4)  Chemirani Family.

I was in Paris in the mid ’80s for a show with Dead Can Dance and after the soundcheck we were taken for a meal in a local Armenian restaurant. Sat in the corner was a hammered dulcimer player whose playing was wonderful, so Lisa [Gerrard] invited him to our show. When he came backstage afterwards, even though we had received a rapturous response from the audience, he was clearly underwhelmed. He was perfectly polite and not in any way derogatory, but set about demonstrating his classical Arabic musicianship. He picked up a hardback book and started showing me a range of Arabic rhythms. I was completely lost when I tried to follow what he was doing, but was utterly fascinated. He recommended a Persian family to me for further listening and wrote down on a scrap of paper the name ‘Chemirani’. I kept that scrap of paper for years afterwards and one day, purely by chance, I saw an advertisement for the Chemirani family performing in a church in the City of London music festival – a free concert on a weekday lunchtime. I went along and there must have been only about 30 people in the audience and it was absolutely beautiful – the father (Djamchid) and two sons (Keyvan and Bijan) playing dumbek (or zaab) drums and the daughter (Maryam – I hope I’ve identified them all correctly!) singing and playing bells and frame drum. I have since managed to collect a few of their recordings, but nothing comes close to that live experience – a veritable highlight of my life in most unlikely circumstances!

For number five in Peter Ulrich (Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil) Top 10 Percussionists please go here


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