Iranian kamanche virtuoso and innovative composer Kayhan Kalhor
is known for his international collaborations with cellist Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, the Persian-Indian ensemble m: Ghazal = 23569, and the Brooklyn Rider string quartet . I Will Not Stand Alone
, is a spellbinding meditation on one of the most difficult stages in his life. Kalhor was part of the Green Movement civil uprising in Tehran, which was later squashed by the Iranian regime after disputed national elections. This was certainly an intense, emotional period, where darkness and violence seemed to be taking over. Through Kalhor's music and its immediate connection to the people, hope prevails.
Kalhor plays a custom-made instrument on this album, the shah kaman
("the king of bows"), built by Australian craftsman Peter Biffin. This new instrument is a variant of the bowed kamanche. With a fifth lower string and a series of sympathetic harmonic strings, its sound is similar to the Western viola or cello, and to the Indian bowed sarangi. Kalhor is joined by frequent member of his ensembles, Ali Bahramifard
, on the rarely heard, low register, hammered bass santour. This instrument has sound close to that of the piano. Their musical rapport is telepathic as they seamlessly complete each other's elaborate articulations.
The extended, slow and patient "Between the Heavens and Me" opens the album, setting the atmosphere for this musical journey. The music reflects both Kalhor's rich musical heritage and his personal life as a musician; he left Iran after the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s and returned a decade ago. His greatness as a musician and composer shines through the deep tranquility of this composition. The following "Where Are You?" is based loosely on a beautiful Kurdish melody, but the Kalhor and Fard version is freer. They transform this traditional theme into a timeless piece of music, their improvisations often sounding like a contemporary viola and piano duet.
"The Laziest Summer Afternoon" (based on an ancient Persian mode) and "Dancing Under the Walnut Tree" (which paints a childhood memory) serve as the interlude in this sonata-like cycle of compositions. The emotional climax of "Hear Me Cry" follows. Here, the music gains intensity and goes higher and higher, aimingliterallyfor the heavens in the sky. Kalhor and Fard trade roles and shimmering, inspired solos. The conclusion, "Pluck a Star From the Sky," is an attempt to make sense and gain control after the heated climax. This is followed by a short, contemplative variation on the second composition, "Here I Am Alone Again." The powerful, steadfast title piece closes the album, symbolizing the popular struggle for freedom and the insistence and power of hope, even after a temporary defeat. This is magnificent music that portrays a timeless, universal, human story about mankind's need for hope and freedom.