The santur is one of the oldest instruments of Iran. In old Persian, “san” means the number one hundred and “tur” means strings, therefore, the instrument was called “hundred strings.” The santur has moved and been transformed around the world and is now called by many names, including the dulcimer, yangqin, and santouri, among others.
The santur is a vehicle to teach the essence of Persian music, the Radif. Students first learn the specific techniques of an instrucment, and when their technical abilities reach a certain level, they begin studying the Radif. The Radif is a collection of small pieces and melodies that are organized to cover most of the main ingredients a Persian musician needs for creativity within the tradition. The Radif has been handed down by the masters to the students through the generations. Over time, each master’s own interpretation has shaped and added new melodies to this collection, which may bear the master’s name.
The preservation of the Radif greatly depends on each successive generation’s memory and mastery. To truly learn and absorb the essence of the Radif, many years of repetition and practice are required. A master of the Radif must internalize the Radif so completely to be able to perform any part of it at any given time.
Bahram Osqueezadeh began learning the santur at age 14 with master Pashang Kamakar at the Chavosh Institute of Art and Culture in Tehran, Iran. Bahram also studied with master Faramarz Payver, who is known as the father of the modern santur, as well as master Parviz Meshkatian, with whom he still studies. Bahram received a Bachelor’s in Composition and Performance from the Univeristy of Tehran; a Master’s degree in Composition and Technology at the Univeristy of California, Irvine; and his persuing his Ph.D. in Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In 2008, Bahram was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Areo Saffarzadeh. Their apprenticeship focused on expanding Areo’s knowledge of the Radif and improving his playing and improvisation techniques.