Mystic World Music


Kaykhosro Pournazeri revived the tanbour, reclaiming this thousand-years-old instrument from historical obscurity and reintroducing its spiritual sound. Before this, the tanbour had been known only as an enigmatic spiritual instrument safeguarded through the ages by the Dervishes of Iran. While preserving the traditional integrity of the tanbour, Mr. Pournazeri paired it with the other spiritual instrument–the daf–and added the poetry of Rumi to create the first tanbour-based musical group, the Shams Ensemble.

In 2011, Mr. Pournazeri was awarded a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for his thirty years of efforts in promoting Iranian culture throughout the world, and he has been recognized as a distinguished figure in Iranian music by the mayor of Beverly Hills. Through the Rumi Foundation and the House of Music, Mr. Pournazeri is acknowledged as having played a major part in promulgating the poetry of Rumi.

As one of the giants of Iranian music, Mr. Pournazeri 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. As a result of his efforts, Mr. Pournazeri has become known as the foremost supporter of young performers on the modern Iranian music scene.

Mr. Pournazeri was introduced to Iranian literature and poetry by his mother, the first Iranian woman educated in the West. His father, Haji Khan Nazeri, one of the master musicians of his generation, taught him to play the tar and trained him in music theory. Mr. Pournazeri went to study civil engineering, but his love of music inspired him to seek work in the Ministry of Art and Culture as a music consultant. He simultaneously entered the University of Fine Arts as a music student and began collecting and arranging Kurdish music. Upon discovering the tanbour, Mr. Pournazeri became so enthralled that he chose the instrument as the primary focus of his musical efforts. Through the Shams Ensemble, he introduced the tanbour to the international community. He has also composed and performed Kurdish and Iranian folk music, and has served as a juror at numerous tribal music festivals in Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq and Turkey.

Through the Shams School of Music, which he founded, Mr. Pournazeri has nurtured the talents of many 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, then, that all of Iran’s distinguished tanbour players have come through the Shams Ensemble. His two sons, Tahmoures and Sohrab, are also well known figures on the Iranian music scene.