Hassan Kassayi

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This important Iranian artist is also sometimes identified as Hassan Kassayi. He is one of the masters of the Persian ney, an extremely expressive reed instrument used in Iranian classical music. The…
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This important Iranian artist is also sometimes identified as Hassan Kassayi. He is one of the masters of the Persian ney, an extremely expressive reed instrument used in Iranian classical music. The music is derived from modal systems known as dastgah and is related to ancient Greek music. Performers are required to master many different scale patterns and harmonic combinations and to be able to improvise with them in a meaningful manner. Known sometimes just as "master Kassai," he is the instrumentalist younger players such as Hossein Omoumi look to for inspiration and is frequently referred to as the best ney player in history. He grew up in a home that appreciated music, and in fact his house was something of a popular rendezvous for musicians, such as vocalist Seyed Hosein Taherzadeh, tar player Akbar Khan Noroozi, vocalist Esmayil Addib Khansari, and the great ney player Aboihassan Sabba. The young boy developed a love of music from these surroundings and his father arranged his first studies with vocal teacher Taj Isfahani. In 1947, he began his ney studies with Mehdi Navai, a former student of Asdollah. This teacher died three years into what had been planned to be nearly a decade of study, but had told Kassai's father, "All that I acquired in 40 years, this youth learned from me in only three months."

He studied further with Abolhassan Sabba, drinking in a rich broth of classical repertoire which has served as the wellspring of his gushing performing career exceeding half a century. Imbedded in his discography and history of performances is the actual radical growth of the repertoire for this instrument itself. He added many tunes that, prior to his mastery, would have been considered impossible by players of the instrument. A double CD with many of his groundbreaking recordings has been assembled and released by Mahour. He is featured on the Philips series Modal Music and Improvisations, sponsored by UNESCO. Kassai's best-known recording is his solo album for the French Playasound label.