Kayhan Kalhor here debuts a new instrument created for him - the "shah kaman". Australian instrument maker Peter Biffin had come across the Iranian kamancheh (literally "little bow") and similar forms such as the Turkish tanbur and Chinese erhu, but wanted to get a deeper sound, which he achieved by dispensing with the skin top and using a wooden cone. He named this the "tarhu" as a cross of tanbur and erhu.
Biffin later created a kamancheh form of the tarhu, and met with Kalhor at a festival in 2002 where he introduced it to him. Kalhor liked his creation, but wanted to explore an instrument with sympathetic strings - a form relatively unknown in the West, confined to ancient instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy or the Baroque viola d'amore, but more common in the Indian subcontinent in the likes of the sitar - perhaps Kalhor's collaboration with a sitar player in his "Ghazal" project fired his curiosity. Biffin set about working on a "kamancheh tarhu" with five playing strings and seven sympathetic ones, which Kalhor rechristened the "shah kaman" - king of bows.
Kalhor utilises this amazing instrument as though he were able to combine several others into one, such is the range he can employ, and indeed the emotional range he can transmit to the listener is equally broad. Kalhor is accompanied by Ali Bahrami Fard on an unusual bass santur, an octave lower than the standard santur, and thus the perfect accompaniment to the shah kaman's lower register. Fard is no supporting act here, but an equal to Kalhor in their interplay.
This album is born of Kalhor's reflection on the unrest in his Iranian homeland in 2009-10, and the need to open doors of hope, and realise that "I will not stand alone". The music indeed bears this out, beginning in somewhat mournful and subdued mood, but Kalhor and Fard, not standing alone, gradually draw strength, hope and energy from each other and lift us up too on a rush of optimism.