Roxane Zand in conversation with music ethnographer and star pianist Tara Kamangar about her new album of Iranian, Turkic and Armenian piano works.


RZ: What brought you to this music? 

TK: Having studied piano from the age of three, I grew up listening to music by the late Iranian composer Aminollah Hossein, who was also my relative. I was keen to find Persian classical piano music but had no success until my last year at Harvard, when I discovered an LP of 70’s Middle Eastern piano music while browsing in the Music Library. I was instantly eager to record the pieces on a respected classical label and make them more known.

What do you think is the appeal of this music?

Personally I find this music to be transportive – it captures the imagination and lets you escape. I'm always drawn to music of a melancholic and romantic nature like this. 

Having performed these pieces extensively in recent years, I feel that unlike much contemporary classical music, they sound fresh yet are easily accessible on first hearing. Since the composers I perform often incorporate elements of traditional Iranian music (through various methods including imitating its structure and vocal techniques such as tahrir, using quickly repeated notes to evoke the santour – ancestor of the piano, and incorporating fragments of Iranian folk songs,) they also serve as a bridge for western audiences to become more interested in traditional Iranian music – and by extension, Iran.

I'm always drawn to music of a melancholic and romantic nature like this.

tara-kamangarTara Kamangar

What are your touring plans? 

I'll be performing in New York City, San Francisco and then in Europe, starting with Stockholm in September, details on

I will launch “East of Melancholy” at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on July 11th, after which I head to California to finish recording a follow-up album of more piano music from this region – "Echoes of the Caspian."

I'll be performing throughout Europe in late August on tour as a violinist with the Iranian band Kiosk, and presenting solo classical piano recitals again in the fall – September 18th at the Södra Theatern in Stockholm, September 19th at the Gothenburg Concert Hall, and in October at Stanford University, as well as other American universities.

“East of Melancholy”  will be released June 2014 on the Delos label – Distributed worldwide through Naxoss

Available on iTunes here
On Spotify here
Album Preview here
Sample Video: Tjekanvorian – Dance of Ecstasy
Sample Audio: Glinka/Balakirev – The Lark
Liner Notes here