Art And Culture

Japanese Santur Player Returns Home From Iran With a Mission

Japanese Santur Player Returns Home From Iran With a MissionJapanese Santur Player Returns Home From Iran With a Mission

Kazune Iwasaki, a former student at the University of Tehran, studying santur, the Iranian hammered dulcimer, is planning to introduce Iranian culture to Japanese people when he returns home.

For this purpose, Iwasaki, 27, is aiming at santur solo performance. He stayed in Iran for four years to expand what he had initially learnt of santur at Osaka College of Music.

Before Iwasaki left Iran for Japan, ISNA conducted an interview (published on October 18) with him where the young man explained about his cultural mission.

“I studied ethnomusicology in Osaka. The major sets your hand free to research on any music of your choice, but in the first year, I should pass a mandatory course on santur.”

An Iranian master was instructing the santur course whose name Iwasaki refrained to give, for he had not asked for the permission. “She was a student of Abolhassan Saba (1902-1957),” the renowned Iranian Azeri musician and composer.

“When she played a scale, I noticed some notes quite strange to us, the semitones. In Japanese music, we don’t have semitones. The mysterious notes interested me.”

Iwasaki wrote his ethnomusicology thesis on the notes used by celebrated ethnic Iranian composer and pianist Javad Ma’roufi (1912-1993). Then he moved to Iran. His santur master suggested the University of Tehran for his further studies on the instrument, for she had graduated from the same place.

“But when I came to Iran, I observed that santur is often not considered a solo instrument, but accompanies singing and poetry.”

“In the University of Tehran, I joined the bachelor’s program on Iranian Music Performance … My interest had been limited to santur, and I didn’t make the effort to try other instruments, but my master recommended me to learn tonbak,” the Persian goblet drum. “He said it would help a player in regard to sense of rhythm … but being more drawn to the depths of santur, I couldn’t give tonbak much time.”


The sounds of tar, setar and ney, the Middle Eastern end-blown flute, bring Iwasaki memories of Japanese music. With them he feels at home, because they have an intonation very similar to that of Japanese instruments.

“We have an instrument similar to qanun,” a string instrument played in the Middle East, West Africa, Central Asia and southeastern Europe. The Japanese koto is a bit longer, but structurally the same as qanun. “We also have an instrument akin to ney (shakuhachi). It is slightly wider, but the sound coming out is very close to the ney.”

“In the University of Tehran, I was under the tutelage of master of radif or old melodic figures Dariush Talai, 62. Once he played the radif Mahour with tar. The piece had a major scale and cheerful mood, but brought tears to my eyes, because it was played too well.”

“I’m a fan of the Kamkars ensemble and have been instructed by Pashang and Ardavan Kamkar. I’m also fond of the pieces by composers Parviz Meshkatian and Faramarz Payvar,” the latter being a santur virtuoso. “Very often, I’ve listened to works of Master (Mohammad Reza) Shajarian,” the internationally and critically acclaimed Persian classical singer and composer. “I love his works. Whenever I listen to the master’s works, I feel the urge to learn Persian poetry and literature.”

“The people of Japan have a very limited knowledge about Iran. Some may have the assumption that Iran is all but desert and dunes. Some other may think Iran is afflicted by war, like Iraq and Syria … but I want to introduce Iranian art and culture to my countrymen. My main mission is to introduce Iran through santur solo performance.”  


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