The Phoenix of Persia is an exciting collaboration between music, art and literature. Author Sally Pomme Clayton wrote the story of Prince Zal and the Simorgh for The Phoenix of Persia, which was illustrated by Iranian artist Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif. The music for the book was conceived by Professor Laudan Nooshin, who initiated the project, and directed by Soosan Lolavar, the Creative Producer and Assistant Editor. The music was composed and performed by Amir Eslami (ney), Nilufar Habibian (qanun), Saeid Kord Mafi (santur), and Arash Moradi (tanbur) with Sally Pomme Clayton recording her stunning narration of the story. You can listen to the music by scanning the QR code at the front of the book.
About the Author
Sally Pomme Clayton is a pioneering storyteller and writer. She is the author of The Phoenix of Persia and has a long connection with the Iranian epic Shahnameh. Sally Pomme co-founded The Company of Storytellers with Ben Haggarty and Hugh Lupton (1985), and together they spearheaded storytelling across the UK. She is an inspiring educator, teaching practical workshops in storytelling and creative writing. www.sallypommeclayton.com
About the Illustrator
Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif was born in Tehran in 1979 and is an award-winning illustrator whose work has been published worldwide. To illustrate The Phoenix of Persia, Amin has used a distinctive sgraffito technique which involves scratching through a layer of still-wet paint to reveal what’s underneath. Take a look at The Phoenix of Persia teacher resources to discover more about this technique and explore centuries of artistic representations of the Shahnameh, from exquisitely detailed Persian miniatures to contemporary illustrations.
About the Musicians
Amir Eslami plays the ney which represents the sound of the majestic Simorgh. A ney (or nei) is an end-blown reed flute. It is used in Iranian classical music, but it has folk roots, most likely as a shepherd’s pipe. It is often associated with Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam.
Amir was born in Esfahan, Iran, in 1971. He started studying ney when he was 15 years old and went on to graduate with a BA in Music and MA in Composition from Tehran Art University. Amir served as a faculty member at the same university, including as Head of the Iranian Music Department and Dean of Administration for the Music Faculty. In 2014, he published the oldest Persian music repertoire Montazem Al-Hokama’s Radif (published by Tehran Art University), for which he received faculty award for best research. His album All of You (published by Hermes Records in 2010) was a collaboration with the pianist Hooshyar Khayam and received a 4* review in Songlines, the world music magazine. Amir has won one national and three international composition prizes (Italy, Australia and Netherlands). Amir moved to Vancouver in 2015 and has since established the Vancouver Iranian Choir (Vanchoir) and HazarAva ensemble. He has released more than 10 albums, of which the latest – Rey in Fire and The Mystery of Nightingale’s Warbling – were released in Vancouver by Rumi Records. Amir’s work has been performed in Iran, Italy, Australia, The Netherlands, Canada and the US. http://amir-eslami.com/
Nilufar Habibian plays the qanun with a sweet, rippling sound that represents Prince Zal. A qanun is a horizontal zither with strings in rows which are plucked with a plectrum.
Nilufar is an award-winning Iranian qanun player, composer and improviser based in London, UK. She studied under supervision of renowned qanun player, Ms Maliheh Saeidi and received her diploma in music (qanun performance) from Tehran Music Conservatoire. She also attended masterclasses held by Goksel Baktagir the renowned Turkish qanun player. Nilufar studied Persian classical music in Iran under the supervision of the most prominent Iranian maestros, including Mohammad Reza Lotfi and Majid Derakhshani. She pursued higher education and studied French literature in Tehran. She received her Bachelor in Music degree from Royal Holloway, University of London and her MA in Composition from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has performed as a soloist and member of various ensembles in prestigious venues and concert halls in Iran and the UK. She has also participated in several live and recording musical projects. She performs a variety of musical styles ranging from Persian classical and Middle-Eastern music to avant-garde and experimental contemporary Western music. Find her work on Soundcloud and YouTube.
Saeid Kord Mafi
Saeid Kord Mafi plays the santur with a glittering sound that represents the Mountain of Gems. A santur is a trapezium-shaped dulcimer played with delicate hammers which are covered with felt.
Saeid also plays the daff frame drum which has small metal rings that brings to life the landscape and wild animals of Iran. A daff is a large, wooden frame drum, covered with a skin or synthetic head. The drum is played with the hands and fingers. It has small metal rings on the inside of the frame that jingle loudly when the drum is shaken! Like the tanbur, the daff originally comes from the Kurdish region of western Iran.
Saeid Kord Mafi is one of Iran’s talented santur players. Learning Iranian music from a number of distinguished musicians, he has explored various styles of performing Iranian classical music. As a composer and santur player, he has participated in numerous concerts, festivals and workshops in the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and the United States, and has so far released four albums in Iran. Saeid is currently a PhD candidate in the Music Department at SOAS, University of London.
Arash Moradi plays the tanbur with a sound that evokes the royal palace of ancient Iran and represents the King Sam and Queen Aram. The tanbur is a long-necked lute with three strings which are plucked and strummed. The tanbur originally comes from the Kurdish region of western Iran. It is often used in religious rituals in Kurdistan where it is regarded as a sacred instrument.
Arash was born in the Kurdish city of Kermanshah in western Iran. He is the oldest son of Iran’s leading tanbur player, Ali Akbar Moradi. Arash started learning tanbur at an early age from his father who he later on accompanied in numerous concerts and festivals throughout Iran, Europe and North America. Arash worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2006 as a guest musician and in 2012 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. More recently, Arash and his younger brother Kourosh have appeared as the Yarsan Ensemble, introducing Kurdish music and culture to audiences in the US. Arash lives in London where he teaches tanbur, runs workshops on Persian and Kurdish music and also cooperates with different musicians from around the world. http://moradiensemble.com/about/arash-moradi/
About the Producers
Laudan Nooshin conceived and initiated The Phoenix of Persia project following a successful collaboration with the Community and Education Department at the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bridge Project in 2011-12. Laudan Nooshin is Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department at City, University of London. She has been researching and writing about Iranian classical and popular music for more than 30 years. Laudan is committed to promoting knowledge and understanding of Iranian music in the UK and regularly writes CD reviews and articles for the popular music press. Read more about the music for The Phoenix of Persia here: www.city.ac.uk/arts-social-sciences/music/research/impact-iranian-music-phoenix-of-persia
Soosan Lolavar is the Creative Producer and Assistant Editor for The Phoenix of Persia soundtrack. Soosan is a British-Iranian composer and ethnomusicologist whose music has been performed across the UK, as well as in the USA, Canada, Iran, UAE, Japan, Chile and Australia. Her work has been broadcast on BBC television in both the UK and Iran as well as several times on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She has worked with ensembles including the London Sinfonietta, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra. Soosan holds degrees in Social and Political Sciences (University of Cambridge), Musicology (University of Oxford) and Composition (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance), as well as an Advanced Music Certificate (Carnegie Mellon University). She is currently pursuing a PhD in Music (City, University of London) researching contemporary composition practices in Iran, while also teaching composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. www.soosanlolavar.com
The music was mixed, mastered and edited by Julius Johansson and other students at City, University of London (Malhar Kawre, Mara Miron, Olivia Cepress-Mclean). Julius Johansson is a London based freelancing sound engineer and musician who has worked on a wide range of music and audiovisual projects. You can find more about his work from his website: www.juliusjohansson.com.
The music was recorded in the sound studios of the Music Department at City, University of London.