Special/Signature Issues » Richmond Folk Festival

Ensemble Shanbehzadeh

Persian Guff



You may have heard of the ancient port city of Bushehr, on the edge of the Persian Gulf in southwestern Iran, because of a large Russian-built nuclear plant there.

Saied Shanbehzadeh, a Bushehri musician and master of a hypnotic, double-reed bagpipe called the neyanban, didn't like being told what kind of Persian music to play by his government — so he left. He lives in exile in Paris, working with modern dance companies and performing the rich musical heritage of his home region, where Persian, Sufi, Arab and Indian traditions mix with African influence.

Attempts to reach Shanbehzadeh in Paris by cell phone are marred by bad connections and rough English, but rest assured that this should be one of those special highlights of the weekend.

“They're a real coup for the festival,” says Joshua Kohn, programming manager with the National Folk Festival, who saw Ensemble Shanbehzadeh perform years ago. “They whip up an intoxicating frenzy, a trance-like energy on stage. He dances and plays at the same time, throwing the bagpipes on top of his head and spinning down into dances.”

Saeid will be joined by his teenage son, Naghid, on a tombak, a Persian goblet drum, and Habib Meftah Boushehri on other percussion instruments.

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