After almost 300 years of existence, the Persian tar is experiencing a revival thanks to forward-thinking people such as Cal Poly Pomona student Siamak Bozorgi.

Bozorgi wants to help reintroduce the tar, a classical Persian stringed instrument with an ethereal, haunting sound, to the West.

“Right now, we’re kind of starting a new time,” he said. “In Iran, it took a long time but I’m glad people finally see thats it’s not just Iran that you have to do music in, but being able to spread it out to other parts of the world and show people what your music has.”

Siamak Bozorgi playing a traditional Persian percussion instrument. (Courtesy of Siamak Bozorgi)

Originally from Iran, Bozorgi said he started playing tar when he was around ten years old, mostly because of his father, who hand makes instruments, and his uncles, who also play tar professionally and compose music.

In fact, the tar Bozorgi plays was handmade by his father.

“My entire family is made up of musicians. They play classical music, mostly referred to as traditional music,” he said. “Being surrounded by all those musicians pushed me towards it.”

With such a background, it is no surprise that Bozorgi is fluent in the musical language of the tar, but he wants to introduce the instrument to other students so they see what’s out there.

“Music is language, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can always speak it.”

He said he recently performed at an event that mixed Persian music with Indian and Spanish music in an improvisational nature.

“Although I don’t know anything about Spanish language, or Hindi, because we do music together, that’s how we connect with each other and that’s really valuable,” he said.

Many in the world of Persian music are also trying to share their culture’s music around the word, including maestros such as Hossein Alizâdeh, who has been described as “the Vivaldi of Persian music.”

Bozorgi said Alizâdeh, who was his teacher for a time, has written several concertos designed for orchestral Western orchestras alongside different Persian instruments.

Using Persian musical concepts in Western orchestras is challenging because of the way Persian music sounds, Bozorgi said.

“The tones and things are difficult and most Western musicians really don’t get them because they are trained in another way,” he said. “When you run into something totally different, it’s really hard to see it clearly but it’s really just about getting better and if you just focus on one part of the world, your improvement is very limited. You have to think outside the box.”

He said teaching people about Persian music is especially important because it is often excluded in Middle Eastern music courses in California universities.

“If you go through their music programs, you always see Arabian music and Turkish music, but there are three bases in Middle Eastern music, and Persian music is the third and it often gets left out.”

Bozorgi said he is doing as many live performances as he can because he likes people to be able to experience the music in person, not just listen to it.

“It’s very important to be able to represent what you have so people can see it rather than you just going to the studio and recording it,” he said.

He also said it is difficult to find ensemble classes at CPP that fit with the tar’s sound.

“At other colleges, everyone gets excited and they do have other instruments but the fact that we don’t have that at CPP is a little bit weird,” he said. “I’ve had to adjust myself and go back and play guitar.”

Unlike other universities, CPP does not have a world music ensemble but Bozorgi said he hopes there will be one in the future.

As of now, he is seeking an engineering and manufacturing degree with a minor in music, but he is passionate about music, so he said plans to seek a degree in ethnomusicology after he graduates.

“It’s getting to know different music and going back 200 or 300 years ago. There’s an idea that it’s only some parts of the world but it really is studying all the world’s music,” he said. “It’s really an insight when you do something and you feel it really deep inside of you,” he said. “You’re enjoying what you’re doing.”

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