Kayhan Kalhor: Beginner's Guide

Kayhan Kalhor

By Simon Broughton

By happy coincidence in the first issue of Songlines in 1999 we reviewed the debut album of Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor. Not surprisingly, it was a Top of the World selection. Here was a magnificent new player on an instrument little known in the West, but reaching deeply back into Persian culture. It’s often called a ‘spike fiddle,’ but the name doesn’t do it justice. It’s the ancestor of the violin that has a penetrating, sinewy tone with a touch of desert-like sandpaper. Kalhor insists on playing the instrument kneeling down in the traditional playing position. “It’s like riding a wild horse, you can’t let your concentration wander even for a second,” he says. He’s probably had more Top of the World albums in Songlines than any other musician.

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