Kamancheh (The Instrument)

by Bahman Kiarostami

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The kamancheh is the ancestor to most modern European and Asian bowed instruments, look including the violin and cello. The film Kamancheh, takes viewers on a journey to the provinces of Lorestan, Khorasan, Mazandaran, and Golestan of Iran to meet master players of the kamancheh. In these regions, ancient traditions are painstakingly preserved; mentors perpetuate their craft exclusively through oral transmission to a dwindling generation of apprentices. The film explores the instrument through the eyes of an eccentric and fascinating group of regional artists, all struggling to make their way. The journey ends in Tehran with an informative interview with Kayhan Kalhor, who has a formidable international reputation as a virtuoso on the kamancheh.

Director: Bahman Kiarostami
Producer: Marjaneh Moghimi
Cinematographer and Editor: Bahman Kiarostami
Sound Mix: Keyvan Jahanshahi
Featuring Musicians: Vali Rahimi, Bahram Berdikor, Taghi Katuli, Ahmad Mohsenpour, Ghodrat Sohrabi and Kayhan Kalhor.
Researcher and Narrator: Ameneh Yousefzadeh

In Farsi with English subtitles/2005

Official Selection: San Francisco International Film Festival

Bahman Kiarostami

Bahman was born in Tehran in 1978. He started working as an assistant director in 1996. His documentary films have focused on the political power of faith inside contemporary Iranian culture and eloquently explore the comples layers of religious significance in the Iranian controversial society. He has collaborated with Butimar Productions on numerous award winning films such as Pilgrimage, Infidels, Persian Gardens and Kamancheh. For a complete list of his films please visit: http://www.bahmankiarostami.com

Marjaneh Moghimi
Marjaneh is the founder of Butimar Productions and has produced numerous award-wining documentaries with acclaimed directors such as Michael Apted, Bahman Kiarostami, Justine Shapiro, and Mitra Farahani.  Her latest collaboration was with renowned director Bahram Beyzaie on his shadow-play Jana and Baladoor.


Bahram Berdikor was born in 1956 and has been playing kamancheh for over forty years. He was first introduced to the Kamancheh by a carpenter and builder of Turkoman instruments. Subsequently, he perfected his art under masters of Turkoman music, such as the late Nazarli Mahjoubi and the late Qazaq-Pang. He currently resides in Turkoman Port and is known as one of the most skilled Kamancheh players in Turkoman Sahara.

Yerevand Davoudian is an Armenian Christian born in 1927 in Gordabad in the suburbs of Orumiyeh in western Azerbaijan. Kamancheh music is gradually disappearing in western Azerbaijan, and Davoudian is one of the last vestiges of this art in the area. His father was an outstanding player of the kamancheh and the dohol, and Davoudian started learning both instruments from him at the age of seven.

In addition to Armenian music, Davoudian is also familiar with Assyrian and Turkish music. He is considered one of the last surviving performers among the Iranian Armenian Asheqs. Today, there are only four performers of original ethnic Armenian music in western Azerbaijan, and Davoudian is the oldest and most experienced among them.

Kayhan Kalhor was born in Tehran in 1963. At the age of seven, he began his music studies under Master Ahmad Mohajer. A child prodigy on the kamancheh, he was invited at the age of thirteen to work in the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran, where he performed for five years. At seventeen, Kalhor began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious organization for arts at the time. While performing with Shayda, he continued his studies of Persian classical repertoire (the radif) with different masters. In addition, he spent much time in different regions of Iran, including Khorasan in the northeast and Kurdistan in the west, and absorbed regional repertoires and styles. He studied Western classical music in Rome and at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he received a degree in music. He has composed works for Iran’s most renowned vocalists, including M. R. Shajarian and S. Nazeri, and he has performed with Iran’s greatest masters, including Faramarz Payvar and Hossein Alizadeh. In 1991 he cofounded Dastan, the renowned Persian classical music ensemble, and in 1997 he formed the ensemble Ghazal, which performs improvisations based on Persian and Indian music. His recent commissions include works written for the Kronos Quartet and for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, which has toured around the world. He has several recordings available, including “Shab, Sokout, Kevir” (“Night, Silence, Desert”), Ghazal’s ” Silk Road” series, and “Scattering Stars Like Dust.”

Born in 1932 in Ashkhaneh, Bojnourd, in northern Khorasan, Wali Rahimi is a renowned Kurdish (Kurmanj) kamancheh player and singer. He is from the Asheq tribes, and music and performance is customary in his family.

Rahimi has his own style in performance, and his renditions of Kuroghli and Lou are outstanding. He is one of the handful of surviving kamancheh players among the Kurdish Asheqs in northern Khorasan.

Taqi Shekarchian is over sixty years old, was born in Gedarkhel in the suburbs of Behshahr, and is living in Godar Tappeh in Farrash-Mahalleh. He is a renowned performer with his own style in eastern Mazandaran and is from the Godar tribe. Godars are migrant nomads from the Luliani branch who, in ancient times, migrated from India to central and western Asia and even as far as Europe. Music is customary and hereditary in their families. Shekarchian, like his ancestors, inherited the oral tradition of the kamancheh and studied under the late Qadar Atwali (Katwali), the most famous contemporary kamancheh player in eastern Mazandaran. Therefore, he is an avid follower of his master’s techniques, including the extensive use of the first string on the instrument.

Shekarchian is a masterful performer of eastern Mazandaran modes and melodies such as Katwali, Kel-Hal, Mioun Katwali, Dashti-Hal, Sema’i, Arous Yar, Shar-o-Shour, Raqsi, and Rewouni.

Iranian-born Ameneh Youssefzadeh studied musicology at Sorbonne University-Paris IV and ethnomusicology at Nanterre University-Paris X. Under the supervision of Jean During, she obtained her PhD focusing on the music of the bards of Northern Khorasan. Her area of musical interest is Khorasan and its different ethics groups: Turks, Kurds, and Persians. She has also done extensive research on music in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979; a segment of her research was published as “The Situation of Music in Iran since the Revolution: the Role of Official Organizations” in the British Journal of Ethnomusicology. Ms. Youssefzadeh is the author of Les bardes du Khorassan iranien: le bakhshi et son repertoire, which is accompanied by a CD with photographs, and of numerous articles and CD compilations. Currently residing in Paris, she is an active member of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique research team Monde Iranien and a member of the French Society of Ethnomusicology.

Born in Shiraz, Iran, Mohammad Reza Darvishi graduated from the College of Fine Arts of Tehran University in 1978. A composer, educator, and researcher on musical instruments of Iran, Mr. Darvishi has traveled extensively to different regions of Iran and has documented and published books on various musical sounds of the country. He has recently published the first volume of theEncyclopedia of the Musical Instruments of Iran, an ongoing project that started twenty years ago and is one of the most comprehensive studies of musical instruments in the world. Mr. Darvishi is also the organizer of many musical festivals in Iran.

Born in Khoram-Abad, Iran, Mohsen Hajarian received his master of ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County in 1995 and his doctor of philosophy in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1999. Although Dr. Hajarian has an extensive background in the music of the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Arab world, his expertise lies in the areas of Iranian classical music and Iranian literature and history. His doctoral dissertation, “Ghazal as a Determining Factor on the Structures of the Iranian Dastgah,” explains the formative influence of the Persian poetic form of ghazal on the music of Iranian dastgah, especially its vocal version. It explores the historical, political, and cultural context of Iran in the thirteenth century and onward. Dr. Hajarian has been the editor of the quarterly Iranian Musicology since 1999.