“Pour me one in silence” is the enchanting new show of the Esfandiar Shahmir Ensemble, premiering at FRINGE WORLD during a heat wave: a cool experience in every sense, to be recommended for many reasons, also to those with no previous exposure to the instruments and language used.
The enthusiastic audience did include several members of the Iranian community and other connoisseurs of that musical genre: one confirmed that such top-quality musicianship would stand out also in Tehran.
World music like this offers the advantage of taking audiences on virtual trips to distant places, including some that may not be easy to reach, especially in the current season.
The first number was a folk piece, originating in the northern part of Iran, where now there may be snow. Its cheerful rhythm and song led to comments on the role and contribution of Kira Gunn to the ensemble from the start, including the secrets of her 7-pedal harp and her willingness to sing in Farsi.
During the show, the star gave each of the other performers a chance to shine and share. Wayan Biliondana (bass) said he is from Bali, thus used to hearing Arabic chanting, while Geoff Bourgault (clarinet) is a key ongoing collaborator. A duet with Steve Richter included a fancy origin story of the unusual drums used.
Two other uncommon instruments are specialities of Esfandiar Shahmir. The Daf is an oversized hand drum, like a giant plain tambourine, over which his fingers dance with speed and grace, whereas the Ney is an end-blown flute that takes up only half the mouth, and produces a surprising range of sigh-like sounds, from low to high.
Clearly, the above comments come from a musically illiterate spectator, likely to confuse The Star-spangled Banner with The Internationale (from the same period/context). Thus the Turkish number at the end seemed to include echoes of Hava Nagila, also festive and from the same region.
Esfandiar Shahmir announced he is moving to Brisbane – make sure you enjoy him while he is here!