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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2014
I Listened to the recording of Between the Heavens & Me on You Tube and was impressed enough to buy the CD. However when I ripped it to play on my home system via 'Wave Editor' I discovered that it has been heavily compressed - which is why it sounded so good on You Tube probably. The whole point in recording this type of glorious music, which like classical music, relies upon subtle nuances of timbre, dynamics and shading, is to allow it to breathe by giving it plenty of dynamic headroom. Unfortunately all of the dynamic contrast has been lost due to the severe compression applied during mastering; for dreaded MP3 probably. The mastering engineer must be completely unsympathetic to this music.

I would suggest that the record label ensures that they enable a Hi Res, uncompressed file to be downloaded on a suitable site such as HDTracks in the USA or HiResAudio in Germany for those of us who want to hear what the musician intended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Kayhan Kalhor, the Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) player, is as consummate a musician and artist as one could dream of. He combines astonishing virtuosity and passionate immersion in his music, with playing which is charismatic, stellar - and, yet, curiously without `look at me ego' or hogging centre stage, muscling out his `supporting musicians' Kalhor doesn't really do `supporting musicians'. He works peer to peer with other musicians

What he does do is to work with a range of other musicians, sometimes from his own culture's musical traditions, sometimes cross culturally, as in his work with Ghazal, marrying the Iranian kamancheh with instruments from India's classical musical tradition - sitar, table, vocals. And sometimes he works with musicians better known in the European classical music traditions, most notably with Yo Yo Ma, playing a wealth of Asian music in the Silk Road series of albums.

Whatever Kalhor does, he brings devotion to his work. Whatever brilliance, finesse and mastery he brings to his playing everything is designed to shine the brilliance of the music itself. There is surrender to the music, surrender to the joint practice of playing music with others, and, if you are fortunate enough to experience a live concert with Kalhor, as I recently was, surrender to the experience of unfolding and revealing music in a shared experience for the active listener to enter into this space.

This particular CD, with music which arose out of Kalhor's own experience of his country's recent political dark places, is a meditation on music as expression of suffering, as well as music as a shared, collective experience to provide some ease from that dark night of isolation, and existential aloneness

Here, in accompaniment with Ali Bahrami Fard, we have two musicians playing adapted versions of traditional Iranian instruments. Fard is playing the santour, a shimmering, percussive dulcimer instrument - but it is a bass santour, much larger, with a wider musical range, 96 strings, 24 bridges instead of the traditional 72 and 18

Meanwhile Kalhor is playing a new instrument, developed especially for him by the instrument maker Peter Biffen, the Shah Kaman, with different stringing, and using a lighter sounding board made of wood rather than skin, with, again, the possibility of richer lower notes.

At the live concert, which this CD is a version of, the two musicians were electrifying, playing for well over an hour, a continuous piece of music (here, on the CD briefly broken into movements with track names, rather than stand alone tracks)

The music ranges from dark anguish, quiet reflection, a maelstrom of passion and energy, anger, despair, resilience, shared commitment. At times so frenetic and wild is the music that it seems impossible to sit with it, the wild expression of dance is an insistent call. Restrained by the initial hearing of the music in a concert hall, I found a subtler response, listening to the dynamic movement of the music from within physical stillness, letting the music shape itself and move within, rather than cause external movement. It deepened my appreciation of this wonderful music, and the absolute focus brought by the inspired musicians
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