions. The only downsize: female singers were not allowed to perform in public, except for a purely female public. 

The concert here consists of a long Dasgah Mahur with these sections:

Side 1:
Saz va Avaz (vocal improvisation accompanied by an instrument) - Ghazal by Hafez
Tasnif - Ghazal by Hafez
Saz va Avaz (vocal improvisation accompanied by an instrument) - Ghazal by Hafez

Side 2:
Tasnif - Ghazal by Hafez
Saz va Avaz (vocal improvisation accompanied by an instrument) - Ghazal by Hafez

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 three cassettes and later as a set of three 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.