Mystic World Music


Reclaiming melodies from past millennia, revealing the secrets of Persian mystical music, creating new styles in Iranian music by blending passion, emotion, spirituality, and the most advanced techniques of composition and performance: These are the hallmarks of the Pournazeri family and the Shams Ensemble.

The Shams Ensemble was founded in Iran in 1980 by Kaykhosro Pournazeri, a musicologist who revived the tanbour, a spiritual instrument, from the heart of the Sufi monasteries and introduced it to the world stage. Mr. Pournazeri was the first to compose music for the tanbour and combine it with the poetry of Rumi and the other traditional Sufi instrument, the daf. Through the presentation of Mr. Pournazeri’s work, the Shams Ensemble has become known as the principal source for the performance and composition of Persian classical and spiritual music of the tanbour. The ensemble has performed in more than 300 venues worldwide, including the most respected stages in Iran, France, Germany, Spain, India, the United States, Canada, China, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

When Mr. Pournazeri’s sons, Tahmoures and Sohrab, joined the Shams Ensemble, they began inventing new music rooted in their father’s style while incorporating the musical traditions of other nations. This has resulted in the development of one of the most interesting and attractive new forms of Iranian music–so much so, that after thirty years the Shams Ensemble has been able not only to retain its considerable fan base but to continually gain new enthusiasts among the Iranian youth. Their albums are among the bestselling CDs in Iran in the last thirty years, and they continue to top the charts.

In addition to their performing work, the Pournazeris and the Shams Ensemble have been active supporters of other artists. Following the ban on female musicians after the Islamic revolution of 1978, the Pournazeris put great effort into returning women to the musical stage. As points of pride, they have nurtured the first female tanbour players, and after ten years of effort were able to feature two female vocalists in the Shams Ensemble, despite the ban on the solo female voice.

The Shams Ensemble and the Pournazeris present their music in several forms: spiritual music, performed primarily by the tanbour ensemble; Iranian folk music; Kurdish music performed on traditional instruments; collaborations with symphonic orchestras; and fusion music in combination with the music and musicians of other nations.

“It’s an exciting time that Americans have so much experience with Iran and are seeing Iran in a different light,” Sohrab Pournazeri told the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of Americans have had exposure to the country, with an Iranian film winning [best foreign-language film] at the Oscars and in the news, for better or worse. Our goal is for the audience to take away an experience where they are touched by a new Iran, a new culture of Iran.”


© 2012 Shams Ensemble