Bandari Music: Breaking Boundaries with Bagpipes
BY GRACE CHAI '23
Welcome back to the latest edition of Forte, where I delve into different minorities’ artistry and describe how music unites us all.
While this summer has been record-breakingly hot, I hope you’ve been staying cool with watermelon, beach trips, and of course, Hot 50 tunes :). Before delving into today’s article, though, I want to give a shoutout to our lovely Off-Topic Editor for inspiring this article! If you’re ready, be prepared to be captivated by the toe-tapping rhythms and lilting melodies of Bandari music from Southern Iran—and, as always, learn a thing or two about a different culture.
If you’re like me, it’s been a while since you learned about Iran, so here’s a quick rundown on the country. Iran, located in Western Asia, has a rich history of innovation and creativity, including its music, which is sung in its official language, Farsi. The former Persian Empire is known for a number of things aside from what you’ll read about in the news: for one, it produced the first recording of human rights (the Cyrus Cylinder) and innovative thinkers like Jabir Ibn Hayyan, who pioneered the experimental method and contributed to the founding of modern chemistry.
Today, I’ll be focusing on a particular point of interest: music from Southern Iran, which borders the Persian Gulf. There, a vibrant musical tradition emerged first from sailors and harbormen centuries ago. Bandari music, which means “of the port,” is played at weddings and other celebrations—its 6/8 rhythm lends itself well to dance music: think waltzes with counts being one-two-three-four-five-six.
This first piece, “Anar Anar,” encapsulates the rhythmic feel of Bandari music well. Set to a background of percussion instruments—likely the daf or tarabuka, which keep time with a light, metallic beat—and lively Ney-hanbon (a type of bagpipe) melody, the singer’s sonorous voice glides over the instrumentation. Interestingly, Persian music is modal, which means that it uses scales that aren’t major or minor. Instead, it utilizes one of seven modes–which are like moods–ranging from Lydian, which sounds bright and hopeful, to Locrain, which is darker and more somber. In “Anar Anar,” the singing takes on a more lilting character before descending into a smoother jazz-type tone, which makes the dance song more vivacious.
Just as captivating is another talented singer, Googoosh’s, voice in the song “Hamsedaye Khoobam.” If you haven’t been convinced to give Bandari music a shot by now, this will make you change your mind. Known as the Voice of Iran for bringing music from home to Iranians across the globe, Googoosh’s vocal agility, showcased in the soft vibrato of the low notes which yield to a strong crescendo as her voice ascends, singlehandedly captures the listener’s attention. And equally intriguing is the intro music, which features modern Western instruments—which took a greater role in Bandari music in the 90s—in combination with traditional Iranian instruments like the daf, together bringing a big band feel to modern Bandari music.
Historically, Iran has been known solely as an antagonist: for its satellites, involvement in nuclear deals, and hostilities towards neighboring countries. But it isn’t just defined by its politics: its people are human beings, too, with their own traditions and beautiful music. Music transcends boundaries, and understanding is what will heal tensions. So be bold and challenge the convention. Ask questions when you read the news, don’t be afraid to listen to new voices, and create your own conclusions. Most of all, always be willing to listen to new music: you never know what it might hold.
Link to suggested listening :)