I remember the first time I heard the tar on the national radio in Iran. I suddenly felt so connected. Hearing this instrument was just like reading poetry. That day, I fell in love.
Witnessing my reaction, my mum bought me my first tar. I was fourteen. I started taking lessons with a friend of mine and then furthered my training with well-known Persian tar players in Tehran for a few years. The tar is a very resonant instrument and once its resonance penetrates your body it can never leave you. In high school, I would impatiently wait for the bell to mark the end of our day so I could run back home to practice as much as possible. Playing the tar quickly became more than a hobby or a way to entertain my young self, it grew into a passion or a way of living. To put it more simply, it became my voice. I could express everything that I cannot put into words. I also wanted to discover more about the sonic possibilities of this ancient classical instrument held in high regard by my people.
For thousands of years, Persian classical music was passed on through oral tradition and a lot of techniques, rhythms and patterns were developed by copying the existing sounds in nature. I can still hear the sound of birds, trees, the sound of the wind while playing and I can clearly imagine the Persian diverse landscape when playing the tar. It is a very resonant instrument with a soft and feminine shape. It is like a voice sitting between two genders; maybe this is why the many players in Iran are as likely to be female as male.
In the past, tar players used to hold the instrument close to their heart because it is believed that the sound of the tar has healing properties. Nowadays, played in a contemporary style, the tar is played placed on one’s lap; it is still telling a story of love.
To me, the tar is the best representation of Persian love stories that have been narrated through Persian literature. In fact, Persian classical music is very strongly linked to the Persian literature.
My passion for this instrument continued to grow further as I started learning the Radif, one of the most systematic repertoires in Eastern music, which is a collection of old melodic figures and melodies that have been handed down by the masters to the students through generations. To me, it was important to dedicate myself in my early years of learning music to getting a deep understanding of the Radif and exploring its secrets. In addition to all the academic training in composition and musical performance, I had the opportunity of learning the Radif from the maestro Dariush Talai using the traditional oral method.
In my mid-20s I fell in love with the tar playing of maestro Ali Akhbar Shahnazi who was one of the most influential legendary tar players. His work is still used by many masters and the techniques and directions that he developed are followed by many tar players. I decided to transcribe all his compositions and improvisations. This collection came out as a book, Ganjineye Tar, a few years later.
When I moved to Australia eight years ago, I knew I had a very strong foundation to stand on. But also, I knew I was going to be part of a small community. My choice of career would be boxed into a world music genre that means nothing and everything, and the point of reference is from a western perspective. I had a new title – World Musician. But what does that even mean!? Is the Persian Radif the same as Brazilian music? Or is Chinese music similar to Indian Raga!? Or can we put Japanese traditional music in the same category as eastern European gypsy music?
From an eastern perspective the same thing might happen, where a lot of different genres like, Baroque music, Minimalist music, String Quartets, Concert bands and more are put into one category known as Western Classical Music.
I guess we can only label the music that we are familiar with, and anything outside the box would be considered as world music. Until we get close enough to a certain kind of music and define it more specifically.
In fact, World Music in general draws on the life of different cultures. It carries musical stories of nations, their ways of living, the challenges they’ve had through their history, wars, victories, even simple things in their daily lives – they are reflected in this music. In other words, world music has the responsibility of carrying our DNA through music. A piece of world music is a gateway that gives us precious insight into a specific culture. As if we have opened a history book!
I got a new understanding of east and west when I moved to Australia, a country which is located in the east but is known as a western country. A country with its rich Aboriginal culture that gave me a new identity. A lot of different cultures have contributed massively to the Australian culture and now there are big communities with different cultural backgrounds living in this country calling themselves Australians. Their musical contribution is undeniable and we all know how music as a common language between cultures can create a better society for all of us. Multiculturalism is what Australia has offered. My music has been beautifully impacted by multiculturalism too.
Whether it is called Persian music or world music I feel responsible to present a kind of music that can be embraced by this multicultural country. The world music scene in Australia is growing however the resources are limited and it needs more support.
My passion for jazz has also played a very important role in my musical journey. I’ve always admired the freedom and restrictions in jazz. The musicians I have been collaborating with are extremely talented and we could find a lot of similarities between Persian Classical music specifically, and jazz. The outcome can’t be labelled easily and I would say it is just music! It has been well embraced by the diverse Australian society and we have been encouraged to continue. Jazz may have never crossed my path as an Iranian musician if I had not moved to Australia. Yet, I still have a long way to go and explore a lot of new possibilities.
In a Western country, one might think that a Persian/jazz fusion music composed by a Persian artist might only appeal to a Persian or “eastern” crowd; however, I have been happily both surprised and humbled by the diverse audiences who come to see my shows.
East or west, we are all outsiders on this land and we all play world music for the people who have been living here for thousands of years.
VIEW AND LISTEN
Eishan Ensemble – two recent performances
Simply Complicated – a short documentary about Hamed Sadeghi
is a Persian Australian tar player and composer who studied Persian classical music in Iran and sound engineering in Malaysia. He tours regularly with his band Eishan Ensemble and composes music for theatrical productions. He has earned recognition through nominations for APRA/AMCOS AMC Art Music Awards and Sydney Theatre Awards.