Sohrab Pournazeri, virtuoso of the Tanbour and the Kamancheh, is a sensational phenomenon of modern Iranian music. He is a singer and instrumentalist whose music has surpassed the borders of Iran, fusing with cultures and artists as far and wide as China and the United States. His talent and courage have been acknowledged as extraordinary by no less than Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the great master of Iranian music.
Sohrab was born in 1982 to the musical family of Pournazeris. His father Kaykhosro Pournazeri is one of Iran’s most influential musicologists, and his brother Tahmoures has engendered a new movement in Iranian music through his performances and compositions.
Music was Sohrab’s mother tongue; he learned it as other children learn to speak. At the age of two he would play his father’s Tanboor (whose body was larger than his) and sing the poetry of Rumi and Hafez. At 13 he was introduced to the stage as part of the Shamss Ensemble, and today he is considered one of the core members of the band.
Also starting at age 13, Sohrab studied the techniques of Kamanche with Ardeshir Kamkar, and because of his musical talent was able to begin playing as a soloist with the Shams Ensemble after two years.
Sohrab has followed in the footsteps of his musical family, yet has achieved distinct and idiosyncratic techniques that have rendered his method of playing into something entirely unprecedented. He also pursues vocalizing and composing with the same unique approach; and has been able to steer the distinct Pournazeri musical form (with its emphasis on passion, emotion, and inventiveness) towards new horizons.
Sohrab is well versed in the regional music of his native Iran, as well as western classical music, and holds a degree in Music Performance . As soloist and vocalist, Sohrab has collaborated with artists and ensembles worldwide - including Mr. Shajarian, Shujaat Hussain Khan, the Beyond Borders Project, and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.
Reclaiming melodies from past millennia, reviving the traditional instrument Tanboor, discovering the secrets of Iranian mystical music, creating a whole new style in Iranian music by blending passion, emotion, spirituality, and performance, and the most advanced techniques of composition and performance: these are the hallmarks of the Pournazeri family and the Shamss Ensemble.
The Shamss Ensemble was founded in Iran in 1980, by Kaykhosro Pournazeri – a musicologist who retrieved the spiritual instrument Tanboor from the heart of the Sufi monasteries and introduced it to the world stage.Pournazeri was the first to compose based on the music of the Tanboor, and combined it with the poetry of Rumi and the other traditional Sufi instrument, Daf. Through the presentation of these pieces the Shams Ensemble was introduced as the premiere source for composition and performance of Iranian spiritual music and of the Tanboor.
As Kaykhosro’s sons Tahmoures and Sohrab Pournazeri joined the Shamss Ensemble, they also began composing and designing new music founded on their father’s style and incorporating the musical traditions of various nations. This has resulted in the birth of one of the most interesting and attractive new forms of Iranian music – to the point that after thirty years, the Shamss Ensemble has been able to not only retain its fan base but also continually gain new enthusiasts among Iranian youth.
In addition to their focus on performing Iranian music, the Pournazeris and the Shamss Ensemble have been active supporters of other artists. Following the ban on female musicians (after the Islamic revolution of 1978), they have put great effort into returning women to the musical stage. As points of pride, they have nurtured the first female Tanboor players, and after ten years of striving were able to utilize two female vocalists in their work despite the ban on the solo female voice. In addition, Kaykhosro Pournazeri can be counted as the foremost supporter of young performers on the modern Iranian music scene – a fact that has become his personal doctrine and must be considered one of the band’s great strengths.
Currently the Shamss Ensemble and the Pournazeris present their musical activities in several forms: 1. spiritual music, performed primarily by the Tanboor group; 2. Iranian folk music; 3. Kurdish music as performed by traditional instruments; 4. collaboration with Symphonic Orchestras; and 5. fusion music in combination with the music and musicians of other nations.