Amir Amiri (Nabil Shash)
Amir Amiri was born in Tehran, and took up the santur when he was very young. He is steeped in classical Perisan and Indian music. In fact, he worked with some of the masters, including Ravi Shankar and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
He left Iran for Canada when he was 20 because wanted to learn more about western classical music. He arrived in Banff, Alberta, with barely any English or family to do a six month residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts. That was 15 years ago and he's been in Canada ever since.
Amir Amiri recently moved to Winnipeg, and will take the stage tonight at Aqua Books, along with local violist Richard Moody.
SCENE caught up with Amir to find out more about his passionate relationship with the santur.
How do you describe the santur to people who know nothing about it?
The santur is a Persian classical instrument. It usually has 72 strings and it is played with hammers. The closest instrument in the western world is the hammered dulcimer.
What was your first encounter with the santur?
I was a child in Iran. I heard a man playing santur and I thought immediately that I wanted to play this instrument. That santur player became my Ostad (master/teacher).
Why did you choose this instrument?
It was a serendipitous thing. It all lined up so beautifully that now, when I think about it, I almost think that it chose me.
If you didn't play santur, which instrument would you have chosen?
Something that I could hold and touch really since my main displeasure with Santur is that I am not able to touch the notes with my fingers and emotionally is very challenging
What's your first memory of playing the santur in Canada?
It was Sep 24th 1996, at the Banff Arts Centre. I was given a small practice hut really close to Tunnel mountain. I had an upright piano there and a large size mirror. I remember the smell of Banff and the wetness. It was raining lightly. I played till dark.
I remember that was very difficult for me to separate from my community of friends and colleagues in Iran, but there was a beauty and sense of peace that I felt.
It was a very beautiful time of my life I was alive and well and had no history in this place. I was in CANADA
What's the difference between playing music in Canada as opposed to Iran?
In my opinion there is not much difference. Of course there are cultural boundaries that as a musician you must honour but that is true across the planet .
You've chosen to live in Winnipeg....how do you describe Winnipeg to people in Iran?
cold place but warm heart tough and utmost gentle it is REAL