Portishead’s “Sour Times”, from their 1994 debut album (yes, it’s been over 25 years!), with its sample from Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack to an episode of Mission: Impossible, was the first time many people discovered the santur, an Iranian instrument with a unique sound, its 72 strings played with two small hammers. One of its sonic peculiarities is that it has a “sustain”, a very long hold which makes it suitable for modal music and improvisation. Thanks to its polyphonic effect, it sometimes sounds as if several instruments are being played at the same time.
Mosàfer is the second album from Farhad Khosravi, an Iranian-born santurist who’s been living in Alberta since 2012. The fruit of a long journey, it’s inspired by the life of his mother and the writings of the Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri, and focuses on the stages of life, its challenges and torments.
Of the seven pieces on the programme, Khosravi is accompanied only by a lone percussionist, so he has all the latitude he needs to display the timbral possibilities of his instrument in a dense, sometimes poignant framework, as in the two-part piece “Day of War”.
With its long notes that stretch and rise in the night like sparks from a campfire, Mosafèr makes an excellent soundtrack for contemplating the Perseids, and watching for shooting stars.