Traditional arts and culture organisation Pusaka is no stranger when it comes to merging old world culture and niche music shows in its annual roster. Last November, it organised Malian desert blues group Tinariwen’s concert in Kuala Lumpur. Back in 2015, Pusaka introduced locals to names like Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Qasimov and Pakistan-based Mehr and Sher Ali Qawwali Ensemble.
Next month, Pusaka will present the Under The Persian Musical Sky concert featuring brothers Kiya (setar) and Ziya Tabassian (tombak), the co-founders of Montreal, Canada-based group Constantinople. In this touring show, Kiya, 42, and Ziya, 39, will team up with kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor, 54, to offer a tribute to Iran’s vast musical landscape.
The Under The Persian Musical Sky showcase will take place at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 15. The event is a collaboration between Pusaka and IAMM.
“One of the things that captivated me about Iranian music is its improvisatory nature, its lyricism, its poetry that translated into sound and the very complicated and elaborate musical structure,” says Eddin Khoo, Pusaka’s founder-director.
“Overall, the music is very reflective and spiritual. If you look at Iranian music, there’s the very complicated and complex technical side but it has another dimension which is subliminal and transcendental,” he adds.
Kayhan is definitely the main draw at the Under The Persian Musical Sky concert.
The soulful master musician on the kamancheh (spike fiddle) is a native of the Kurdish city of Kermanshah in Iran and began performing music in his early childhood. He is now based in the United States.
Last year, he picked up a Grammy award as a collaborator on Yo Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble’s Sing Me Home album, which won the Grammy for Best World Music.
Kayhan is an original member of Yo-Yo Ma’s acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble and his works are heard on all of the ensemble’s albums.
Kayhan, who is deeply devoted to Iranian classical repertoire, also studied regional folkloric traditions, which added additional layers to his improvisations. He is renowned for his original works, his interpretations of traditional music, and his collaborations with classical musicians.
In 2007, he was the featured soloist on the soundtrack of Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, a score on which he collaborated with Argentine classical music composer Osvaldo Golijov.
Kiya and Ziya, who formed Constantinople in 1998, play the setar (stringed instrument) and tombak (goblet drum) respectively.
As curious musicians and world travellers, Kiya and Ziya are professionally active in early music (medieval, Renaissance and Baroque), as well as contemporary and world music. They also perform with several other musical groups, including the Ensemble Caprice (Ziya) and Nowrouz (Kiya). Both have played concerts in almost 40 countries in some prestigious festivals and concert halls.
Under The Persian Musical Sky is the first concert in Pusaka’s Music of the Islamic World series, which Khoo hopes will become a regular series.
The series aims to present a rich tapestry of culture and performing arts from the Islamic world to Malaysian audiences. The series offers a wide-ranging programme that encompasses public performances, workshops, masterclasses and talks.
There will be a public talk and a workshop respectively at the IAMM on Sept 15-16. Admission is free for both the events.
On Sept 15, Khoo will be presenting the hour-long Music Of The Islamic World: An Introduction session at 3pm.
Kayhan and the Tabassian brothers will be conducting the Workshop On Persian Classical Music on Sept 16 at 2pm. Participants of this workshop will learn about the instruments, aesthetics, modes and rhythms of Persian music as well as the fundamentals and techniques of improvisation.
Under The Persian Musical Sky is on at the Auditorium, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Jalan Lembah Perdana in KL on Sept 15. Time: 8.30pm. Tickets are priced at RM350 (VIP), RM250 (premier) and RM180 (standard). For tickets, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 6017-659 9536. FB: Pusaka.