Imagine bebop being banned in New York, Celtic music being outlawed in Ireland and Scotland, or flamenco being outlawed in Spain. Thankfully, none of those things happened, but in Iran, something comparable really did take place in 1979, when the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomehni came to power and outlawed all music, including traditional Persian music. But despite that setback, Persian/Iranian music continued to thrive. While it was illegal in Tehran, it was alive and well in cities ranging from Paris and London to New York and Chicago. One of the artists who has done his part to keep traditional Persian music alive in the '90s was setar player Jalal Zolfonun. Joined by his son, Soheil (who also plays the setar), and Neel Murgai (who plays the daf, a Persian drum), Zolfonun sticks to the traditional on Mystic Journey: String Music of Iran. Throughout this session, the father and son enjoy many inspired exchanges on the setar, a string instrument that should not be confused with India's sitar. Listeners will notice a few similarities between this CD and the Turkish music of Talip Ozkan: the Zolfonuns play the setar in a physical, vigorously soulful manner, much as Ozkan does the Turkish saz. But Persian music has a character all its own, and those who are seriously into Persian music can easily tell it from Turkish or Arabic styles. Mystic Journey would be an excellent investment.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson