1-2 Weeks
The Celestial Music of Ostad Elahi

CDM 7741026 CDM 7741026

Tremendous series of archival CDs by this late, rarely documented Iranian master of the tanbur lute, Ostad Elahi (1895-1974). This first volume features recordings from Tehran, 1964-72. For music of transcendational quality via stringed instruments, these are some of the most important releases of recent vintage. "Ostad Elahi is a fascinating figure, a unique 20th century musical giant. His whole adult life he worked as a magistrate in Iran, yet he was acclaimed as a musician embedded in a tradition of Islamic mysticism stretching back to the tenth century. Even after retiring aged 62, in order to devote himself full time to music and spiritual research, he never performed a concert either in public or for the radio. Elahi's instrument of choice was the humble Kurdish tanbour, a long-necked lute associated more with the epic ballads of central Asian nomads than the sophisticated delights of Persian classical music. In fact, Elahi doesn't play Persian classical in the strict sense, though that is one of the many traditions he studied. He is a prime example of a musician stepping out of the tradition, drawing on Persian, Azeri, pre-Islamic musics, even Kurdish popular tunes, stretching all forms to his own visionary purpose. Between 1964 and 1972. when Elahi was in his early 70s, someone finally got a microphone in front of him. These are no-nonsense, no-effects, mono recordings, and occasionally they sound like the teapot spilt on the tapes. But Elahi's earthy mysticism comes shining through, a relentless quest for the divine via the physical propulsion of playing, and then more playing. The Celestial Music Of Ostad Elahi is a good place to start. The opening 'Jab Shahi Suite' is 32 minutes of playing over the same drone, out Elahi shifts the tonal centre from mode to mode, so we feel the music is modulating naturally. Likewise his rhythmic sense is far from right. As his left hand flutters like a dragonfly in endless ornamentation, Elahi conducts the listener through metrical gear changes. This is spacious, large scale solo music, but never feels lost or meandering." -- Clive Bell/The Wire.