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kalhor, Tone of Kurds

Kalhor, a traditional musician and composer whose joint concerts with Persian and foreign musicians have always been very well received.
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Introduction to Kalhor

Kayhan Kalhor was born on November 25, 1963, in Tehran, in a Kurdish music-enthusiast family. He is a composer, a specialized spiked fiddle (Kamancheh) player, as well as Tanbur, Sitar, and his special fiddle (Shah Kaman) player. Kalhor started playing music at the age of five; he started playing music professionally at the age of twelve and collaborated with Parviz Meshkatian, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, and the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization at the time in Iran for a while. He immigrated to Italy at the age of seventeen, then moved to Canada, graduating with a degree in composition from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Master Kalhor’s Style is Traditional Iranian and Kurdish music.

Today in Iran, Kayhan Kalhor is known for the unique sound of his fiddle playing. He considers Ali-Asghar Bahari as his role model in fiddle playing. Kalhor’s Kamancheh technique is distinctive; He does not limit himself to traditional, classic playing styles or one-dimensional looks at the fiddle. He has considered Iran with its various cultures and plays the fiddle, the instrument based on different cultural contexts, with the same perspective. Kalhor has made great efforts to introduce original Iranian music, having achieved worldwide fame by performing various music projects with several universal artists. “Accompaniment with international bands not only has led to the development of me but also Iranian music, in addition, reach to listeners who have never heard such a music before, and that is the goal,” he said.

His Works in Iran

Kalhor first started his serious work co-founded Dastan, which resulted in a concert in Vahdat Hall with Iraj Bastami’s singing. However, his fame is due to his collaboration in the album Shab, Sokoot, Kavir (Night, Silence, Desert) performed by Mohammad Reza Shajarian. The composition and creativity he performed in this work made the album one of the most popular and best-selling albums of the last two decades. He also collaborated with musicians from native regions of Iran, such as Haj Ghorban Soleimani, a Dotar Khorasani musician, a Qoshmeh musician, Ali Apchori, and Hossein Babi, a Dayereh musician. Among his albums made in Iran, we can mention the works with Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Hossein Alizadeh include six albums of It is winter, It Cannot Be Without You, Saze Khamoosh, Faryad, Shab Sokoot Kavir, Soroud-e Mehr. In addition to those albums, In the Mirror of the Sky, Silk Road Journeys, Beyond the Horizon, Through Eternity, Silent City, and Blue As The Turquoise Night of Neyshabur are among his other works.

“Musicians or musicologists should be familiar with mathematics, history, and literature,” said Kayhan Kalhor in an interview.

The legendary fiddle player and artistic ambassador of Iran, Kayhan Kalhor, has had many cultural activities in the traditional and combined music field with world music celebrities.

Collaboration with other Artists

These days, Kayhan Kalhor is a contemporary Iranian music representative in the international arena and has shown the art and taste of Iranian music to the world. He has composed and played with famous Persian artists such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Shahram Nazeri, Hossein Alizadeh, Ali-Akbar Moradi, and members of the Dastan group. Among Kalhor’s other works is the album “The First Morning Meeting,” in which he plays spiked fiddle and improvisation playing in the Chahargah Dastgah with Pejman Haddadi’s tombak. Also, the album “In the Mirror of the Sky,” which is the result of his accompaniment with Ali-Akbar Moradi, the famous tambourine player of Kermanshah, is one of Kalhor’s other works.

Kayhan Kalhor’s presence abroad and his connection with foreign art and academic associations have created a considerable opportunity to introduce original Iranian music to nations.
After a while, he left the Dastan group and started his independent activities alone or with foreign musicians. He is also a member of the Silk Road Ensemble, founded by Chinese-American violinist Yo-Yo Ma. The group won a Grammy Award in February 2017. He has collaborated with international artists including Shujaat Husain Khan from India in Ghazal 1, 2, and 3, Ardal Arzanjan from Turkey, with Kronos Caravan, and Zhao Jiping (President of China National Conservatory of Music) in composing the Silk Road album, which is a collection of film music. He has also collaborated with Alim Qasimov, Azerbaijani musician, Brooklyn Rider, a Musical quartet, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio (Dutch band), and has become a world-renowned artist.

International Works

  • Kayhan Kalhor has performed several concerts in different parts of the world with Turkish Baghlama musician Ardal Arzanjan.
  • Blue As The Turquoise Night of Neyshabur with Yo-Yo Ma
  • The Wind was released in Iran under the name Ta Bikran Dour dast, along with Ardal Arzanjan, and has been released outside Iran by ECM Records.
  • The album Baran is a joint work of Kalhor, master Shujaat Husain Khan and Sandip Das, which was released outside Iran under the name of The Rain by ECM Records and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
  • Rembrandt Trio is a Dutch band whose main instruments are piano, drums, and double bass and are one of the most prominent successful bands in the Netherlands. The Rembrandt Trio started their activity with Kayhan Kalhor in 2011; since then, they have held several concerts with such an artist in prestigious European festivals. In September 2017, the band had a performance in Iran Interior Ministry’s Grand Hall.
  • The album It’s Still Autumn is the result of Rembrandt Trio and Kalhor’s collaboration and musical production. The album consists of two main parts; The first part of the fiddle and the second part of Kalhor use the innovative instrument of Shahkaman. The melodies’ atmosphere is in Shushtari and Isfahan Dastgah. The album, in addition to the technical sophistication of the music, amazes experts. It is so pleasant, impressing every listener.
  • Silent City is an album by Iranian musician Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider, an American string quartet. The album was released in classical and Middle Eastern genres on August 12, 2008. The album consists of 4 tracks, 53 minutes in total; the approximately 30-minute track “Silent City” is known as the album’s core.
    The original idea for the collection came from an order from Harvard University to arrange and perform a string quartet; Kalhor and Ryder decided to produce and release the pieces as a collection called Silent City.
  • Artists such as Jodi Elf, Amber Dark, Ali Bustan, Siamak Aghaei, Colin Jacobsen, and Johnny Gandelsman have collaborated with Kalhor on this album. The album received rave reviews from critics; Christoph Rezaei called the album a successful experience in linking Eastern and Western music. The New York Times called the collection a hypnotic work commemorating Halabjah, a Kurdish village annihilated by Saddam Hussein. Also, the musician described the combination of the Brooklyn Rider quartet sound with the complexity of Kalhor’s melody as mesmerizing.  Silent City reached number 18 on the Classical Crossover Albums Chart Billboard, and Songlines Music Magazine named the collection the best non-verbal album of 2008.
    The album has been performed live several times in European and American cities such as London, New York, Virginia, Chicago, and Minneapolis with Yo-Yo Ma, a Chinese-American cellist.

Awards of Kalhor

  • In 2005 he was awarded the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (“German Record Critics’ Award”).
  • He has been nominated for a Grammy Award with the albums Without You, Faryad, and The Rain.
    At the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017, Kayhan Kalhor, the Silk Road Ensemble, and Yo-Yo Ma won the Grammy Award for Best World Music with their album “sing me home.”
  • Kayhan Kalhor also won the second Isaac Stern International Humanitarian Art Achievement Award.
  • The SISIVC International Violin Competition (SISIVC) Awards Ceremony was held along with the Isaac Stern Human Spiritual Arts Award to Kayhan Kalhor on September 1, 2018, which was also broadcast live on Chinese television.
  • The “Isaac Stern Human Spirit” Award was established in 2016 to honour groups or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to humanity and human issues through music.
  • The Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition is named after the Ukrainian-American violinist. The Stern family will take part in the competition as well in the Chinese port of Shanghai.
  • The Humanitarian Achievement Award was given to Kayhan Kalhor, a prominent Iranian musician whose musical works and goals are designed to take a humanitarian approach beyond his hometown and nationality.
  • In August 2019, the album It is Still Autumn, co-produced by Kayhan Kalhor and Rembrandt Trio, was named one of the top 10 albums of 2019 by Songlines magazine.
  • He also was the winner of the Bita Prize in 2019.
  • He won the Artist Award at the WOMEX Awards, the World Music Expo 2019, in Finland. Kayhan Kalhor presented the award to Master Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the Golden Throat of Persian music and the custodian of classical music. A few days before this great honour for Iranian music, he had canceled his concert in Turkey due to the Turkish army’s attack on the Syrian Kurds.
  • The globalFEST 2020 Awards in the Artist of the Year category belonged to Kayhan Kalhor, music composer, sitar, and fiddle player. The global award belonged to Iranian artist Kayhan Kalhor in the Artist of the Year category, Tom Schnabel in the Impact category, and Lisa Stafford in the Creative Work category, both from the United States. The ceremony took place in New York without the presence of Kayhan Kalhor.
  • Kayhan Kalhor, a talented fiddle player and Grammy Award winner with the Silk Road band has been named one of the top 20 musicians in the world by the English Songlines Magazine. Moreover, On the twentieth anniversary of the magazine, Songlines has selected and introduced the names of 20 of the most prominent artists in the world in a list that also includes Kalhor’s name.

Kayhan Kalhor and Soul Animation

Kayhan Kalhor, a master fiddle player and one of the contemporary Iranian musicians, has also worked in composing films soundtrack. Soul Animation is a new product from Pixar, directed by Pete Docter, the designer of UP animation and inside-out, released on December 25, 2020, on the eve of the New Year. In a short period, Soul Animation becomes a controversial and, of course, popular film. Even in many polls, it has received the title of one of the best animations of the century. But Iran also had a role in this animation with Kayhan Kalhor’s footsteps. You will see Master Kalhor’s name as the music consultant of this project in the final credits, and he is especially appreciated. His name is mentioned alongside famous musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and Quincy Jones. Kayhan Kalhor’s work in soul animation is undoubtedly one of the lasting events in the music of Iran. Kalhor has already appeared in Hollywood, collaborated with well-known directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, the director of the Godfather movie series.

Online concert at Tehran Abgineh Museum

Kayhan Kalhor, a traditional musician and composer whose joint concerts with Persian and foreign musicians as well as his fiddle soloist have always been very well received, played fiddle solo online to provide a pleasant hour for his fans on the pandemic days, on May 21, 2020. In this concert, which was broadcast online from his official Instagram page, Kalhor brought at least 25,000 interested people from different cities with him and his instrument to the Tehran Abgineh Museum. The musician started his concert with a song in the Se-Gah Dastgah, then performed other pieces in the Chahar-Mezrab and Abu Atta Dastgah. Kalhor performed the two most famous pieces, which he had previously performed with Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Hossein Alizadeh in concerts, as a solo player with a sitar instrument for the audience this time.

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