Kayhan Kalhor at the Barbican
The concert Passionate Poems of Rumi got off to an unexpected start at the Barbican Centre, London, on 15th June 2012. The concert was supposed to be led by Kayhan Kalhor on the Persian spiked fiddle and Erdal Erzincan on the Turkish longneck flute. One problem emerged though, when it became evident that Erzincan was not there: he had had an issue with his visa and was unable to attend and perform. Fortunately, Madjid Khaladj was able to fill in on the shortest of notice.
With nearly a full audience at the venue, all eyes were on Kalhor and Khaladj. A dimly lit stage with a large rectangular red carpet, Kalhor and Khaladj took their positions. Kalhor began playing the spiked fiddle, Kamancheh, releasing a beautiful sound while Khaladj joined in on a hand drum. The entire concert was improvised, which was truly remarkable. It was even more impressive since Khaladj joined on such short notice. Despite this, Kalhor and Khaladj didn’t miss a beat together. They played extraordinarily off one another: when Kalhor increased the tempo, Khaladj followed; when Kalhor slowed it down, Khaladj was right on point. They were in complete sync with one another.
The concert was put together and led by Kalhor, followed by Khaladj. Kalhor changed the pace the perfect amount of times. He didn’t do it too often or too little. The improvisation was exceptional and authentic. Occasionally, Kalhor would say something to Khaladj or give a sign of direction how he wanted the drum background.
Khaladj was brilliant himself and delivered a great background beat to accompany Kalhor. He also knew when to stop and let Kalhor play a solo. When Kalhor did, he really shone. Never leaving his sitting on the heels position, Kalhor often had his eyes closed and swayed back and forth as he played; and while he was in the zone, Kalhor occasionally switched up his playing method and wouldn’t use the bow but his hands. When he used his fingers, it delivered such a beautiful and unique sound. Khaladj also switched it up and used a variety of different hand drums throughout the concert.
Using different shapes, Khaladj was able to change the background colour of the beats. Khaladj also used a metal instrument that gave a different sound than the traditional drum background. It allowed a refreshing change of pace. The concert also had a classical aspect to it. Kalhor was raised with a classical background alongside regional styles from Khorasan to Kurdistan.
Kalhor and Khaladj played nonstop an hour and thirty minutes of brilliant improvisation. When they stopped, they received a thunderous round of applause. People remained clapping for minutes until Kalhor and Khaladj finally came back out to play an encore. Kalhor didn’t disappoint and switched it up once again. He added singing for the last ten minutes, which was wonderful. It was subtle and he had such a calming voice.
Throughout the concert, Kalhor had the audience mesmerized. The Kamancheh was soothing to the ears and relaxing to the mind. The four-time Grammy Nominee Kalhor was magnificent at the Barbican. Kalhor and Khaladj left the stage with a well-deserved standing ovation.