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.
Kaykhosro Pournazeri rediscovered the Tanbour, reclaimed this thousands-year-old instrument from historical obscurity, and reintroduced its spiritual sound. Prior to this, the Tanbour had only been known as an enigmatic spiritual instrument safeguarded through the ages and centuries by the Dervishes of Iran. While preserving the integrity of the Tanboor, Kaykhosro paired it with the other spiritual instrument – the Daf – and added the poetry of Rumi to create the first Tanboor-based troupe, the Shamss Ensemble.
With their memorable creations, the Shamss Ensemble has come to be recognized as the primary source for Tanbour and spiritual music. Their albums are considered the best-selling cd’s in Iran in the last 30 years and continue to top the charts; they have performed on the most respected stages in the East and in the West. In addition to the Tanbour, Pournazeri has composed and performed in the areas of Iranian folk music and Kurdish music as well.
He has been commended by San Francisco’s city hall for his efforts in promoting the music of Iran, and by the mayor of Beverly Hills as a distinguished figure in Iranian music. Through the Rumi Foundation and the House of Music,Pournazeri is recognized as having played a major part in introducing the poetry of Rumi. He has served on the jury at numerous tribal music festivals in Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, and Turkey. His two sons Tahmoures and Sohrab are also well known figures in the Iranian music scene.
As one of the giants of Iranian music, Kaykhosro has strived to liberate and expand Iranian music after the Islamic revolution; the current presence of female singers and musicians on stage is one of his achievements.
Kaykhosro was born to a mother who was the first western-educated Iranian woman; his father Haji Khan Nazeri was one of the masters of his generation. Kaykhosro was introduced to Iranian literature and poetry by his mother; his father taught him to play the Tar and schooled him in music theory. He studied Civil Engineering, but his love of music drove him to withdraw from that field and begin to work in the Ministry of Art & Culture as a music consultant. At the same time he entered the University of Fine Arts in the area of music. He began to collect and arrange Kurdish music, and upon being introduced to the Tanbour, became so enthralled that he chose the instrument as the primary subject of his musical efforts. Through the Shams Ensemble, he introduced the Tanboor to the international community.
Through the Shams School of Music, which he founded, Kaykhosro has developed numerous students; he is the first leading Iranian artist who – breaking with tradition – has supported young musicians and shared his stage with them. It is no wonder that all of Iran’s distinguished Tanbour players have come through the Shamss Ensemble.
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.