On October 27, 2012, the DDFIA partnered with the Honolulu Chamber Music Series and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to present Kayhan Kalhor, one of the great masters of the traditional music of Iran, and one of Persian music’s supreme innovators. Kalhor presented a captivating hour-long solo performance of traditional Persian kamencheh music in the Playhouse at Shangri La; it was an evening that none of those who attended will ever forget. Through his music, Kalhor evoked a soulful narrative that incorporated the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean and the chirping of a flock of birds who, apparently entranced by Kalhor’s music, settled in a nearby tree for the duration of his performance.
The kamencheh, which is the precursor to the modern violin, dates back to the pre-Islamic era before the Arab conquest of 642 AD. Made from Persian walnut or mulberry wood, it has an unusual horsehair bow that can be slack or pulled taut by the musician’s fingers, evoking a broad range of sounds. Kalhor explained that this is a music of contemplation and meditation, which is linked through poetry to Sufism.
“When the Western violin was introduced into Iran at the end of the nineteenth century, a lot of people put their kamanchehs aside in favor of violins,” Kalhor said. “The violin was Western, fashionable and chic. Later, I did find kamancheh teachers, and now I am a teacher myself, helping to preserve classical Persian music as well as to create new kinds of music.”
As a three-time Grammy nominee, Kalhor has been instrumental in popularizing Persian music in the West and is a creative force in today’s music scene through his musical collaborations. He has studied the music of Iran’s many regions, Khorason and Kurdestan in particular, and has toured the world as a soloist with various ensembles and orchestras. He is co-founder of the renowned ensembles Dastan, Ghazal: Persian & Indian Improvisations and Masters of Persian Music. Kalhor has composed works for Iran’s most renowned vocalists, Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri, and has performed and recorded with Iran’s greatest instrumentalists. A frequent collaborator of Yo-Yo Ma in the Silk Road Ensemble, he has also partnered with the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de Lyon, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Osvaldo Golijov.
While in Hawai‘i, Kalhor presented two additional performances with the genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Arts. In these performances, Kalhor demonstrated the more contemporary side of his musical talent.