October 25, 2006


Persian Master Says Music Links Cultures

To Kayhan Kalhor, music is the best language

A child prodigy who evolved into a master of the traditional kamancheh, or Persian spike fiddle, Kayhan Kalhor has a deep commitment to using music to communicate between cultures.

A composer who participates with artists from different musical traditions to explore creatively and reach audiences worldwide, he founded the Persian classical group Dastan and recorded compact discs with eminent musicians from Iran and India. He also is a member of the Silk Road ensemble founded by American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and is currently on tour in the United States with Turkish baglama master Erdal Erzincan. (See related article.)

Kalhor recently shared his philosophy about music and life with the Washington File:

(begin transcript)


Music is the same for everybody. It begins with creating a nice sound -- in every culture. Every culture was kind of isolated from each other. They all developed their own sense of beauty. I think there is not much difference in music in any culture.

With all these wars and other things going on in the world, I think music is a very, very good escape, somewhere to take refuge.

I donít consider myself a very active composer. I consider myself mostly as an instrumentalist and concert musician.† I think thatís the way I get much closer to people, and this is the way I want to be able to feel their breath.† Iím not saying that I donít enjoy composing; I enjoy it very much. But the outcome is not the same. I really want to be onstage and be communicating to people right there.


I think there is just one civilization, and one culture, and that is human culture. And all these languages, borders, divisions -- they are just created by humans. And it shouldnít be that way.

We all share the wisdom. Maybe now there is technology from the West to East, but there were times that the wisdom and philosophy and a lot of other things, all the religions, actually, came from East to West. This is what we should respect and cherish. And we should know that the center of humanity might change place from time to time, every century or every couple of centuries. But humans wonít change, we are all in search of a better life, beauty and love and a lot of good things. That remains the same for everybody in every time of history.

And music is the nicest thing that was ever created, and that is the best way to accomplish [understanding]. If I speak Persian, you donít understand it. If someone speaks Korean, I wouldnít understand it, but through music itís a snap. One, two, three, and youíre there -- you donít need a translator. Youíre there. You understand it right on the spot. You donít need anyone to tell you what it is all about. So music is actually a much faster language.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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