Perisan music in the Playhouse by Kayhan Kalhor

Kayhan Kalhor playing the kamencheh.

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.

Sustainability at Shangri La

The recent devastation on the East Coast reminds us that our planet is a precious and fragile resource that must be cared for. Under the direction of Lead Groundsworker Steve Ebisuya, we have been implementing a number of sustainable practices at Shangri La in order to reduce our impact on the environment.

Shangri La's compost pile. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

For starters, we have been composting small leaves and lawn clippings. Groundsworkers water the pile regularly and use an organic fertilizer to help break down the leaves. After 2 ½ to 3 months, fresh compost, rich in humus and micronutrients, is ready to be used to help new and newly transplanted plants get established. The compost, along with store-bought manures, helps to regulate the pH of our soil, and helps plants to absorb nutrients more effectively. Plant and tree clippings that are too big to compost (on average, we generate about a ton every one to two weeks) get trucked to Hawaiian Earth Products, where they’re turned into mulch.

Water from the Mughal Garden channel is used to water the grass and fill the ponds. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Water in the Mughal Garden water channel and waterfall (about 6,700 and 2,000 gallons, respectively) gets recycled each time those features are drained for cleaning. Steve and the grounds and maintenance crew have been using a gas pump to remove the water, which is then used to water the lawn and fill up the Playhouse pond and lily pond. Watering only on alternate days is another way we’re trying to conserve water.

Projects in the works include growing our own red ginger for the living room floral displays and installing automatic sprinkler systems in select areas. We’re really proud of our dedicated crew—Shangri La looks beautiful because of their efforts.