Middlebury

East meets East in the unique sound of Ghazal

October 7, 2003

GhazalMIDDLEBURY, Vt.?Two distinct, ancient traditions will come together when Ghazal shares a unique musical dialogue of Indian and Persian sounds at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26, in the Middlebury College Center for the Arts Concert Hall.

World music fans will enjoy Ghazal, which pairs Iranian Kayhan Kalhor with Indian Shujaat Husain Khan. Kalhor plays an instrument called a kamancheh, a four-string cousin to the Western violin sometimes referred to as a Persian spike violin. Khan sings and plays a sitar, a precursor to the modern electric guitar. Accompanying them is Indian tabla player Sandeep Das.

While Western listeners became familiar with Indian classical music in the 1960s, Persian musical traditions have been less accessible to the outside world. Ghazal describes the two as musical cousins that trace their connection back to centuries of Moghul rule in northern India which left a strong Persian influence on Indian arts and culture. The term ghazal itself is found in both cultures: the Persian reference is a genre of poetry blending spirituality and carnal desires while the Indian term refers to a form of semi-classical love songs still popular today. 

Improvisation is at the heart of both traditions and Ghazal likens its sound to a dialogue. "It's like meeting someone with no preconceived notions. Just as you talk, so we play," Khan said in a Toronto Star interview. "Ghazal suggests poetry, words. That's the one thing in common between us. There is an exchange of words, of a musical language."

Both Khan and Kalhor are masters of each of their genres, playing their native sounds since boyhood and winning honors for their solo efforts. Known in India as a virtuoso sitarist, Khan is descended from a long line of northern Indian or Hindustani sitar masters. His style of playing is called gayaki ang, which imitates the human voice. In 2001 he received India's highest award for a classical musician under age 45. He currently is a visiting professor at the University of California School of the Arts in Los Angeles.

Kalhor is a master kamancheh player who began his career at age seven and has performed with and composed for some of Iran's most prominent artists. He studied Western classical music in Rome and Ottawa. This year, he was nominated for the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music.

Das, the third member of the trio on this tour, is considered a rising star, accompanying a variety of musicians in India and abroad. He toured with Kalhor as part of cellist Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.

Ghazal's acclaim comes from its style, energy and spontaneity. The Los Angeles Times called the sound "utterly captivating," in a 1998 review. "Neither precisely Indian nor Persian . Kalhor and Khan blended into an irresistible expression of creative musical passion." Billboard magazine called it simply "world music at its best."

Khan and Kalhor began their collaborative relationship in 1997 with their first recording on the Shanachie label. Their current release is their first on ECM called "The Rain," a live recording of a 2001 concert in Bern, Switzerland. 

Ghazal's performance is sponsored by two Middlebury College organizations?the  Performing Arts Series and Brainerd Commons?as well as the Christian A. Johnson Foundation.

The Middlebury College Center for the Arts is on South Main Street (Route 30).  Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors. For tickets or information, call the College Box Office at 802-443-6433, or visit online at www.middlebury.edu/arts/.

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