Forlornness that has been carried on the tonbak

Forlornness that has been carried 
on the tonbak

An Interview with Peyman Nasehpour by Sama Babaei

Last week, Peyman Nasehpour performed in the European Musician's Meeting in Barcelona of Spain that was on frame drums. In this meeting, Ghaval of Azerbaijan, Daf of Kurdistan, Tamburello of Italy, Daf and Req of Arabs, Tambourine of Europe, Adufe of Portugal and so on were discussed. Musicians from Spain, Germany, France, Poland, Canada, USA, Panama and so on and “Peyman Nasehpour” from Iran played in this meeting. For this reason, we have had an interview with him:

S) How was your performance in Barcelona?

P) In the second day of the meeting, I taught tonbak, Azerbaijani ghaval and Sufi style of daf and the night of that day, I had tonbak, ghaval and daf solo that drumming solos were welcomed; also I accompanied an artist from Spain, his name Juanjo Fernandez, who was the player of a special bagpipe from the Galicia of Spain. The meeting will be held next year too.

S) It seems that the role of percussion instruments is weaker and less colorful than stringed and bowed instruments. Why?

P) In the past music was one of the branches of mathematics and it was the forth branch. Music in theory and practice was divided into two sections; one was the “ta'lif-e-neghmeh-ha” (composition of notes) that was the melody and the other was the “igha” that today it is the rhythm and it was an important section of the knowledge of music. Since the role of drums is to show the rhythms more colorful, so they were considered very important, but unfortunately in a period of history of music in Iran, the drums were never paid attention and to investigate about the reasons of this historical problem, needs a broad research and this period should be named as the “lost-ring-of-the-history-of-music”.

S) How many genres of percussion instruments we have?

P) Generally some of them like tonbak and daf should be considered national, while some like “damam” that accompanies the “neyanban” (bagpipe) of Bushehr city of Iran should be considered folkloric or regional. Of course it is possible that in future these drums will be used in the traditional or national music and they will be considered as national drums too.S) When did this drum found an independent character gradually?

P) Maestro Hosain Tehrani revolutionized the tonbak. Before Safavid period this instrument was supported and played but then it was forgotten and then maestro Hosain Tehrani revolutionized the drum.

S) So should Hosain Tehrani be considered as the most important character of tonbak?

P) Exactly! He was born in 1912 and passed away in 1974 and he should be considered as one of the most prominent tonbak players and as I mentioned above, he revolutionized the tonbak. He was a pioneer/modernist tonbak player who had a new style in the art of playing the tonbak and by his solo and accompaniment performances attracted the society in the way that every day from his time up to now new methods and styles coming and some famous tonbak players have come up and even the world is going to pay attention to this drum.

S) Despite of all these things, it seems that there is no important role for the tonbak in many orchestras. Why?

P) This is because of the many restrictions that this instrument has had during the last centuries and unfortunately a part of those restrictions still exists. If somebody wants to receive a bachelor’s degree in art at any rate that person can not choose a percussion instrument as one’s main instrument, while one can and must choose a stringed or bowed instrument and this is a big question for me. Why cannot somebody receive a bachelor’s degree in art, while choosing dohol as his main instrument, whereas Dr. Courtney from USA has PhD of tabla! Why shouldn't this happen in Iran? Addition to this problem, I think to have percussion festivals is a very good way that players of inside and outside of Iran can exchange their information that they can be familiar with different styles of these instruments, meanwhile we should have an independent committee in “Iran House of Music”.

S) Are the percussionists not a part of the committee of players in “Iran House of Music”?

P) Yes, they are but we should notice that there is a difference between an instrumentalist and a percussionist. Because percussionists play the rhythms, while the instrumentalists play the melodies. And by considering the forlornness that these instruments had, they will be given special attention.

S) Who are the important characters of this drum in Persian music?

P) Maestro Abdollah Davami (who was a great master of radif, tasnif and old style of tonbak), Agha Khan, Agha Jan the First, Maestro Ravanbakhsh, Haji Khan Zarbgir that had the old style and Maestro Hosain Tehrani that gave a lot of different changes to the tonbak and he should be named as “the father of modern tonbak”, and then Maestro Eftetah, Maestro Farhangfar and Maestro Bahman Rajabi that worked on this drum very much.

S) How is the ability of this drum in fusing with other instruments in western music?

P) European musicians have a tendency in using it, because they have similar instruments such as setar, tar, santoor and so on, but they don’t have similar percussion instruments we have and for this reason they are interested in tonbak, tabla and tempo (darbouka), of course they have some similar drums that are played with sticks such as dohol and I hope tonbak like the drums of Arabic countries, India and West Africa will have its suitable status in the modern and western music.

S) How many people are interested in tonbak?

P) The number of people who are interested in this instrument is growing. For example Maestro Helmi, the famous tonbak maker, has sold about 200,000 tonbaks that shows the number of people who are fond of tonbak; of course tonbak despite of the other instruments is not financially beneficial!