Emad Shakouri: Persian Kanun & World Music

Persian Kanun Master Emad Shakuri joins the podcast. He discusses how he started playing the kanun, performing with a multitude of musicians, world music and his approach to arranging music.

Topics include:

  • Emad spent time in Sweden, Iran, and Turkey, where he bought a Kanun in Istanbul and used to practice 10 hours a day in Stockholm, in part due to his situation as an immigrant
  • In Iran, the santur was more common, and it was interesting to try an instrument that wasn’t as prominent in the kanun, and his father made instruments (tar, santur and several others)
  • Interacted with various Middle Eastern and Eastern European ethnic groups in Sweden, and used his playing of the kanun to mix all these styles together
  • Found it fascinating to blend Persian, Kurdish and Turkish styles, and is close with Taksim Trio, which has performed on his recordings
  • Shakouri has recorded 120+ albums as a producer/arranger
  • Various kanun samples by Shakouri on the podcast, where he demonstrates his style
  • His origins are in northern Iran, near the Caspian Sea, but has traveled all over the world
  • Varies the different quarter tone possibilities for creative optionality, mixing and matching modes
  • He plays with all his fingers on both hands, not with picks
  • Traveled to South America with his University studies, and was exposed to a lot of different musical influences to incorporate into his playing, including flamenco
  • Works with top singers throughout the Middle East for both recordings and performances, including top Lebanese artists like George Wasouf, George Arasy, Hany Shaker from Egypt, Angham from Egypt, Hata Muraghi and Habib Ali from Iraq, Koza Masayer, Ibrahim Tatlises, Emra with Jaylan, Emalsayin, Moraham Ahmati from Albania, Pandoura from Macedonia, Hamza from Macedonia, Spiros Kotis from Greece, Moeen (for nearly 20 years) and Googoosh from Iran, Mahashti, Khaliji, Nabil Shahil, and scores of others, including with jazz and fusion artists
  • The concept of music as teamwork for Shakouri, and gaining experience by working with others, for example listening to different forms of improvisation
  • Shakouri’s first instrument was Zarb/Toumbek to learn tempo and rhythm, Percussion instruments from Iran to learn time, and he studied at his father’s music school – his second instrument was the tar
  • Instruments were forbidden for a time during his childhood during Khomeini’s time, and his father’s factory-made instruments and had influence over this controversial dynamic
  • At the age of 8 years old, he performed in front of a crowd over 2000 people
  • Shakouri’s brother is also a music producer, but more traditional Persian style influences
  • Spent time with Ustad Shahid Parvis one of the most revered Sitar players
  • For compositions and arrangement, he engages artists and singers to see how they approach their music
  • Shakouri’s signature is writing for string sections, with a Turkish string section, because they play all styles well
  • Discusses how many Arab and Turkish music scales are originally from Persian, Armenian or Azeri culture
  • Discussion of how instruments may move from region to region and different cultures may adopt and even improve the playing of these instruments beyond the original versions and styles
  • Works with William Ross at Capital Studios and Persian artist Moeen, providing middle eastern style music for movie soundtrack projects and pop song recordings, incorporating kanun and also Turkish strings
  • Has shared his arrangements with Ibrahim Tatlises, with a compliment that Oylesef, that Shakouri’s arrangement was more impressive than the original
  • Advice for new players is to listen to different kinds of music and various styles from all over the world to learn something, with an example of how Indian glissando vocals and sitar concepts helped him develop his style

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