Review: Kayhan Kalhor With Ali Bahrami Fard - I Will Not Stand Alone
I Will Not Stand Alone
|Artist:||Kayhan Kalhor With Ali Bahrami Fard|
|Album:||I Will Not Stand Alone|
|Date of Release:||2012/01/24|
|Country of Release:||US/UK|
2. World | Trad.
|Sub-Genre/s:||1. Persian, Iranian, Contemporary
2. Persian, Iranian, Contemporary
|Date of Review:||2012/05/15|
I Will Not Stand Alone
Kayhan Kalhor's I Will Not Stand Alone with Ali Bahrami Fard was released this January on the prestigious World Village label. A new release by Kalhor is always something to be eagerly looked forward to, but in this case the anticipation was heightened even more by the fact that it was going to be the first recording with a new instrument specially designed for the maestro.
Maestro, or to use the Persian term, Ostad Kayhan Kalhor should need no introduction to followers of the more serious strand of world music, or for that matter of contemporary classical music or Persian classical music. Kalhor is not only the supreme maestro of the kemancheh, the Persian spiked fiddle (which he also brought to renewed prominence after it had been largely eclipsed by the violin in Iran) but also of Iranian music, and is indisputably Iran's greatest composer, trained in both the Persian and Western classical traditions. An original member of cellist Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, for all of whose four albums he has composed as well as played, four times Grammy nominee Kalhor has always been a keen explorer of cross-cultural music and participated in numerous other ensembles, many of which he co-founded or founded, such as Ghazal, a meeting point as it were with North Indian musicians using the common form of the ghazal, based on the poetic form of the same name. He has also collaborated with the Kronos Quartet and written a number of works for renowned Western symphony orchestras, and much besides.
Ostad Ali Bahrami Fard is one of the leading masters of the Persian santoor (also transliterated as santour and santur), the origin of hammered dulcimers, cimbaloms, and the Chinese Yang Qin (or 'foreign zither') of his generation. He is a long time collaborator with Kalhor and his ensembles, and has also co-founded other ensembles. An accomplished composer, Fard has composed works for theatre, film and television. He also teaches santoor, music theory and composition at Shiraz University in Iran.
Some notes on the instruments used on I Will Not Stand Alone will not be amiss. Kalhor plays a new instrument specially designed for him by Australian instrument maker Peter Biffin, the shah kaman (royal or king bow). It is a hybrid that combines elements of the kemancheh (little bow; Persian 'cheh' is a diminutive, hence keman - bow - and cheh - little) with the Chinese er hu, also a spiked fiddle, and the Turkish tanbur, while adding seven sympathetic strings. In appearence strongly resembling the conventional kemancheh, the shah kaman adds a fifth playing string, extending the range downward. Its timbre sometimes resembles that of a viola, sometimes of a cello, while also being capable at times of sounding darker than any member of the fiddle family that I can think of.
The bass santoor, also a relatively new instrument, is larger and an octave lower than the standard instrument. Its timbre is a little darker and heavier in its lower register than the standard instrument, and somewhat fuller in its upper registers.
But to I Will Not Stand Alone itself. The sheer energy of this work sometimes reminds of Kalhor's earlier solo recording, from the 1990s if memory serves, Scattering Stars Like Dust. The emotional gamut is wide, covering almost every emotion from despair and loneliness through to optimism and affirmation. It is also extremely intense. I Will Not Stand Alone raises goose bumps, moves to tears, sends shivers down the spine, raises hair.
The virtuosity, sensitivity and deep, intense musicianship of both Kalhor and Fard are a breath-taking delight. Their empathy borders on telepathy.
The eight tracks of I Will Not Stand Alone could be seen as a broadly thematic suite. The album arose out of a dark period in Kalhor's life and moves towards the light of hope and affirmation. The very title I Will Not Stand Alone could, in the context, be seen as a powerful political statement. But the music itself is the message. It is one of utmost beauty.
This music's haunting beauty casts a magic spell, rather than being merely compelling it totally mesmerises and makes one want to listen to I Will Not Stand Alone again and again. And again. Kalhor's genius shines through the brilliance of this album. Its energy, spirituality and intensity could drive you insane. It's that brilliant. Awesome or magnificent are not sufficient to describe this album.
Almost needless to say, Kayhan Kalhor With Ali Bahrami Fard's I Will Not Stand Alone is an absolute must have for any contemporary classical, Persian classical and world music aficionado. This music is universal. Anybody should hear it. If you buy only one album this year, I Will Not Stand Alone must be it.
There is an all too rare opportunity coming up to catch Kalhor live in the UK. The Maestro Kayhan Kalhor Ensemble - Passionate Poems Of Rumi will be at The Queens Hall, Edinburgh on 14th June 2012 and at the Barbican Centre, London on 15th June. The performance includes pieces from I Will Not Stand Alone. More information and tickets at Swan Promotions.
NB (2012/05/28) - Since this review went live, due to unforeseen circumstances there has been a change to the personnel of the concerts referred to above. Turkish baglama maestro and singer Erdal Erzincan now replaces maestro Kayhan Kalhor's Ensemble, and the concerts have been renamed Kayhan Kalhor & Erdal Erzincan - Passionate Poems Of Rumi. For more details please see the 'News' section for 2012/05/28 on the 'Other WorldMusic' page.
1. Between The Heavens And Me - 14:21
Kayhan Kalhor - shah kaman
Ali Bahrami Fard - bass santour
I Will Not Stand Alone can be purchased from:
World Village/Harmonia Mundi Online Store
Other online sources and stores
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