Educational & Cultural Exchange Performances
Roya also continues to appear in solo
concerts and conferences around the world. She has created and offers
lecture-performance programs on: “Classical Music of Persia,” “Music and
Spirituality,” “Understanding Multicultural Identity through Artistic
Expression,” and “Traces of Ancient Persian Melodies in Andalusia.” To
highlight a few, in the recent few years she has presented her 'Music and
Spirituality' program at the Rumi Forum in Washington D.C., she appeared in
concert at the Museum of Flamenco Dance in Seville, Spain in conjunction with
her program on 'Traces of Ancient Persian Melodies in Andalusia', she presented
"Classical Music of Persia" at the Library of Congress, she presented
'Understanding Multi-Cultural Identity through Artistic Expression" at the
American University Katzen Art Center. She was invited to the Congress of the Cimbalom World Association (CWA),
Querétaro, Mexico, May 27-31, 2009 to present "Classical Music of
Persia" along with concert performances. In January 2011, Roya was invited
to perform at the CWA's International New Year Concerts in Budapest, Hungary
and returned to Budapest for the 11th Congress of the CWA in October 2011 for
presentations and performances where she presented her most recent
lecture-performance on "Persian-Flamenco Fusion on the Santur". She
presented this lecture-performance at the University of Memphis School of Music
in April 2012.
In 2012 Roya created a new lecture
-performance for young audiences
"The Persian Nowruz - A Musical Journey" on the occasion of Nowruz
(Persian New Year, first of Spring). She presented this at Green Acres School
for the whole school assembly of 300 students from preK to 8th graders along
with their teachers and administrators and was accompanied by Ricardo Marlow
and Steve Bloom
In 2013, she was invited to perform as well as teach
workshops during the annual Hackbrett Days festival in Linz, Austria. She created arrangements for three-voice hackbrett
(Austrian hammer dulcimer) ensembles playing Persian folks song as well as one
of her own original fusion compositions.
The ensemble of students performed her piece at the end of the festival
Classical Persian Music
Classical Persian Music is the
precious and ancient heritage of the Iranians passed on through generations
from master to pupil, for thousands of years - It is the music in which sounds
of nature, poetry and mysticism come together to form a mosaic of hundreds of
beautiful and delicate melodies.
The entire repertoire of the
classical Persian music is called the radif, which means row in English. It
indicates an order in the organization of its sub-components. There are over
300 melodies (or gusheh-ha) within the radif. The radif is divided into twelve
dastgahs; seven major dastgahs: Mahur, Shur, Homayun, Chahargah, Segah, Nava,
Rast-Panjgah; and five subsidiary dastgahs: Esfahan, Afshari, Abu-Ata, Bayat
Tork, Dashti. Each dastgah is a musical scheme, which the performer uses as the
basis for improvisation. It has its own scales with embedded modulations,
hierarchy of scale degrees and repertory of traditional melodies. In general,
these ancient melodies are memorized by musicians and form the basis of their
improvisations. Each melodic pattern is a skeletal idea upon which the
performer improvises. Therefore, the art of improvisation is central to the
performance and moreover many compositions are based on such improvisations.
Traces of Persian Music
Traces of this music can be
found as far back as the 7th century BC. However the most substantial historic
evidence dates back to the period between 3rd and 7th century AD, when music
flourished at the imperial court of the Sassanid dynasty. It reached its
peak in mid-7th century during the rule of King Khosro, with Barbod being the
most illustrious of the court musicians who is attributed to have invented the
Persian modal system.
Through out history, there have
been various events promoting cultural exchanges between ancient traditions
involving the Persian culture:
- The ancient silk
road which brings East and West together such that by the third century
B.C., the area had already become a crossroads of Asia, where Persian,
Indian and Greek ideas and cultures met.
- The Sufi
tradition of the Middle East bringing elements of Persian, Turkish, and Arabic
traditions in close contact.
- The Sephardi Jewry with their mix of Persian-Arabic-Turkish traditions coming
into contact with the Ashkenazi Jewry with their inherent Western European
- The traveling
gypsies that started from India then onto to Persia and Mesopotamia –
today’s Iran & Iraq, Eastern Europe, North Africa and then settled in
Southern Spain, bringing with them and sharing the various folk traditions
along their journey
- Persian scholars
that started traveling and settling in the Arab world following the
formation of the Arab Empire, in mid-7th century. These musicians
and scholars became important figures in the formation of Islamic culture
in the East. The work during this era of Iran's notable scholars and
musicians is generally credited to be of Arabic origins, however --
because these men wrote in Arabic and bore Arabic names. Some of the
most important examples are the following:
- The 9th Century, court musician Abulhasan Ali Ben
Nafi, nicknamed Zaryab, who moved to Cordoba, in Southern Spanish region
of Andalusia. He was a virtuoso on the Persian lute, Barbat, this same
instrument later became known as the Ud and is known to be the parent of
the Spanish guitar. Zaryab founded the first musical academy in Cordoba,
where music and chant were taught. He also introduced the Persian
tradition of closely tying poetic verses to melodic structures.
Zaryab has been a subject of study for investigators and an inspiration
for artists. In fact, Paco de Lucia dedicated his album “Zyryab” (1990)
to the Black Bird.
- Farabi, the most celebrated of early Persian
scholars,10th century musician, philosopher, and theorist that lived and
worked in Syria and Spain. His book Al-Musiqi Al-Kabir (the great book of
music) discusses music theory, intervals, scales, modes, rhythms and
- Ibn Sina (Avecina) whose writings discuss not only the
theory of music but also the ancient concept of therapeutic effects of
music, and the notion of harmonic dissonance and consonance.
- 13th Century Safi al-Din who introduced the 17-tone
octave scale, the foundation for music theory in the Muslim Middle East.
It was during these times, that
two schools of music developed with the direct influence of the Persian
tradition; one was the school of Baghdad and the other the Cordoba school which
later became the North African and Flamenco systems.
Flamenco &The Evidence of
cultural exchange through musical developments
Even though Flamenco has emerged
as a publicly performed musical art form only as of late 18th century, early
forms of it started evolving between 8th and 15th centuries.
Thus, flamenco evolved from a
mixture of ancient cultures in Andalusia and includes traces of Hindu and Greek
psalms, Gregorian chants, Persian melodies, Mozarabic dirges, Jewish laments,
Morisco songs, Castilian romances, African song dances, all of which fused with
the indigenous Andalusian rhythms and eventually gave rise to this amazing
musical structure highly revered in the world today. And more recently, the
elements of Latin American music such as the Rumbas from Cuban culture gets
integrated into the mix. I think it is the best example of a successful work of
fusion that most people in the world can identify with as their own.
This phenomenon became evident
to Roya when she came into contact with flamenco and felt an immediate sense of the
familiar, a pang in the heart, which was then reciprocated by her flamenco
teachers and friends. For example, the renowned flamenco artist, Carmela Greco,
when she first listened to Roya's santur she also had this sense of the
familiar. She immediately invited Roya to play santur for her solo
performance in an upcoming tour in the US. Now this sensation is surely
present for Latin Americans, as is for the Arabs, Indians, as is for the Jewish
people and all the people of other cultures that have elements of their music
also integrated into flamenco.
Roya has studied these Persian
Dating back to 7th century BC, according to an Assyrian rock relief, the Persian
santur, the great grand parent of Piano, has many relatives around the world
such as the Hungarian and Romanian cimbalom, the European hammer dulcimer &
hackbrett, the Greek sanduri, Chinese yanqin, and Indian santoor. It is a
three-octave dulcimer made with aged walnut wood and performed by using two
delicate handmade wooden mallets. The mallets are commonly, especially in the
recent decades, covered with felt to soften the sound quality; however using
pure wooden mallets without the felt, one can hear even more of all the
incredible harmonics it produces. It is a non-chromatic instrument with
seventy-two strings arranged on adjustable tuning pegs in eighteen quadruple
sets, nine (bronze) in the low register, and nine (steel) in the middle and
high registers. It is one of the commonly used instruments in Iran today famous
for its colorful sounds.
Belonging to the lute family, the tar appeared in its present form in the
middle of the eighteenth century. The body is a double-bowl shape carved from
mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb-skin covering the top.
The long fingerboard has twenty-six to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and
there are three double courses of strings. Its range is about two and one- half
octaves, and is played with a small brass plectrum.
The ancestry of the setar can be traced to the ancient tanbur of pre-Islamic
Persia. It is made from thin mulberry wood and its fingerboard has twenty-five
or twenty-six adjustable gut frets. Setar is literally translated as “three
strings”; however, in its present form, it has four strings and it is suspected
that setar initially had only three strings. Because of its delicacy and
intimate sonority, the setar is the preferred instrument of Sufi mystics.
Dating back to the pre-Christian calendar, Daf has a wooden frame with a
goatskin cover with rings inside the frame. Frame drums are the most ancient
type of musical instruments. Daf is one of the most ancient frame drums in Asia
and North Africa. In Iran, Sufis use Daf during their Zikr (spiritual chanting)
ritual; in recent years Iranian musicians have successfully integrated it into
Persian music and is one of the commonly used instruments in Iran today.
Zarb (aka, Tombak; courtesy)
It is an ancient Persian goblet shaped drum, made from Walnut or Mulberry wood,
and covered with goatskin. In the days of the Persian empire the Zarb came
second to Daf, which was favored at the court, and formed part of the
traditional music ensemble. Only in the 20th century has the Zarb come into
it's own, from a simple rhythmic accompaniment to a performance in itself. It
is one of the commonly used instruments in Iran today.