Nur-Ali Elahi | Tanbur Solo 6 (Presence)

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Folk: Traditional Folk Folk: Traditional Folk Moods: Spiritual
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Tanbur Solo 6 (Presence)

by Nur-Ali Elahi

This collection includes tanbur solo playing by Ostad Nur-‘Ali Elahi
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Nakisa & Barbad Suite
7:12 $0.99
2. Reunion of Nakisa & Barbad
13:35 $0.99
3. Farangi Suite
11:25 $0.99
4. Baba Jalili Invocation
11:51 $0.99
5. Yaran Va Baten Ye Dangi Mayu
1:40 $0.99
6. Ya Soltan, Aman, Agerem Dai
4:37 $0.99
7. Harati Suite
10:40 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Track 1. Nakisâ and Bârbad Suite
Nakisâ and Bârbad are two characters from ancient Persia, famous court musicians of the Sassanid King Khosrow Parviz in the early 7th century (pre-islamic period). According to Jean During, "we owe to Bârbad the invention and classification of a large number of melodies and modes; some thirty tunes have come down to us”. He is traditionally credited with inventing the musical system incorporating seven modal structures known as “royal modes” (Khosrovâni), thirty derived modes (lahn) and three hundred and sixty melodies (dastân) corresponding to the number of days in the week, month and year of the Sassanid calender. His favourite instrument was the barbat, a sort of tanbur considered to be the oldest stringed instrument in Iran.
It is said that Bârbad had a considerable reputation even before he became a famous court musician. The court favourite at the time, Sarkis, was jealous of Bârbad’s reputation and (fearing that he would be overshadowed) prevented him from coming to the court. One day, Bârbad met the royal gardener and persuaded him to allow him to remain in the garden incognito when the King came for a walk. At the appropriate time, Bârbad came in and hid in a tree. The King arrived with his courtiers. As he was being served a goblet of wine, Bârbad began to play. The King was amazed and asked who was playing, but Bârbad stopped and stayed hidden. He began playing again as a second goblet was served to the King. Again, the King was deeply moved by the music, but Bârbad did not emerge. When the third goblet was served, Bârbad and his instrument set nature to music with such emotion that the king stood up and cried: “this must be an angel sent by god to bring us joy!”.
He begged the musician to show himself. Bârbad came down from the tree, fell to his knees and, from that moment, was the incomparable court musician. His name reflects his new status, as Bâr means “court” and Bad means “possessor”.
It is said that Bârbad musical supremacy was such that he could evoke at will any feeling in his audience. It is also said that king had a black horse, called shabdiz, which he loved above all things, to the extent that he had decreed if shabdiz should die, the person announcing such news to him would be executed. The fateful day came and nobody dared tell the king the sad news. Bârbad was given the task. so he composed a tune he called Shabdiz. When he went to the King and played it for him, the King exclaimed: “Shabdiz is dead!”. Bârbad Said: "Yes". So the King himself announced the Shabdiz death and no one didn't kill for it.
Sources disagree as to whether Nakisâ was a man or a woman and whether s/he was born in Persia or in Greece. His/her favourite instrument was the harp and s/he was equally famous as a singer, whit a musical standing almost as great as Bârbad’s. They met at the court of King Khosrow Parviz and collaborated on the composition of the “royal modes”.
In kurdish gnosis, Nakisâ and Bârbad are considered to be bound by a deep and enduring spiritual love, comparable to that between Joseph and Jacob or Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. They endured the trial of separation and were finally reunited after overcoming a number of obstacles (tradition dose not tell us the circumstances of either their parting or their reunion).
According to Jean During, Nakisâ and Bârbad is "a (dastgâh), an Iranian mode with no particularly marked Kurdish character. It seems to belong properly to the School of Ostâd Elâhi. Its noble and serene expression suits equally well the instrumental solo as the cantillation of Kalâms or mystical verses." Ostâd Elâhi liked to honour the memory of these two illustrious musicians and often referred to them when he played their melody in the middle of an improvisation. In this piece, after a short introduction, the rhythm becomes livelier; the playing grows louder, then takes an unexpected turn. A series of sudden changes occurs, achieving integration only as a result of the virtuosity and technical mastery of the performer.

Track 2. Reunion of Nakisâ and Bârbad
We are immediately plunged into the the heart of an intense musical landscape where rhythm and melody evolve along lines of continually renewed inspiration. These successive changes are perfectly executed: notes added in a different mode, strong tempi sliding into a different rhythm, risky transpositions, unlikely modulations... These are just a few examples of the boldness and complexity of Ostâd Elâhi’s musical project.
Towards the end of the piece, the music gathers speed as if to take the listener into a dance of joy with a captivating rhythm. Nakisâ and Bârbad are reunited and their purely spiritual love intensifies with each moment they spend together; an exaltation expressed by the virtuosity and inventiveness of the performer.

Track 3. Farangi Suite
A recording of farangi appeared on the CD Dialogue with the beloved. Let us remember here that farangi, (lit. “Frankish”, “European”) has the sense of “foreign”, “strange”. “farangi tuning” (kuk-e farangi) is when the tanbur is tuned in seconds rather than the usual fourths. This gives it an unusual color and atmosphere and allows great subtlety as the thumb plays on the low string. Ostâd Elâhi introduced this tuning to the tanbur; it is one rarely encountered in the Oriental lute family of instruments.
Praise to the Divinity is at the heart of this piece. It is preceded by a preparation, a sort of introduction which is characteristic of Ostâd Elâhi and to which he held the key. It creates shades of meaning around lively playing in unison. Just as an orchestra tunes in prepration for a concert, successive desks playing an A, so the musician seems to introduce all the creatures taking part in the celebration and have them play in unison.
The hymn of praise unfolds during the zang-e shotori theme, reaching a dense climax. Then, step by step, the atmosphere lightens until a passage of gentle sweetness is reached, where the murmur of the voice seems to fuse with the tanbur to express joy and gratitude. But ostâd Elâhi’s music dose not allow the listener to “settle” into any single state: he is now drawn to a different place and made to break from what he is used to. The music takes him ever further, towards other levels of perception, finishing whit a zekr dance tune simply declaimed on the instrument.

Track 4. Bâbâ Jalili invocation
This smooth, rhythmic recitative is a prayer to the Creator, expressing intense emotion in a deeply contemplative atmosphere. In a low voice and a confidential tone, the musician addresses simple and direct words to his divine Beloved.
The tanbur is heard first, in a melody rising towards him. Then the performer begins his song, invoking Ali, a divine name. voice and instrument mingle in total symbiosis throughout this appeal to divine clemency and mercy. Ostâd Elâhi plays here in a style entirely his own. One may recognise here and there a theme from a previous recording, but close listening will reveal that this is definitely an improvisation with the motifs unfolding in a totally unexpected manner. The passages evoking more familiar modes and themes (hey dâwed, near the end of the piece, for example) are themselves played in an original way. Even listeners used to this musician’s creations can be taken unawares and led from one new experience to another. Elâhi’s universe is infused with gentle sweetness, but the pain of sparation from the Beloved can be clearly felt.
The emotion is even more palpable when the singer’s voice catches and the appeal becomes more urgent. Ostâd Elâhi states “weeping [in a spiritual state] soothes the soul and brings it joy” and “if music is based on the aspirations of the soul, it will be more attractive both in its technical and spiritual quality” (Âsâr ol-Haqq, Vol. II, P. 359-360). When the soul is touched, as it is by the awareness of separation from the beloved, man can not control his tears. Like purifying rain, they finally afford him some relief.
Ostâd Elâhi’s emotion inspires this poem, improvised as he plays:

Ali (x6)
Ali, agar bogzari, Ali (x5)
Ali, gonâ bâranan, Ali (x6) jân
Gonâ bâran yâ Ali, yâ Ali, yâ Ali, Ali
Gonâham bâre gardan, yâ Ali, yâ Ali, yâ Ali
Va bâr gonâye sar vazir-e bâr yâ mowlâm Ali (x5)
Gonâye man berdam yâ mowlâm amân Ali (x5) jân, Ali, Hu
Sar va jir-e bâr-e Ali jân mowlâm
Gonâhe men berdan
Va gonâh kârân mabu gerdam, ey khodâ ye man, ey mowlâ ye man
Bi gonâ va kardey yâ Ali jân mennat nabârdam, amân amân amân
Agar bogzari, yâ mowlâm va gonâh kâri
Aw vakht ma’aluman yâ mowlâm to karam dari
Jân Ali gonay, ey khodâ ye man, Ali (x5) karimi, rahimi, bozorgavâri
Ey khodâ ye man (x3), khodâ ye man (x2)
Ey khâwleq-e man, ey khodâ ye man
Ey Ali amân Ali (x5)

Then, to the slow Hey Dâwed theme:
Yâ Dâwed-e dâvedân Ali Hu har Dâwed-e khâsân
Hey khodâ ye man rabb-e man
Yâ Ali yâ qolus

Ali, Ali
Ali, Forgive me, O Ali
My sins are innumerable, Ali, Ali my life
Forgive me, Ali
Take this weight form me, O Ali
Thou, my refuge, O Ali
My head bows under the weight of my sins
Yes, I have been so remiss, o my God
With this burden on my heart, whom else shall I call on, O Ali?
I take refuge in Thee
Pardon me, Lord
And thus show Thy generosity
Ali my Beloved, O Lord, you are generous, magnanimous, all-powerful O my God, my creator, my educator, my God

Just like Ali, the terms mowlâ (Lord), Khodâ (God), Jân (Loved one), and Hu (Him) are expressions of divinity, a way of invoking God.

Track 5. Yârân va bâten ye dangi mayu
Hormony, communion and great sweetness are the keynotes of this ancient kurdish zekr, played within the close family circle.

Yârân va bâten ye dangi mayu/ sedâyeh hey dayâr/ sarhangi mayu Companions, from the world of the spirit comes a voice
it is the voice of a knight of God calling his divine Beloved.

Track 6. Yâ Soltân, âmân âgarem dâi
this zekr was probably composed by Ostâd Elâhi in the 1930s, before a pilgrimage to the tomb of Soltân Es'hâq. This impromptu recording was made at the point of breaking a forty-day fast (in fact, the beginning of the zekr is missing). Ostâd had asked for all his tanburs, chose a specific one and played several zekrs, of which this is one.
the choir is made up mainly of women and children in his family. there is a palpable intensity and the gathering shows great concentration even though intonation is shaky. when one voice sings spontaneously in thirds, there is an effect of “despatialization”, rare in this harmonic context. but more astonishing is the moment when the choir is giving the responses and a different tanbur sound is distinctly heard; a low, highly rhythmic note, even though there was no other tanbur player in the room.

Yâ Soltân, âmân âgerem dâi/ Dasht-e awrâmân lâvarem dai
O Soltân, mercy, you have consumed me
You have spread the plain of hawrâmân at my feet

the meaning of these words is something of a mystery; they seem to refer to a personal spititual event.
at the end of this piece, which moved the participants deeply, Ostâd can be heard addressing his family. this testimonial demonstrates the spiritual state that existed at musical sessions led by Ostâd Elâhi.
this is what he says: “When a family is united in its heart, it can do anything. [...] I hope Almighty God will always grant us the happiness of such faith and always look upon us with His benevolent gaze and light as we unite in turning to Him with sincere faith and hearts to lead a life that is in accord with His contentment. Hu Yâ Ali, may God always grant us His blessings. this was truly a great joy for me.”

Track 7. harâti suite
as before, this dance piece is full of spiritual joy and begins powerfully, reinforced by a persistent humming on the low string. the listener is taken up in the movement, surrounded by the lightness and swirling rhythm of uniterrupted variations. in the sequence of tunes often played by Ostâd Elâhi, every change of rhythm creates a new atmosphere and carries one ever further. Then the music stops suddenly and silence sustains the emotion.



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