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Unification of Emotion and knowledge

Contemporary musician and composer
Tar1 and Setar2 instrumentalist and author

Introduction to Method of Playing and Innovations:

1 - Technique of Playing

We are all familiar with the classical debate between musicians on the matter of
t echnique and p assion.

Who's the greater musician? The technical one capable of playing the most difficult
pieces with extra ordinary speed or the one whose passionate play always amuses the
audience yet he is neither the master of technique nor speed.

Among these musicians, Keyvan Saket is known as a genius in technique. While his
vast musical knowledge and brilliance helped him achieve a distinctive sentiment in
his works, his is originally famous for his speed, and is celebrated as the “Fastest Tar
and Setar” player in Iran. He invented a new method of finger placement which
revolutionized the speed and way of playing Tar and Setar. With this new methodology
a Tar player can perform considerably faster and presto pieces.

What is the highlight of Keyvan Saket’s achievements? He is known as the “Cultural

h eir of Colonel Alinaghi Vaziri 3 , a true follower of his Style and the expander of his
discipline. Colonel Vaziri was the first Tar player who used left hand’s small finger to
hold Tar frets. Prior to his time Tar players would only use their pointing, middle and
ring fingers to perform. Also Vaziri was the first person who used the 3rd and 4th
strings alon g with 5th and 6th strings in his Melodies. Theses strings were previously
used only for creating the desired rhythm and keeping the beat up.

Tar- a long-necked, waisted lute with six stings- is one of the most important Iranian Instruments
Setar is a four stringed lute
Alinaghi Vaziri (1887-1979)
Keyvan Saket has expanded Colonel Vaziri’s style. As a Tar instrumentalist, he makes
the most of all of Tar potentials . For instance, he puts a great emphasis on the second
and third string’s finger placement, and that’s what makes him capable of playing fast
tempo songs. In addition to his finger placement techniques, he uses extraordinary
hand movements and jumps which is unique to his style. In sum, it is his exceptional
technique that brings out the entire sounding capabilities of Tar which was not
discovered before.

Many believe that his concentration on technique takes away the emotion and passion
in his performances, however, Saket’s last two albums revealed to be amazing
sensations . Besides, no one has ever been able to play Colonel Vaziri’s Dok h ta ra k e
Joulideh like him except Saket.

2 - Performance of World Classical Pieces

Keyvan Saket has always believed in introducing Iranian traditional music to the
world. One of his ways of doing so was to show the world what Iranian instruments
were capable of playing.

To demonstrate this, he tried to perform well-known pieces from composers like

Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, Vivaldi, Strauss, and more. This mission seemed
impossible at first; Tar was played with plectrum and most of western classical pieces
with Violin- a bowed string instrument. This meant that a Tar player had to have a
very quick plectrum to keep a rapid repetition of one note, or a tremolo. And yet, Saket
was the only one with an impossibly blistering speed.

The other problem was converting Violin’s music notations, finger placements, and
t uning to suit Tar. Even after the alteration, the Tar player had to move his hand up
and down the fret board extremely quick in order to be able to perform these pieces.
All and all this seemed to be a complicated and impractical transition.

Finally, a fter 8 years of hard work and research, Keyvan Saket released his
astonishing album “East meets West” in 2001. For the first time in history, he
performed Turkish March by Mozart, Four Seasons by Vivaldi , Caprice 24 by
Paganini, Czardac by Monti, Hungarian dance No. 1, 4, and 5 by Brahms, and t hemes
from Symphony No. 40 by Mozart with Tar (and Piano).

This was how Keyvan Saket introduced Iranian Tar to the world. In fact it was because
of his amazing finger placement and outstanding technical execution (where he could
jump up and down the fret board thousand times without missing or misplaying a
note) that he could play world renowned music pieces with Tar. Later on, Keyvan
Saket published an educational book with the same name containing the notations of
his album which was arranged for Tar.

Saket’s successful attempt to raise awareness about Tar worldwide resulted in an

instantaneous demand from international musicians to learn more about this Iranian
Instrument. His work was also embraced by foreign audiences who have never heard
an eastern ethnic instrument marvelously p lay the western melodies. One time an
Italian traveler asked one of Keyvan Saket’s students whether Tar was of any use and
if it was more than a piece of wood and skin. To his response, the young Iranian
musician plays one of world well-known musical pieces with Tar, and makes him
amazed and respectful towards the instrument.

Keyvan Saket’s novel methodology had various reactions inside Iran. Traditionalists
started attacking on him for misleading Tar and Setar from their original path and
destroying the old ways. They believed no foreign melody should have been played
with traditional instruments like Tar and Setar. But Keyvan Saket disagrees and
believes that playing western music with Iranian instruments would only reveal their
capabilities. Never the less, Saket is a Persian music master and a phenomenal Tar
player in the first place, and it is his educational books for Tar and Setar that are
being taught to the young Iranian musical generation.

In the last few years, along with his traditional albums Keyvan Saket released two
modern albums that once again stunned everyone. This time he performed extremely
fast and complex pieces like The Flight of the Bumblebee. Despite of all the critics on
him and what he stood for, his astonishing performance at the International Music
E xposition in France in 2006, signified Tar and Setar globally.

Saket, a ground-breaking musician, finds unquestionably following tradition in the

sense of nothing but Radif 4 vain, and believes music to be the language of world’s
peace. In the brochure of East Meet West album he writes: Art is th e com m on lan gu age
b e tw e e n n a tion s , an d m u s ic a s an in s ep ara b le p art of a rt a n d cu ltu re is a tru e ex am ple
of this fact. My m is s ion in th is alb u m is to cre a te a con n ection b e tw een the e a s t a n d
w e s t n a tion s .

3 - Practice Books

In addition to his educational publications, he published two books with useful

practices for Tar and Setar. These books were geared t owards familiarizing young
musicians with a Saket’s technique and style.

4 - Musical Compositions

Keyvan Saket is an exceptional, talented and knowledgeable composer. His most

famous compositions are his Chaharmezrabs- they are distinctive in technique, style,
and composition. Saket has brought a new era to Chaharmezrab5 composition in Iran,
and revolutionized their monotonous style and stagnancy. Each of his Chaharmezrabs
repeatedly change rhythm and shift from high keyed to low keyed notes and visa
versa, and it takes an experienced Tar player to play his Chaharmezrabs.

Collection of many old Persian melodic figures preserved through many generations by oral tradition which are
organized into 7 tonal spaces
Fast rhythmic piece lasting between 3 to 5 minutes and melodically following the general mood of the
5 - Persona and Artistic perspective

Keyvan Saket has been an active musician in recent years. Even his critics can’t deny
it. According to Saket himself when critics are busy criticizing this work, he is
recording his next album. He has always kept the smaller provinces in mind and has
held many concerts and educational classes in places like Esfahan, Shiraz and
Hamedan. He perused his goal and ignored the destructive critic by expanding this
methodology, and only if the opponents could do the same.

Saket has used various channels to reach the people and educate them about his
style. He has published more than dozen books and albums in the past few years,
traveled to many cities, established a music institution and created a strong bond with
the young musicians in Iran to encourage them to learn and expand his style. His
other major act was establishing Vaziri Orchestra which is led by him and performs
excellent concerts all over Iran.

Saket has an open and free spirited vision; He believes in liberation in music styles
and methodologies. Without supporting a particular style or musician, he encourages
instrumentalists towards peacefully spreading their styles and thinking together
rather than destroying one another.

Keyvan Saket, much like his contender Hossien Alizadeh, sees music as a discipline
and science; unlike other Tar masters like MohammdReza Lotfi who believes in
traditional ways of passing music to the new generation and disagrees with academic
music classes. Saket has taken a new and academic approach toward Iranian music,
and it is his extensive knowledge of western music (like his master Colonel Vaziri) that
has formed his open-minded principles.

In conclusion, I would say that I have never seen Mr. Keyvan Saket destroying or
disapproving of a person or his style, or criticizing them in his interviews. What he
really wants is for everyone to peruse their musical endeavors peacefully.
usical Records (Albums):
East Meets
Meet West
Side A: Morghe Sahar arranged for orchestra by Keyvan Saket

Side B: Turkish March by Mozart, Four Seasons by

Vivaldi , Caprice 24 by Paganini, Czardac by Monti, Hungarian
ance No.
No 1, 4, and 5 by Brahms,
ahms, and Themes
Them s from Symphony
No. 40 - Mozart

is album is one of Keyvan Saket’s most beautiful creations
which is based on Iranian Dastgah6 . Saket’s mesmerizing and
polyphonic compositions for Tar and Piano made Illuminations
one stunning record

Side A: Sorrow & Delight, Regard, Solo Tar & Piano Esfahan-
r, Breeze & Leaflets, Voyage in the Leaflets of water-lily,
water lily, Solo
Tar & Piano Dashti

Side B: Great Expectation,

Expectation, Solo Tar & Violin Shousht
ari, Persian
Dance, Rhapsody Cha
rgah, Solo Tar & Piano Chahargah,

The Sorrow East

The Sorrow East is a clear illustration of Keyvan Saket’s
nique and emotion
emotion;; with Asturias and The Flight
light of the
B umblebee
umble being examples of very y difficult yet pleasant pieces.
Some of this album’s songs like Afsous, Tar Solo, and Mowdje dje
have become very popular in Iran, and are broadcasted widely
by the Iranian TV and Radio.

Side A: Afsous, Tar Solo, Mowdje, Khatereh

Khatere , Karane,

Side B: Adagio, Menuete, Badinerie, Asturias,

Ast s, Sonata D.
Minor, Ettude F.Minor, Inve
ntion, The Flight of the Bumble

Each different tonal space in Iranian Radif music which are seven in total.
Ghasedak (Dandelion)
This album is one of Keyvan Saket’s phenomenal Setar
playing records. In a beautiful duet with Mrs. Jale
Sadeghiyan, they perform poets from Iran contemporary
poets like: Simin Behbahani, Fereydoon Mou shiri, Mehdi
Akhavan-Saless , Ahmad Shamlou, Hushang Ebtehaj, and
Sohrab Sepehri.

Ghasedak demonstrate Saket’s unique Setar playing style

and a blend of Iranian music with novel melodies.

Jameh Daran
Jameh Daran is the proof to Keyvan Saket’s novel compositions
and technique. He plays a few of his own Chaharmezrabs such
as Esfahan, Oshag, Baharan, Raghs Parvane, and Pishdaramad
Esfahan. He also marvelously performs Dok h tarake Joulideh one
of Colonel Vaziri’s most complex creations.

Side A: Pishdaramad Esfahan, Moghadame Esfahan,

Chaharmezrab Esfahan, Bayat Rajeh & Chaharmezrab, Oshagh
& Chaharm ezrab, and Baharan

Side B: Shour, Moghadameh & Pish Zangouleh, Zangouleh &

Avaz Chahargah, Raghs Parvaneh, Zarbi Mokhalef, Dokhtarake

Fasaneh is the result of a successful collaboration between Keyvan
Saket and noted Iranian Singer Iraj Bastami which was
tremendously embraced by Iranian population.

Side A – Abuata: Fasaneh by Nima Youshij, Vay Bar Dele Man by

Parviz Iranpour, Chaharmezrab Abuata, Cha harmezrab Hejaz,
Hezar Jahd by Saadi

Side B – RastPanjgah: Charkhe Niloufari by Naser Khousro, Raak

by Dr. Vahid Movahed, Dani Kodam Dolat by Saadi, Chaharmezrab
Bi Carevan Koli (Itinerant Gypsy)
Another work by Keyvan Saket and Iraj Bastami which was completed just
before Bastami’s tragic death in Bam earthquake.

Side A: Darya, Vocal & Tar, Chaharmezrab Shoushtari, Vocal & Tar &
Oud and Ney, Baharan

Side B: Bi Carevan Koli, Darya, Narenjestan, Deylaman, Bahar Digar

Saket performances many of his famous Chaharmezrabs, a nd pieces from
his book named Eigh teen Piece s for Tar an d S e ta r.

Side A: Chaharmezrab Segah, Mokhalef Segah, Segah, Ghamgename,

Sabokbaal, Chaharmezrab Afshari & Bayat Zand, Delangiz,
Chaharmezrab Chahargah

Side B: Raghs Golha, Chaharmezrab Rastganjgah, Homayoun, Bidad,

Shour, Nava, Esfahan, Bayat Raje, Baharan

Introduction to Avaz Dashti

An educational album by Keyvan Saket focused towards familiarizing
young Iranian musicians with Av az e Da s h ti. Most of his second book pieces
were performed by Tar and Tonbak7 along with vocals to help with the
learning process.

And other Albums such as:

Persian goblet drum
Published Work:
A Modern System of Playing Tar & Setar:
A collection of five academic books published by Keyvan Saket , and used by the
majority of music institutes in Iran.

Perpetual Movement

Perpetual Movement and Charkhe Niloufari are collections of practices

and etudes for Tar and Setar players to help strengthening their
technique, speed and foundations. These pieces could be too complex
for any new player.

The Wave (Ba Mowj Ta Karaneh)

Along with duet pieces for Piano and Tar, few of the songs from the
umination Illuminations album were published in this book as well.

Charkh- e Niloufari The Solace of the Willow

Autobiography (Quoted from Jameh Daran Album):
Keyvan Saket was born in Mashhad, Iran in 1960. As a teenager he studied Persian
classical music along with the works of world famous musicians. In 1986, he was
invited to Aref Ensemble8 and his collaboration with the Ensemble continued till 1996.
In early 1995, he established Va z iri Orch e s tra, and they performed for the first time in
Talar Vahdat Theater in the memory of great Iranian master Colonel Alinaghi Vaziri.

In 1998, Saket shocked the musical community by a series of revolutionary concerts;

critical acclaimed pieces from all across the classical repertoire spectrum performed in
unconventional duet of Tar and Piano. Once again his brilliant technique and speed in
performing the classical pieces that seemed impossible for Tar, proved capabilities of
Tar. He sought to elevate the Persian music with his contemporary style from its

During 1996 and 1997, Keyvan Saket recorded ten (25-30 minutes) sessions in
Golhaye Javidan style for Iranian Television and Radio.

He is currently teaching music at Tehran’s Islamic Azad University and is the resident
of University of Hawaii.

One of the leading ensembles in Persian classical music of 20th century directed by Mr. Parviz Meshkatian
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