Qanun, a feminized instrument?

Translated by Mahboube Khalvati
In the world music culture, there are instruments which were traditionally associated with a certain gender. It remains disputable to what extent these gender-based perceptions have been logical and scientific. For example, as playing wind instruments need more breath strength and the public opinion believe that men have stronger breath compared to women, these instruments are predominantly a male domain. Harp is also considered a female instrument as the public opinion believe that women have finer fingers and can therefore better perform nuances and delicate techniques on the instrument.
It is also true about Qanun. Interestingly enough, a review of the history of the Iranian music proves that more men are more among the virtuous players of Qanun than women.
Six decades ago, Rahim Qanuni who had learnt Qanun from Arabs started teaching Qanun to Iranians. After him, Jalal Qanun plays the instrument in an Arabic style. However, Mehdi Fattah (1909 – 1996) started to officially and academically re-introduce the instrument.
Mehdi Meftah was a renowned violinist who had also started Qanun lessons under an Arab instrumentalist. He, therefore, considered a serious revival of this instrument in Iran as he believed that Qanun was an Iranian instrument which was hijacked by Arabs (it is worth mentioning that some researchers believe that the Iranian scholar Abu Nasr al-Farabi (14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951) had invented the instrument).
Mehdi Meftah went to Iraq in 1957 in order to take lessons on different methods of playing Qanun under Arab maestros; after returning to Iran Meftah started teaching the instrument in music conservatory (as the students’ second instrument).
So far, all great players of Qanun were men. So, when does women’s predominance over the instrument begin?
Meftah’s method of teaching the instrument was an Arabic method. Being talented, Simin Aqa Razi and Maliheh Saeedi were Meftah’s students who excelled at performance compared to the maestro.
After the emergence of TV in the society and broadcasting music programmes which attracted the attention of many arts lovers, solo Qanun performance or Qanun performance in accompaniment of the Iranian orchestra were aired frequently which majorly included performances by Aqa Razi and Saeedi.
Frequent reruns of Simin Aqa Razi’s solo performances (who was exactly ten years older than Saeedi), made the sound of this instrument even more popular and; therefore, the image of a woman Qanun player was imprinted on the minds of the public (like the ancient image of the women harpists).
The beauty and the gracefulness of Qanun in the hands of a woman soloist was a great motivation for young women to choose this instrument as their main one and this is the reason that even until today the most prominent players of Qanun are women.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*
Your email is never shared.

Hassan Kassai, Ney Virtuoso

The name of Maestro Hassan Kassai is so vehemently intertwined with Ney (Persian reed flute) that one cannot imagine one without the other immediately coming into mind. Ney is one of the instruments which went through a lot of ups and downs in the history of the Iranian music since the time of Sassanid kings to the time when shepherds found playing it consoling when they took their cattle for grazing. However, Nay could never demonstrate its main capacities to gain a stable position among the musicians and the people like other instruments including Oud, Tar, Santour, all sorts of bowed string instruments and plucked string instruments.

Iranian Fallacies – Global Performance

One of the most important criteria for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music is number of times the piece has been performance by different ensembles and orchestras in different eras. This belief has become so pervasive in some societies, such as Iranian society, that it is considered the only criterion for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music.

From Past Days…

Three singers in one larynx

Sima Bina (b. 1945) is a unique singer among the singers of Golha radio programmes which were broadcast on Iranian National Radio for 23 years from 1956 to 1979. She received her first lessons in music from her father who was a poet, a musician and the most important supporter of Sima’s cultural activities.

Shaahin Mohajeri Wins UnTwelve Composition Competition

UnTwelve Non-profit Organization announced the results of its 2014/2015 composition competition on January 28, 2015. Shaahin Mohajeri, an Iranian Tonbak player, microtonalist, acoustician and composer, was awarded the second prize for his piece “Castle of Babak.”

“The Art of Silence” Project Will be Released

Shaahin Mohajeri, the award-winning Iranian microtonal compose, has contributed to The Art of Silence is an international project which features unpublished pieces by microtonal composers from Iran, Japan, the United States, and other countries.

Principles of Violin Playing (X)

Creating sound continuity between two notes in the source and destination positions when left hand position changes and “two different finger numbers” are involved is called portamento. Portamento can be performed on single string or two neighboring strings and with hand moving on fingerboard either upward or downward.

Principles of Violin Playing (I)

The present series of training articles, “Principles of Violin Playing”, seek to help students, to appropriately understand this field, by gradually introducing, categorizing, and teaching the myriad relevant points. One of the principles of playing violin, which must be always kept in mind, is that the selection of the most natural position for the body parts while playing is the best and most appropriate solution. As a matter of fact, any unnatural body part position which requires lots of energy or unusual stretching to maintain, is wrong.

From the Last Instrumentalist to the First Composer (I)

Music as an art has its own special history; emergence of a singer, of an instrumentalist and then the emergence of the strong character of a composer covers three significant phases of the art of music. With the emergence of composer which was simultaneous with the emergence of the language of music, this art managed to offer a domain for criticism for its composer; a procedure which led to a magnificent variety and evolution in musical production. Even though the conflicts between singers and instrumentalists have not met their end in the Iranian society and while singers can achieve high, instrumentalists have yet to play behind curtains . In a special era, with the efforts of musicians such as Ali Naghi Vaziri (1887-1979) and Rouhollah Khaleghi (1906-1965), glimmers of a composing era started to glow bearing fruit in Khaleghi’s achievement as Iran’s first professional composer. Khaleghi made his reputation as a composer while Vaziri deserved to pioneer this path. By then Vaziri was well-known as a Tar player.

A note on “Illusion or Ingenuity” article

The author of the “Illusion or Ingenuity” article, who is apprehensive of the future of the Music in Iran, enumerates some symptoms of the music weakening in the country for example decreasing in the quality of the music as well as lack of the innovation in creating them, a gradual decline in the music public taste and the drop in the application of layered sound and polyphony in music. He explains that one reason for this gradual weakening might be our unawareness of the fact that we are not so intelligent nation. He believes that we, Iranians, have a comprehensive “Illusion of the high national intelligence “that make us ignorant of the unfavorable realities of our music and consequently no searching for the remedy is taking place. His point of view brings to the mind a patient who thinks he is healthy, therefore delays the treatment and finally is killed by the disease. The author also refers to the national difficulties which gradually will lower the national intelligence score such as the increased rate of the immigration and brain drain, low quality of the nutrition, incompetence of the education system and etc and predicts that the condition of the music of Iran might deteriorate in the future because of the mentioned illusion of its great status.

Ali Rahbari’s collaboration with Naxos as a Composer

Concertino for Violin and Orchestra entitled Nohe Khan was composed by Ali (Alexander) Rahbari while he was studying music in Vienna in 1972. This piece was composed having in mind the Ashoura events and inspired by the music which is used during the Ashoura ceremonies. The piece was first performed and recorded by Bijan Khadem…
Read More »

Women Musicians in Large Iranian Orchestras

It is more than a century now that the sociologists consider the presence of women in different social domains as a benchmark for a society’s progress. They analyze the presence of women in society by the means of available statistics. Unfortunately, as with regard to the Iranian society, statistics related to women’s engagement, has not been available to the researchers, if they existed at all.

Principles of Violin Playing (III)

Violin players should always pay attention to the proper position of the left thumb and other points related to it and to its joining point to the palm.