The world-famous Iranian virtuoso Mohammad Reza Mortazavi – master of the daf and tombak percussion instruments, and once described by a German TV channel as having “the fastest fingers in the world” – held a music workshop earlier this month in the village of Thandorf, northern Germany.

International Tombak and Daf Summer Workshop 2017: Thandorf, Germany. Photograph courtesy Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

The six-day workshop welcomed both beginners and experienced players of daf and tombak. Participants had the opportunity to learn new techniques and to develop a feeling for the rhythm. The workshop was held in the picturesque fields and forests surrounding the village of Thandorf, a half hour away from the Baltic Sea.

“I emigrated because of the contradictions that I was observing in Iranian music circles,” Mortazavi said in an interview with Kayhan Life late last year. “Music cannot evolve and grow in circumstances where even the most enlightened traditional musicians are selfish and ambitious. Music is love, and love knows no boundaries. Those who lay down rules to control this love are imposing a dictatorship. Unfortunately, the present atmosphere in traditional music contradicts the mystical claims of the musicians performing it.”

Musician Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

Mortazavi added that he “faced a lot of criticism” for moving away from Iran. “But it only exacerbated my desire to pursue my passion for the tombak more vigorously. Restrictions and constraints are everywhere, because the system wants to control beliefs, values, and standards. If I cannot be free in music, where can I find freedom?”

Born in Isfahan in 1978, Mortazavi started taking tombak lessons when he was six years old, and was so prodigiously gifted that his instructor gave up teaching him after three years.

When he was only 10 years old, young Mohammad Reza Mortazavi won Iran’s national tombak competition. He proceeded to win it again, six more times, in subsequent years.

By the age of 20, Mortazavi was viewed by many as the world’s best tombak player.

Apart from releasing multiple CDs, Mortazavi has performed at numerous venues throughout Europe. He has been living and working as a musician and a composer in Berlin for the past 16 years.

More exquisite sounds of Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

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