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The real Persia

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Kayhan Kalhor doesn't consider himself a political animal, but his celebration of the ancient, intricate musical culture of his native Iran has sometimes brought him up against the realities of politics in an Islamic culture. The 38-year-old Kalhor, who visited Atlanta early this year with the Masters of Persian Music, learned the kamancheh, a four-stringed ancestor of the violin, as a child, before the 1979 Revolution that installed the militant Shi'a Islamic government of Ayatollah Khomeini. He left his homeland to study European classical music and now makes his home in New York City. But Kalhor returns to Iran regularly to record, and visit family and friends.

"I'm not fond of the government there, says Kalhor, "but we have to do something to change the system, and informing people about our culture and our music and our past before this 22-year-old government existed is part of that.

In Ghazal, the group he formed with New Delhi-based sitarist Shujaat Hussain Khan, Kalhor has reached eight centuries into the past, to the time when the Persians exported their musical system to North India.

"I think Persian culture in general is really underviewed, because, for the most part, it's been associated with Islamic/Arab culture, he says, which it actually preceded by several millennia in what is now Iran. "And that's the way the West has been undermining and forgetting it.

Ghazal performs Sun., Sept. 23, at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. Show time 7:30 p.m. $25-$30. 770-623-4966, ext. 122.

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