Music: Tabla master Sandeep Das & Kayhan Kalhor

Tabla master Sandeep Das joins multiple Grammy nominee and co-founder of Masters of Persian Music Kayhan Kalhor following their March D.C. appearance with Silk Road Ensemble

The U.S. does not boast many kamancheh (Persian spike fiddle) performers, let alone any in the same league as Kayhan Kalhor. He is, quite simply, the most internationally acclaimed master of this instrument, which produces a broad range of sounds, from an almost percussive bark to a sweet, throaty tone. The Tehran-born Kalhor closes out Washington Performing Arts season-long exploration of the Silk Road, performing with artists from other countries on the historic Silk Road, on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 8pm at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Kalhor is joined by his Silk Road Ensemble colleague, renowned table master Sandeep Das. This is the second time this season that D.C. audiences will be treated to Kalhor and Das inimitable style. Their Jugalbandi was performed at the lauded March 1, 2015, Washington Performing Arts presentation of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, of which Kalhor and Das are original members and frequent collaborators.

Kayhan Kalhor’s prodigious talent became evident at an early age. He began his musical studies at age seven and, at 13, was invited to work with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran, where he performed for five years. At 17 he began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization in Iran at the time.

Kalhor has traveled extensively throughout Iran, studying the music of its many regions, especially of Khorasan in eastern Iran and Kurdistan in the northwest. Throughout his career, he has played a leading role in popularizing Persian music in the West. He has soloed with a number of leading ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre National de Lyon, and is co-founder of the renowned ensembles Dastan, Ghazal: Persian & Indian Improvisations, and Masters of Persian Music.

He has composed works for Iran’s most renowned vocalists Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri and has performed and recorded with Iran’s greatest instrumentalists. He has also composed music for television and film and was featured on the soundtrack of Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth in a score on which he collaborated with Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. In 2004, composer John Adams invited Kalhor to perform a solo recital at Carnegie Hall as part of his Perspectives Series, and in the same year Kalhor appeared on a double bill at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.

Recent compositions include a work dedicated to Armenian duduk player Jivan Gasparyan and performed at the Global Beat Festival in Battery Park in June, 2014. Kalhor’s other compositions include ”Ascending Bird, Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur, The Silent City, and Mountains Are Far Away.

Kalhor has made a number of acclaimed recordings. The latest, Kula Kulluk Yakisir Mi, was released in 2013, and the 2012 I Will Not Stand Alone resulted from his ongoing collaboration with Anatolian baglama (saz) master Erdal Erzincan. Three of his recordings have been nominated for Grammys.

Kalhor has also performed and recorded with string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Said the New York Times on a recent performance by Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider, When Mr. Kalhor performed, it sounded like a conversation among several instruments, with the varying timbres at times evoking the wailing pleas of disconsolate lovers. From a simple, muted beginning, the music became more intense and embellished, as ornate melodies and ornaments unfolded with calligraphic detail above ostinato bass patterns.

Grammy-nominated Sandeep Das is considered one of the leading tabla players today. One of the favorite disciples of the legendary tabla maestro Pandit Kishan Maharaj ji of the Benaras Gharana, Das has carved out a niche for himself around the musical world. His concerts have taken him to major centers of music around the globe, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Royce Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood Bowl and the Petronas Tower Hall in Malaysia.

Sandeep has composed for and performed internationally with the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma since the group’s founding in 2000. With the Ensemble, he performed at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York in 2008, played the BBC Proms in 2004 and 2009, and is the only Indian artist to have performed for the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympic Games in Shanghai.

In India and abroad, Sandeep performs frequently with stars of Indian music such as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Dr. L Subramaniam and Ustad Shujaat Khan, among many others. Das’s talent for music and communication has allowed him to bridge the divide between Indian and Western classical music. In 1991, on his first trip outside India, Das performed with steel drum bands in Trinidad. In 2001 he performed a work composed by Kayhan Kalhor with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Kurt Masur.

His own compositions have combined the two genres and have received rave reviews. Tarang was chosen as the theme music for Blind Sight, a documentary about the first Everest climb by six blind climbers, and his piece Mohini became theme music for the Japanese TV channel NHK’s 10-episode documentary on the Silk Road.

Sandeep Das was educated at Banaras Hindu University and is a Gold Medalist in English Literature. He began learning tabla at the age of eight from Sri Shiv Kumar Singh and at age 10 become a disciple of Pt. Kishan Maharaj ; at the age of sixteen he performed with Ravi Shankar, and subsequently with all the stars of Indian music. He was three times the All-India drumming champion and is the youngest Tabla player ever to be graded by All-India radio.

He was awarded the Most Valuable Young Musician Award by the President of India in 2004. Also a cultural and educational entrepreneur, Sandeep founded HUM (Harmony and Universality through Music), an ensemble of world-class artists whose goal is to promote global understanding through musical performance and education.

Washington Performing Arts performances at Sixth & I are made possible by the Abramson Family Foundation and by an anonymous gift in appreciation of Douglas Wheeler’s continuing efforts on behalf of Washington Performing Arts.

Washington Performing Arts is committed to making every event accessible for persons with disabilities. Please call the Ticket Services Office for more information on accessibility to the various theaters in which our performances are held.  Services offered vary from venue to venue and may require advance notice.

About Washington Performing Arts

Since 1965, Washington Performing Arts has had a foundational role in the arts in our nation’s capital, creating profound opportunities that connect community and artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in 11 venues that span the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are launched and nurtured, and established artists return to develop closer relationships with Washington Performing Arts’ audiences and creative partners.

As one of the leading presenters in the nation, Washington Performing Arts embraces a broad spectrum of the performing arts, including classical music, jazz, gospel, contemporary dance and music, international music and art forms, and new work.  Dynamic education programs in the public schools and beyond are hallmarks of Washington Performing Arts, as are the Embassy Adoption Program and two resident gospel choirs.

In the 2012/13 season, Washington Performing Arts was twice honored for its work at the intersection of arts presenting and education: by President Barack Obama with a National Medal of Arts (becoming only the fourth D.C.-based arts group and the first arts presenter of its kind to be so honored), and the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.

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