Interview with Persian Musician Peyman Nasehpour

Interview with Peyman Nasehpour

By Shabnam Rezaei

Born in Tehran to a family of musician, Peyman Nasehpour is one of the foremost experts on Persian music and more importantly wonderful instruments such as the daf and ghaval. We had a chance to talk to Peyman about his art form.

Shabnam Rezaei: Tell us about your childhood and what it was like growing up in Iran.

Peyman Nasehpour: My parents are both Azerbaijani so, as a mother tongue, I learnt Azeri and then Persian. My parents say I was interested in rhythm and drumming from an early age. My childhood was full of music, since my father is a professional master of Persian classical vocal music. Though my brothers, Pooyan and Parham, became instrumentalists, I was interested in percussion, so at the early age of 9, I had the honor to be the tonbak student of the late maestro Nasser Farhangfar, the great master of tonbak and one of the most popular drummers of Iran. My father used to want me to perform solos for our guests. I remember one of the first private concerts of mine was for my English teacher, Mrs. Ferdos Navabi. My first public concert was in 1988. Maestro Ali Akbar Shekarchi, the great master of kamancheh suggested that I play with some instrumentalists all of whom were much older than me.

SR: What have you learned from your father, the great Ostad Nasrollah Nasehpour?

PN: He is and has been more than a father for me. I have learned many things from my father but in the field of music, I learned of his empathy with the music and his effort to convey his knowledge to people. He has devoted all his life to training professional vocalists and some of his students are now famous vocalists in Iran and abroad. More or less I am following his line: to promote Iranian culture. Of course I am familiar with the radif repertoire of Persian vocal music, since my father has taught many of his students in our house in Tehran.

SR: Where did you go after Iran and how did you get started in playing tonbak, daf, and ghaval?

PN: I moved to Germany. Now beside my mathematical studies, I play in the solo form or with my brothers here and there. One of the workshops in Madrid was on “computational music theory” in Politecnica de Madrid University. I tried to explain how one can computerize some of the rhythms played in Persian, Azerbaijani and Kurdish music.

SR: Tell us a little about these wonderful Persian instruments?

PN: Well, as you know, I have written several articles about the drums played in Iran, and some other countries that are culturally related to Iran. Among those drums, my focus has been on the tonbak, ghaval and daf. The tonbak is the Persian goblet shaped drum and the chief percussion instrument played in Iran. It is played in all genres of Iranian / Persian music. The tonbak was considered an accompaniment instrument before the late maestro Hossein Tehrani, the father of modern tonbak. Only after this great master did the tonbak find a more important role in Iranian music. Though Iranian drummers need to work very hard to find a better status in music, thanks to the great masters of tonbak, this drum has become more recognised. The ghaval is the Azerbaijani frame drum. This drum is played in all genres of Azeri music, from folk to pop. Fortunately this drum has been promoted by American frame drummers and it is more or less known to fans of frame drums. One of the best ghaval players that I have seen is maestro Latif Tahmasebi-zadeh, a great ghaval player from Ardebil who now lives in Tehran. I have had the honor to be his student. And finally, the daf is the frame drum played mainly in Kurdistan. But it is now in all genres of Iranian music. The promotion of this drum is due to Bijan Kamkar, the famous musician belonging to the Kamkar Music Group. The Daf is historically important too, since great Persian poets such as Rumi and Hafiz have mentioned this drum several times in their works. The Daf that was played in Sufi music in khanghah (Temple of Sufis) has been integrated into Iranian music successfully. One can learn more about these drums from my articles published in Internet, for example the one published on PersianMirror.

SR: What is the biggest misconception of Iran you face when trying to explain Iran to non-Iranians?

PN: When I say to non-Iranians that I am from Iran, they think I am Arab! They think Iran is just a desert! They really wonder when I explain that Iran has very high mountains like Damavand and Sabalan. I remember one of the artists in the PersianMirror explained that it was our fault that we were not able to promote our culture in the world. In my opinion she is right to some extent I am not disappointed at the misconceptions about Iran and Iranians. Instead of being unhappy we need to work really hard to promote our Iran and Iranian culture.

SR: What do you hope to achieve with your music and your online presence?

PN: I like to promote my culture all over the world, to show the positive faces of my country and my culture, and with my music and my online presence, I like to promote peace, love, respect and mutual understanding. I thank you and the PersianMirror for helping me in this matter.

SR: Tell us about your most recent project.

PN: My big project has been to promote the drums all over the world. Though thanks to some percussion websites that have published my articles on the Internet, (some of my articles have been online since 2000), I have been able to introduce the drums to some percussion lovers, but I am aware that I am at the beginning of the project and there is a long way to go. You can go to for more info.

SR: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?

PN: My drums, my books and the Internet!

PersianMirror Quikfacts:

Full Name: Peyman Nasehpour

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite City: Tehran

Favorite Dish: Almost every Iranian food

Favorite Drink: Apple Juice

Languages: Azerbaijani, Persian and English.

Currently Reading: Mathematical books related to Algebra and “Where Mathematics Comes From: How the embodied mind bring mathematics into being”.

Classical Persian Music Concert in WDR Funkhaus