Persian music has always been a main staple in my life drawing me into its unique melodies and vibrant tunes authentic to the Middle East. Yet, over the years my taste in Persian music has evolved to include various artists which best represents my cultural roots. Classical Persian music is among my favorites, combining ancient Persian poetry with sentimental rhythms and notes. Renowned setar player, musician and music teacher Kourosh Taghavi is among one of few artists I enjoy listening to while working.
After leaving Iran shortly after the revolution to resettle in San Diego, California, Taghavi entered the world of music after witnessing a performance by his mentor Mohammed Reza Lafti one day. It was right then and there
that Taghavi tossed his bio chemistry books and decided to pursue Persian classical music full time, training with master musicians including Hossein Alizadeh.
As the founding member of the Namaad Ensemble, Taghavi regularly travels throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia striving to increase awareness of music in people’s lives.
Although Mr. Taghavi recently visited Atlanta to perform at the Persian Cultural Center, I unfortunately missed
the opportunity while covering another event. Yet as luck would have it, I received the chance to conduct a phone interview shortly before his performance. Below is my brief Q&A with the maestro himself. Please Enjoy and Share!
How has Classical Persian music survived?
Classical Persian music is one of the most important aspects of Persian culture and has existed for hundreds of
years, It is a part of Persian festivities whether religious or otherwise and has also been a part of rituals related to various nationalities within Iran including Turks. Yet, we share two things in common with other cultures in Iran; Farsi and classical Persian music. Throughout Iran, regional music exists outside classical Persian music which is why it has inevitably become a big part of our culture. Countless artists within Iran are thus not only trained in Classical Persian music but regional compositions familiar to them.
Persian poetry, also plays a big part of the Persian culture and is equally a great compliment to classical Persian music as it is designed to perfectly match the rhythm.
Also, in the past 30 years, Persian parents have encouraged their children to pick up instruments which has inevitably fostered a greater appreciation for classical Persian music.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Most musicians who perform classical Persian music strive to become improvisers, which is the closet thing to life its self because it has everything to do with how you live your life, how you have lived your life and how you as a person absorb various cultures, literature and politics. The culmination of these values inevitably influence one’s music and the melodies themselves.
I personally draw my inspiration from previous musicians and songs which existed before me, events which shape my character, daily life and societal concerns inside and outside Iran. As musician I’ve learned to create and compose various renditions of songs which have been featured before me and try to use a unique grammar if you will to express my own ideas and thoughts through a unique language.
How has your culture influenced your music?
Various similarities exist between classical Persian music and poetry which influences my music. Societal and political issue in Iran also play a large part. However I always find myself drawn to the past and various Persian poets including Hafez, Molana and Saadi to contemporary works by Feraydoon Moshiri to understand what they they
are striving to convey and how they’ve approached similar situations to generate new melodies and express what I think and feel.
How can the next generation preserve Persian classical music?
My hope for the next generation of Persian musicians is that they understand their craft and work at it. Persians already possesses a strong backbone regarding the culture, all they have to do is look behind them to discover an array of artists who will help shape and influence their own avenues.
How do you expect classical Persian music to survive in the midst of various genres such as rap and pop?
We are still listening to Beethoven, Bach and Mozart, but why is that? If something possesses a sense of quality it is bound to resonate with people and survive. Persian music has survived countless invasions by so many cultures throughout history from Arabs to Moguls and at times Western cultures, but its survived because it has something to offer. I think Persian classical music in time will become more popular as individuals find ways to express themselves. Great cultures have always found unique ways to share their culture, language and emotions and I don’t think Persian classical music is an exception.
How can musicians, such as yourself, generate attract international audiences to classical Persian music?
Growing up in Iran, I recall listening to a record of Beethoven’s 5th symphony for the first time and thought
this is so beautiful. I had no idea what classical music was or what counter point and harmony were, yet the sheer beauty of this form of music, which is the closest thing to life itself, captured my attention because it was composed with a great deal of talent and beauty. If classical Persian music is similarly performed within its original language which includes a high degree of proficiency and artistry combined with the artists emotions it will inevitably capture people’s attention. I have countless friends who are non-Persian but enjoy the artistry and soulfulness infused within classical Persian music. As long as an art form is created with dignity, honesty and artistry it will continue to draw in various audiences.