Exclusive interview of Kamran Maleki, grandson of Master Hossein Ghavami Fakhtehi’s brother with Master Homayoun Khorram, composer of the songs “Toe Ay Pari Kojaii” and “Rossvaye Zamaneh”.
Please talk about yourself.
I was born in 1930 in Bushehr. They know me as one of the last survivors of Abol Hassan Saba’s school of music. I learned and practiced music directly under his supervision, and up to a while ago I was still composing and performing live music.
I turned to music due to the encouragement of my mother. In interviews with most Iranian media, he has mentioned that the name “Homayoun” was selected by his family because it was the name of one of the Iranian music sectors (Dastgah Homayoun) to show their special interest in this art. The first musical piece I performed on the Radio was also in Dastgah Homayoun, to appreciate my mother’s encouragements.
After completing my training with Master Abol Hassan Saba; when I was 14 years old, I was the youngest solo violinist who performed at the Radio, in the 1950s.
Your field of study was electrical engineering; how come all of a sudden you switched to the field of music?
Yes, my field of study was electrical engineering, and I was admitted to studying this field at the university. I was highly interested in playing music, and this field did not affect me to take distance from music.
Before the Revolution, I used to cooperate as a composer and player with special programs on the Radio i.e., Golha (Flowers), Golhaye Rangarang (Colorful Flowers), Golhaye Tazeh (Fresh Flowers), and Shakheh Gol (Flower Branch).
Among the pieces that I have composed, I could name these songs: “Toe Ay Pari Kojaii”, “Emshab Dar Sar Shoori Daram”, “Sagharam Shekast Ay Saghi”, “Rosvaye Zamaneh Mannam”, “Aya Hameh Shoma Bigonahid”, “Ashke Man Hoveyda Shod”, “Pake Sahari”, and “Avaye Khasteh Dellan”.
I have to mention that from the 1940s to 1970s, I used to play together with other artists i.e., Messrs. Javad Maroufi, Jalil Shahnaz, Farhang Sharif, Majid Nejahi, Mansour Saremi, Jahangir Malek, and Amir Nasser Eftetah.
Talk about how you composed the song “Toe Ay Pari Kojaii” that Master Ghavami sang it?
I was driving on the road to the north. There was a big garden close to Ramsar and I decided to go there and take a rest. All of a sudden, I noticed somebody is singing with a very good voice, I walked closer and listened, I noticed an expressive and beautiful voice and thought this voice is good for my work.
No one could notice he is the person who is singing, since his lips were not moving at all, and he was so humble and dignified. I looked at them for a short while and thought that his face is remarkably familiar to me. I walked closer and noticed what an interesting thing has happened. He was the person I had seen at a ceremony held for Yehudi Menuhin by UNESCO in 1966.
I walked closer and said hello, then I asked him, are you Hossein Ghavami who was present at the ceremony for great Yehudi Menuhin, where I played music and you sang a song. He said it's correct. I said it is so interesting that I come to this garden, hear such a beautiful voice, and walk towards the voice. I must compose a song for such a beautiful voice. The meeting was over, and I returned to Tehran after a short while.
Two months later I had a meeting with Mr. Sayeh Ebtehaj. He proposed that I compose a melody so that he could write the lyrics for the song. Master Khoram said the “Toe Ai Pari Kojaii” melody was one of the songs that I composed and wrote quite fast, and handed it to Sayeh Ebtehaj to write the lyrics for it.
This song or melody was composed in 1972, and the discussion was about selecting the singer and which singer could perform this song in the best manner. I told Master Ebtehaj that a man should sing this song. I proposed to Mr. Ghavami and told him in my viewpoint he is the best choice. Sayeh Ebtehaj thought that there might be a better voice than Ghavami who could sing this song. I told him, I have heard his voice in a garden in Ramsar, and he has a beautiful and strong voice. I said it is easy, we can try.
I asked Master Ghavami to go to the studio on the Radio for a test.
On that day, Mr. Nejahi, Mr. Mostaan, director of the Radio, and Ms.Fakhri Nikzad, the good lyrics speaker in our country were present on the Radio. When Master Ghavami sang the song, I looked at Sayeh Ebtehaj and told him, you see that I was right, and this song matches the voice of Hossein Ghavami. All of them accepted what I said and sometime later Sayeh Ebtehaj told me, well done with your choice.
Master Ghavami was 61 years old when he performed and recorded this song with the National Iranian Radio orchestra, and now the song is still popular for many people and has lasted.
I always composed the melody and then the songwriter wrote the poem for it. Part of the persistence of my songs is because of the emotion and melody of the songs, and another part is because the words are later added to the melody.
I would like to ask a hard question from you. I know it might be quite difficult for you to answer; however, I seriously wish to know your viewpoint?
I hope it is not that hard.
A long time has passed since 1973 when you composed the song “Toe Ai Pari Kojaii”; and many old and new singers have sung it in the same style or have given a rhythm to it. I wish to know that in your viewpoint which of the singers have done a better job.
Master Khoram paused a little and said you have really asked a hard question. I am wondering what I should say to please God! Of course, I have always said that I can name Master Ghavami, whom I insisted that he should sing this song.
Then, I can name Ms. Elahe, who sang this song beautifully with her smooth voice; then Mr. Hooshmand Aghili, who did a good job; and Mr. Mohammad Isfahani. You, as the grandson of Master Ghavami’s brother, have your own position. You sang the song “Toe Ai Pari Kojaii” by changing the rhythm of the song and lyrics speaking which is interesting.
I told Master Khorram, please do not embarrass me, I sang it very casually. Master Khorram said it was very good and I liked it.
Talk about the concerts you had performed during the last two years?
My recent concerts were held at Vahdat Hall and Milad Tower, with a big orchestra, with lyrics speaking by Ms. Jaleh Sadeghian, and was highly welcomed by the audience.
Do you have any programs for February and March?
I will have a concert on February 10th and another one in May 2014 that will be performed at Milad Tower.
Regarding your book?
My book is written in two volumes. Volume 1 and 2. Volume 1 is published, and the title is “Ghoghaye Setaregan” (Melee of Stars).Volume 2 will be published within a few months and will be unveiled at the Milad Tower.
How long and to what extent you would continue to play music?
You have asked a good question. If I could go ahead successfully, I would continue as long as I am possible. I do not think that my progress was not good up to now.
Since hope always gives us an opportunity, I am hoping to continue playing music as seriously as I did when I was young.
You do not know about your future! Did Parviz Yahaghi, dear Saba, or our other dear artists who were so famous knew that they were going to pass away? If a lifetime is left for me, I wish all my plans would go through, during the opportunity that I would have. I think music is a world like my other works, where I wish to explore, up to the time I am living; so, I will experience it again.
Talk about your viewpoints about the voice of old and new singers that you like.
I like the voice of Master Hossein Ghavami, Master Bannan, Mmes. Ellahe, Pouran, Ghamar, and Messrs. Shajarian, Eftekhari, Salar Aghili, and Hadid Isfahani whom I have composed a few songs for him.
How many children do you have?
I have three sons, Ali, Amir, Reza, and a daughter, Haleh. My son Ali won the US Lottery Visa two years ago he has to travel to the US every six months.
Whether you had any private get-togethers and do you have any memories from those gatherings?
You have asked a good question. My first memory is from May 1970, the eve of celebrating Imam Ali’s birthday.
We all decided to get together at late Mr. Hannaneh’s house. I, Messrs. Golpayegani, Jalil Shahnaz, Fereydoun Moshiri, Tajvidi, Nejahi, Shajarian, Shahidi, Siavash Zendegani, Parviz Yahaghi; and others.
Parviz Yahaghi was playing the violin when Master Ghavami and his brother Ali Ghavami, your grandfather came in. We were all excited. I played a piece from “Dastastgah Shoor” and Master Ghavami sang. Then I played some pieces together with your grandfather who played the Tar beautifully, and Master Ghavami sang many songs. We had a great time together up to late at night.
The second memory that I have is from a ceremony in 1966 when Yehudi Menuhin, the famous violinist visited Iran. Master Ghavami was present at this ceremony, and Yehudi Menuhin appreciated his voice. Yehudi Menuhin and I played a piece together that was highly welcomed by the guests.
Did you rewrite your writings when they were messed up or not?
You mentioned a good point. I am highly obsessed with my writings. Sometimes I wrote 30 to 100 pages, reviewed them, did not like them, shredded them, and repeated writing up to the time I was fully satisfied. If something different happened, then Homayoun Khorram was meaningless. I had to do my job perfectly so that it would be accepted by myself and approved by my artist friends.
Well, the piano is also a western musical instrument. You could see and hear the pieces composed by Master Javad Maroufi that are played by pianists from the radio and TV. So, maybe since they have not been able to replace the piano with another instrument, they have kept it. Do you think that kamancheh could replace the violin?
I think this is how we should review this issue: The musical instrument is a means for expressing feelings; and if a musical instrument could not do this, it is not good for music.
Kamancheh is an instrument with a nice sound, which is very good in its kind. But if you listen to a piece that Mr. Afshari plays with the violin and listen to the same piece played by kamancheh, you will notice how different they are. This means that the sonority of the violin is different than kamancheh. Of course, it depends on the liking of people, and in this case, the choice is with the listeners.
Of course, I do not see any reason for removing the violin and do not consider it logical. The violin came to Iran as a musical instrument from the West. But later, Master Saba and the late Ali Naghi Vaziri, composed pieces for the violin considering the Iranian music and its special technics. Next, Master Saba adjusted many pieces that were composed for kamancheh for the violin, to make some changes in playing the violin.
That means, this western instrument, became a favorable instrument for playing Iranian music with all its elegance. Basically, the pleasure that the Iranian people enjoy from this instrument, if not more than all national instruments, is certainly not less; because the violin has some capabilities that some other instruments do not have. For example, plucked string instruments cannot perform that special violin mourns i.e., santur, that cannot deeply create the required glissando for performing that special mourns.
I do not see any logical reason for removing the violin. I think it is better to leave it to the opinion of the specialists and the people of Iran.
Do you teach the violin?
I have been teaching music for a few years. My motivation in this regard has been to use what I have learned and collected from my experiences to teach others; and serve my fellow citizens to elevate the level of art in Iranian music, which is one of the foundations of the culture of this country.
Do you think how many years of training would be enough to play the violin?
It depends on people’s talent. If training starts at an early age of eighty-nine, it would be better. In this way, we could easily find out who really has the talent to learn to play the violin.
Sometimes I have introduced some of the children whom I am teaching, who are learning the Saba techniques, and their fathers are also playing a musical instrument at artistic literary associations, and the outcome has been very encouraging. When they perform a program, I have such a pleasure that I feel I have received the reward of my efforts for teaching violin. I hope to continue my efforts, as much as I can, to teach authentic Iranian music.
Is the Iranian music sorrowful in your viewpoint?
Yes, but the sorrow in our music is not mourning and grieving; this sorrow is the pain for what you lose, sorrow for human isolation, sorrow for lack of foundation; it is a mystical sorrow, variety of these sorrows are the base for multiple songs, and the only thing that makes a show up in all these sorrows is love.
A composer could induce his/her two favorite feelings with a proper melody and rhythm. For instance, they say Dashti is one of the most sorrowful sectors of our music. However, the late Rouhollah Khaleghi has composed the national song “Ai Iran Ai Marze Por Gohar” in the Dashti sector. That means he has composed a national epic song in the Dashti sector, and the poet has well understood which suitable and melodic words to use for the song. Or late Master Ali Naghi Vaziri, who composed the song “Ai Vatan” in the Dashti sector, has done similar artistic work. his means that you can compose a national epic song in such a sorrowful position.
I have to point out that musical song melody had the highest influence among Iranians, and the reason is the adjustability of our literature with our music. That means a brilliant composer is a person who can compose a beautiful, original, creative melody;
make the necessary arrangements for the orchestra to perform it, and be well-informed about selecting rhythmic and medical words and sentences. Our musical song melody is a variety of Iranian music that can perfectly show itself.
Would you please talk about the richness of Iranian music?
We have to say that Iranian music which has 12 positions could create diverse and beautiful pieces by creative composers. Please note that we have a discussion in mathematics that the title is combined according to partials. That means the number of combinations is in accordance with the number of partials that we have. In a scientific view, without considering the non-physical factors i.e., passion and talent, composing is a combination of partials, which means the sounds that are available for us.
Our arpeggio is 24 parts, which means 24 different sounds are available, while the western arpeggio is 12 parts. In simple words, the number of combinations in western arpeggio is with a factor of 12; but for the Iranian music it could be multiplied by 13, 14, 15, 16, …., up to 24; and if we pay attention, we will reach to very huge numbers.
Meanwhile, we have considered a constant variety of scales and multiple combinations; that means we have considered the creations to be constant. So, if innovative and expert artists work on this music, we could compose great, diverse, and beautiful pieces. Of course, it is necessary to know the present-day music as well. We have to develop this science at any time. In addition to science, loving music, persistent and delicate work, without any limitation, are among the necessary conditions.
This interview published in Persian on the Gil Negah website in 2012.