Peyman Heydarian is a maestro of the santur, a hammered dulcimer of Persian / Iranian origin.

Santur originally meant ‘one hundred strings’ and the instrument is played with lightweight feathered mallets which, in Peyman’s hands, became a blur as notes cascaded from the instrument at incredible speed. His virtuosity was about more than just playing fast as he evoked sadness, beauty joy, ecstasy and contemplation, and that was just in his solo opening number.

After this he brought on members of his band, two of whom are from Iran like himself, another from Afghanistan and the fourth from England. Led by Peyman they took us on a journey, playing Persian music from Iran and Afghanistan, Azari music from Iranian Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, music from the Kurdish diaspora, and in a surprise twist a medley of familiar sounding Irish tunes.

Peyman’s own composition Road to the sea was very mellow, even trance like, and featured some sparkling interplay between the santur and the percussion. The concert was largely but not entirely instrumental and a highlight was Khashayar Bagheri’s expressive baritone voice. I especially liked his singing of an allegorical song of a bird in a cage with the santur seeming to create the poignant sound of the bird’s wings fluttering against the bars.

To my western ears, the music had an element of mystery yet, at the same time, in Peyman’s hands was highly engaging and approachable.

After the final number, which built to an ecstatic celebration before ending calmly, the audience would not let the musicians go – calling in particular for more Kurdish music.

The musicians obliged with an upbeat Kurdish medley and improvisations and the night ended with everyone on their feet giving Peyman and his band a well deserved standing ovation.

Peyman is back for a concert this summer. Don’t miss him.

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