“It's like hugging a goat...”
That's one of the things that really caught my attention when talking over the phone to Shahin Monshipour, of International Culture and Arts Network (ICAN) about the upcoming celebration of Nowruz, Persian New Year, at St. John Fisher this weekend.
She was talking about the Ney-anban, the Persian bagpipe. The “bag” part of this instrument is often made from a goat and a sheep, so when you playing it, you are in a sense, hugging a goat.
The ney-anban is often painted in fabulous patterns, as you can see from the few pictured (you can find a few other nice examples online here and a quick web search will show you many more).
I've always known the bagpipes as a Scottish or Irish instrument (though it just occurs to me now that the pipers I have seen at St. Patrick's day parades are playing Scottish Highland pipes). I has been fascinating to learn more about this distant relative of an instrument I've heard so often; they have surprising similarities and a world of different styles and traditions.
The ney-anban is a very old instrument from Southern Iran, and along with it's distinctive looks, it has quite an . . . aggressive sound. Which makes sense – as it was often played outdoors, in the countryside, by nomadic shepherds.
In addition to those who still play the ney-anban in its traditional context, there are some who are bringing it into new settings – at festivals and concerts. As I have searched for more about the instrument online, I kept coming back to videos of one performer: Saeid Shanbezadeh, who plays some traditional songs and in more modern styles, including collaborating with DJs.
As fun as it has been to find this music online, I am looking forward to hearing the ney-anban in all its glory this weekend in Rochester.
Rochester's International Culture and Arts Network has put together a celebration of Persian New Year (Nowruz) this Saturday, March 17th from 2-5pm at Cleary Auditorium at St. John Fisher. This festive and educational celebration is free and open to the public, and will include performances by BIODANCE and the Dara Anissi group, which includes the ney-anban.