Indian and Iranian musicians weave magic in San Diego.

Showcasing a rare fusion, Indian and Iranian musicians recently came together at a fund-raising concert in the United States. Sitar and Tabla maestros, Kartik Seshadri and Arup Chattopadhyay joined Kayhan Kalhor, the Iranian Kamanche virtuoso to enthral their audience with the magical blend of rare eastern musical notes at San Diego’s Irwin Jacobs Qualcomm Auditorium.

The concert, Rista (Kinship), was held to support the “Stay in School” child education campaign for girls. Kalhor, the Iranian artist, has a well-earned reputation of being a highly creative musician, who has effortlessly combined classical Persian music with the folk tunes of the Kurdistan region — an area set inside the border zones of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Kalhor is a complete musician, well exposed to the genres of the east and the west, with his mastery over the Persian violin at the core. After absorbing the Persian, Kurdish and Turkish musical traditions inside Iran, Kalhor later moved to Rome and Ottawa to study European classical music. His exposure to the west, apart from embellishing his music, also brought the gifted Kalhor in vibrant contact with Indian musicians.

Indian classical music left a powerful impact on the Iranian artist, who had already become known for his highly creative cross-genre experimentations. It was therefore not surprising that Kalhor joined the refreshingly innovative sitar maestro Shujaat Hussain Khan and tabla player Swapan Chaudhuri for a lasting collaboration. The trio established Ghazal, a formidable group that produced an array of stunningly original albums. One of their albums, Rain, was nominated for the Grammy award in 2004.

The Sand Diego concert was organised by Raga: Rasa — Kartik Seshadri’s Center for Indian Classical and Improvised Music. The Center aspires to deepen the understanding of Indian classical music and reaches out to other musical traditions throughout the world by engaging in workshops, collaborations, as well as education and outreach projects. The concert with Kalhor was one such imaginative experiment.