Performance Friday, November 8, 2013 | 8:30 PM

Dastan Ensemble

Zankel Hall
Parissa has established herself as one of the foremost female vocalists from Iran, acknowledged for her command of the classical and Sufi genres of Persian music. She is joined by the Dastan Ensemble to perform both centuries-old Persian music as well as fresh approaches to rarely heard songs of the past century.


  • Parissa
  • Dastan Ensemble

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • Parissa

    Parissa  is acknowledged as the premier female Iranian classical vocalist of our time. Born in 1950 in Shahsaver (now known as Tonekabon) on the Caspian Sea, she was encouraged at an early age to pursue her musical talents. She was taught initially by her father and soon attracted the attention of the late Mahmood Karimi, a highly respected teacher of classical Persian music whose vast knowledge of the ancient repertoire was fundamental to her career. Prior to the revolution, Parissa had already built a considerable reputation performing on television and in concert halls with major instrumentalists on international tours organized by the Ministry of Culture and Art. In the mid-1970s, she worked with the Center for the Preservation and Dissemination of (Persian) Music in Tehran and performed at festivals in Europe and Japan.

    After the 1979 revolution, Parissa was no longer allowed to perform in public. She devoted herself to her family and giving private lessons. In 1980, however, she was once again invited to teach traditional Persian music at the Center, which she continued to do until 1995, when she was given permission to travel abroad. Since then, she has performed at music festivals and major concert halls throughout the world with many prominent groups and musicians, including Dastan, Dariush Tala'i, Hossein Omoumi, and Iman Vaziri.

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  • Dastan Ensemble

    The  Dastan Ensemble, founded in 1991, has become one of Iran's most important musical groups. It has toured the world, produced many award-winning recordings, and performed and recorded with many of Iran's finest vocalists, including Parissa, Homayoun Shajarian, Salar Aghili, and Sima Bina.

    Hamid Motebassem was born in 1958 in the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran. Raised in a musical family, he began his studies with his father Ali Motebassem, who played the tar. His subsequent teachers included masters Habiballah Salehi, Zeydallah Toloie, Houshang Zarif, Hossein Alizadeh, and Mohammad-Reza Lotfi. Motebassem studied at the Tehran School of Art and the Conservatory of Persian Music. He was a member of Iran's prestigious Chavosh Cultural Center, where he taught music. He was one of the original members of the Aref Ensemble, which was founded by a group of distinguished musicians in 1977. After emigrating to Germany, he founded the Dastan Ensemble, as well as the Chakavak, Mezrab, and Pardis ensembles. He is the founder of the Society of Tar and Setar, and since 1994 has organized annual seminars dedicated to the two instruments. He has performed on numerous albums of contemporary Iranian composers and has been recognized for his own compositions.

    Hossein Behroozinia was born in 1962 in Tehran. His teachers were masters Reza Vahdani, Mansour Ebrahimi (Nariman), and Mohammad-Reza Lotfi. He taught extensively at the Tehran Conservatory of Music and at the Center for the Preservation and Dissemination of (Persian) Music. He was a member of the celebrated Mowlana and Aref ensembles, and joined the Dastan Ensemble in 1992. He has established classes in Persian music in Vancouver, Canada, where he currently resides. He has performed on numerous albums of prominent Iranian composers and on all the Dastan albums since 1992.

    Saeed Farajpoury
     was born in 1961 in Sanandaj, Kurdistan. His teachers were masters Hassan Kamkar, Mohammad-Reza Lotfi, and Hossein Alizadeh. He was a member of the Culture and Art Ensemble of Sanandaj, and has performed with the acclaimed Sheyda, Aref, Avat, and Puyvar ensembles. He joined the Dastan Ensemble in 2000. He has taught kamancheh at the Chavosh Cultural Center, the Center for Preservation and Dissemination of (Persian) Music in Tehran, the Tehran Conservatory of Music, and the Tehran University School of Music. He has performed on various albums of celebrated Iranian composers and all the Dastan albums since 2000.

    Hamin Honari was born in Zahedan, Iran. He grew up in Canada as part of a musical family and studied tombak initially  with Ramin Bahrami and later with Pejman Haddadi. Honari has performed as a percussionist in many different genres of music and toured with various musicians. He currently lives in Vancouver, Canada, where he teaches and performs regularly.

    Arjang Ataollahi was born in 1990 in Tehran, Iran. He began studying the daf with his father and continued his studies under Maestro Masoud Habibi's supervision. He is a multi-instrumentalist and plays many different styles of music. He has performed on Iranian National TV and can be heard on several albums. He has also been a member of the Kereshmeh Ensemble since 2008.

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"Masnavi, Froud"
Cologne Music

The Music

The classical music of Persia has a long and cherished history. Musical treatises and poetry dating from the ninth and tenth centuries attest to the importance of this ancient tradition. Twelfth-century epic poet Nizami described a performance at the sixth century (pre-Islamic) Sassanid court in which 30 songs (alhan) and 100 melodies (dastan) were performed. While Persian and Arab literature abounds with references to this ancient art, there was no attempt to visually codify the music until the introduction of European notation in the 19th century. It is essentially an oral tradition that has been passed on through countless generations of musicians and singers. The instruments used in tonight's performance—such as the 'ud (or barbat), tar, and kamancheh—are ancestors of the European lute, guitar, and violin, respectively. While improvements have been made to them over the years, they have remained fundamentally the same for centuries.

As with most Asian and Middle Eastern music, there is a close link between music and poetry. At times, when the Persian language and identity were under assault (as during the Mongol invasion), it was poetry that kept the culture alive. With religious proscriptions against music and dance at various times, the culture was often maintained through poetry because of its connection to Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that plays such an important part in the lives of the Iranian people. Instrumental music is nearly always performed as part of a suite that includes sung poetry. Improvisation is an essential part of any performance, and the musicians draw on their experience and mastery of technique to convey the emotions described by the song texts while adding their personal interpretations. The performance is shaped by the musicians' knowledge and the sensitivity and mood of the audience. The songs are drawn from a rich history of mystical poetry that ranges from 11th- to 14th-century poets such as Babar Taher, Nizami, Rumi (Molavi), Hafez, Sa'adi, and more modern poets of the 17th to 20th centuries.

Throughout the centuries, in part because of injunctions against music by various rulers, music has tended to be a solitary activity performed by soloists. From the mid-19th century onwards, however, ensembles of four or more musicians became more common (perhaps influenced by European chamber music). Furthermore, Persian music underwent considerable restructuring in the latter half of the 19th century through the introduction of the radif, the collection of ancient repertoire that became the fount from which musicians and students drew their knowledge and inspiration. Like other modal traditions (Arab, Turkish, Indian), Persian classical music is based on the exploration of short melodic pieces known as gushehs. There are close to 400 gushehs grouped into 12 modal systems known as dastaghs. These dastaghs are similar to the Arab maqams and comprise a progression of modally related gushehs in a manner somewhat similar to the progression of pieces in a Baroque suite. The number of gushehs in a dastgah varies from five to 40 or more. It is only when this entire repertoire has been memorized—a process that may take many years—that a musician is able to hone his improvisational skills and thus express the powerful emotions that are inherent in Persian classical music.

—Robert H. Browning

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Robert Browning Associates LLC.
This performance is part of World Views.