Shams Ensemble | Mandel Hall, University of Chicago | International | Chicago Reader

Shams Ensemble Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., March 18, 9 p.m. 2011

Founded in 1980 by Kaykhosro Pournazeri to play his compositions for the Kurdish lute called the tanbour, Iran's Shams Ensemble has since expanded its scope to include Persian classical music and traditional Kurdish and Sufi music. The group has played and recorded with some of Iran's greatest singers, including Shahram Nazeri and Bijan Kamkar, and its current lineup includes four tanbour players, among them Pournazeri and two of his sons, Sohrab and Tahmoures—which is four times as many as more conventional ensembles use. (There are also two percussionists, a santor player, and a reedist on sorna and duduk.) The best reason to catch the Shams Ensemble on this U.S. tour, though, is the presence of Ali Reza Ghorbani, one of the most exciting and powerful vocalists to emerge from Iran in the past decade. His most recent album, Songs of Rebirth: Tribute to Rumi (Accords Croisés), sets the revered poet's lyrics to music by Ghorbani, with elegant arrangements and stately melodies—and his singing is flat-out sublime. His range is huge, his pitch control is razor sharp, his piercing voice is wildly elastic and almost startlingly powerful, and he demonstrates profound fluency and creativity in the tahrir style—the Persian equivalent of operatic coloratura. The Shams Ensemble worked with Rumi's poetry early in its career and has often revisited it, so Ghorbani is a perfect collaborator in more ways than one. —Peter Margasak

Price: $40-$50

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