came to know the talented Falsafi brothers recently at
one of their concerts. I was quite impressed with their
music, demeanor, and polished manners. Both Babak and
Pedram are extremely talented, down to earth, and indeed
a source of pride for the community in Diaspora. I
decided to arrange an interview, on the spot. We set a
date and met a few days later at their studios in
Fremont, California, where they teach classical guitar
to both children and adults.
Shirin—I would like to thank you both for accepting my
invitation for this interview. Please tell us a bit
about yourself, where were you born, your childhood,
your elementary and high school, etc.
Babak--I was born in Tehran, in 1971, went to Razi
elementary and high school.
Q--how about you Pedram?
Pedram-- I was born in 1978, I went to Afshar elementary
school and Razi high school. Half way through the high
school I left Iran and came to California to continue my
high school at Lee high school where I graduated from.
Q--Babak, when did you leave Iran?
Babak--I left Iran a couple of times. The first time I
went to Syria and Turkey to Karaburun Summer Guitar
Festival for a short time and then to Dubai to perform
in a friendly environment for the Iranian community. My
second sojourn abroad was a bit longer. This time I left
Iran for the Czech Republic and studied music in Prague
Conservatoire for 2 years. Afterward, I returned to
Iran, stayed there for about a year or so, performed and
taught music, and then left Iran for the third time for
California in 2000.
Q--Pedram, did you continue your education after
graduating from Lee high school?
Pedram--yes, I was admitted to the Music Conservatory of
San Francisco and graduated. I am now seeking admission
to their Masters program.
Q--and you Babak? Do you plan to continue your
Babak--I am going to the same school next year.
Q--doing your graduate studies in music?
Pedram-- yes, we are going to go to the same school and
we are both very excited because this is the best
opportunity for us to play ensemble and focus on playing
duos. The school has agreed to provide us with chamber
Q--what does this mean? Is this a special program that
you two can perform duets?
Babak-- yes, something in that range. Usually, if it is
a big orchestra, it is called a symphony orchestra, but
if the orchestra consists of only two people, they call
it a duo or duet, 3 people, a
trio, 4 people, a quartet and so on. We are going
to play duos and that is extremely important and an
excellent opportunity for us to play together.
Q--it is so interesting that the two of you are so much
into music, especially into classical guitar. What made
you interested in music and at what age?
Babak-- I think I had it in me from an early age. I was
7 or 8 when I started to feel the urge and love for
music. I enjoyed all kinds of music, especially Persian
pop music. My uncle was the driving force in this love
of music. He was seriously involved with music and was
an excellent guitar player. I don't know what happened
that I fell in love with the piano but for whatever
reason, my parents decided to buy me a guitar. I think
the reason was that they thought guitar was an
instrument that was very close in body and shape to tar
and setar, the Persian instruments; also, because they
thought there are already a lot of pianists in Iran
compared to the number of guitarists.
My uncle always said he wished he had started
playing classical guitar from a very early age. He
encouraged my parents to get me the guitar. They took me
to the Tehran Classic
Guitar Canoon and I started learning guitar from the
Iranian renowned guitarist, Bagher Moazen.
Q--and you Pedram, did you simply follow the older
Pedram-- I don't know. I guess I did not have that much
choice! When I was 10, Babak was 17 and he was already
playing for a couple of years. He started teaching me
guitar. When I was 16 or so, I left Iran, but continued
practicing on my own until I went to the Conservatory.
Q-- what were your parents’ reactions? Did you have to
convince them on selecting music as your profession? Did
they try to persuade you to choose something more
financially rewarding and stable?
Babak-- of-course, we had a hard time convincing them!
Although they both love music - in fact our father is a
music lover and has a great voice and has a lot of
musician friends - nevertheless they looked at music as
a sort of hobby for us and not as our main
profession. When I decided to dedicate my
life to music, there were a lot of disagreements and
uneasiness, but this did not deter me. I continued
practicing because this kind of love doesn't understand
logic. It is just in you. For Pedram, it has been much
easier, I should say!
Q--Pedram, did you have the same feelings about music?
Pedram--yes, it was one of those things that grows on
you as you get older. At 18, I knew for sure that I was
going to study music, especially classical guitar. I
already knew there were substantial differences between
playing the piano and guitar. Very soon I realized that
there are more chances for guitarists than pianists and
specially there is more room for classical guitarists
. I believe our parents’ resentments worked to
our advantage. We had to work harder and be more
Q-- to prove yourself?
Pedram--Yes, to prove ourselves and make a point that
you can go after what you love and make ends meet too.
Babak--as Pedram said, our parents' uncertainty, made us
eager to struggle more. Nothing came up easy for us but
it became almost like a philosophy of our life, it
became a path to eternity and a way of thinking for us.
It made us closer and more interested in other cultures.
Through that, we learned about others who struggled for
what they believed in, we learned about other people's
miseries, their poverty, and their misfortunes. All
these gave us more strength and plenty of ideas for
creating music that can touch hearts.
Q-- is guitar the only instrument that you two play, do
you play any other instruments?
Pedram-- I started learning setar a while ago, don't
know why, I guess I felt homesick.
Q--any similarities between guitar and setar?
Pedram--yes, a lot of similarities, one of which is that
in both you use your right hand fingers and not a pick
or mezrab, you use your fingers and nails. I enjoyed
playing it a lot and we also both play the piano.
Q--do you work and practice together?
Pedram--we practice on our own first and when the duos
are almost ready we work on them together and in these
rehearsals we mostly work on the ensemble aspects of the
Babak--before Pedram left for the US, we used to
practice together and performed a couple of duos. Then
we were separated until 3 years ago that we both went
back to Iran. I went to Iran from Prague and Pedram a
few days later, from San Francisco . We had the entire
summer to practice. It wasn't easy at first because we
had not practiced together for a long time. But we finally had our duet. It went great. Now, fortunately,
we have all the time to practice together and after one
year of practice, we feel much more comfortable playing
Q--It looks like you two are in perfect harmony, no
rivalries? no problems? fights?!!
Babak--oh, yes, there are, there are a lot!
Pedram--as I mentioned before, this kind of fighting and
struggling gives you strength and a reason to work
harder to excel. All these have
strengthened the ties between us. We have come to have a
better understanding and a more in-depth realization of
each other's feelings and as time goes on we enjoy more
working with one another.
Q-- do you sometimes write your own songs?
Pedram--yes, I have composed 3 songs. Right now, I am
working on a duet, it is called "the oriental
tango", it is a fantasy piece. When it is done we
will let you know.
Q--in your last concert you played some of Marin Marais'
work and also one of your own, Pedram. I also enjoyed
the Comparsita that you played on request. Do you
sometimes get ideas from the masters and blend it with
your own composition to create something new?
Pedram--yes, in our concert we usually have a blend of
Babak--in our last concert we had something special, an
arrangement from Marin Marais called "tout les
matin du monde", originally played using a viole de
bomba which is an old instrument, something like a
Cello. We arranged it to play with as duos using guitar.
We also arranged some orchestra music with two guitars.
Playing orchestra music with one guitar is not easy, it
does not give you enough possibilities.
Q-- what do you mean?
Babak--you play classical guitar with your right hand
fingers and the thumb plays the bass, so you have almost
all the possibilities that a pianist has, so two guitars
will be like a piano duo and we can even think of
playing orchestral works.
Q--when did classical guitar start, is guitar a more recent
means of playing classical music?
Pedram--classical guitar started from un instrument called
vihuela during the baroque time.
Q--is it the same as viola?
Pedram--no, viola is a string instrument, a larger violin.
Vihuela was an early form of guitar which was mainly
used in Spain . It wasn't used very extensively due to its
short range and small number of strings, I believe it had 4 to 5 strings.
At the end of the baroque period and the beginning of the
classical time, around 1750, vihuela evolved and another
string was added to it, it became a six string instrument and
it was renamed guitara in Italy. I think classical guitar
started at the beginning of the classical time.
Babak- guitar existed even during the baroque time, Gaspar
Sanz was a baroque guitar player. During the classical and
romantic period the most famous was Fernando Sor and in 19th
centaury, Francesco Tarrega, both were from Spain. The problem
with guitar has always been its short range volume which never
could fill out the big concert halls or even the chambers and
salons. In Spain, in royal courts, guitar could not compete
with harpsichord, viola, or cello. It has been just recently,
in 20th century that guitar could find its way to big concert
halls too. Andre Segovia, the great Spanish guitarist, took it
to the big concert halls of Europe. He was also the first
European to bring guitar and played it in big concert halls of
the US. We now have great classical guitar players in the
United States and guitar societies. Guitar has become very
popular in the US. Andre Segovia, was the first to take it to
Japan too. I think changing the gut string to nylon string at
the end of 19th century, helped the range and volume of guitar
a great deal hence its popularity.
Q--are you influenced by any specific guitarist, anyone that
you try to emulate?
Pedram--there are several famous guitarists that we love and
listen to their music but we really don't follow anyone in
that sense. We enjoy their work and admire them and get ideas
from them but we try to have our own taste and depend on our
own creativity. But I think Babak was very much influenced by
John Williams in the past.
Bream and John Williams, the Australian guitarists. These two
were my idols, as you might say. I came to know them through
the video tapes given to me by my uncle. Living in Iran at the
time, I had all the time in the world to listen to them
hundreds of time.
Pedram--I loved them a lot too, I listened to them and enjoyed
them a lot. But to me, Vladimir Mikonka was something else.
His music took me to another planet, I still listen to him.
Q--he was from Czechoslovakia, I believe?
Babak--yes, he was.
Q--do you have a specific technique that can be considered
your own or you follow big names?
Pedram-- that is our secret!!, we can't tell you.
Q--is that right?
Babak--Pedram has a good knowledge of classical Persian music,
so he invents interesting tunes using the Persian music.
Q--actually that was my next question to know if you are
influenced by Persian music at all?
Pedram--of-course, we are Iranians, we love classical Persian
music and I personally play around with it quite often and am
influenced by it. I have tried it with my teacher at the
conservatory. He is always so fascinated with different sounds
that I can produce using Persian music. He too, is a composer,
always looking for something new.
Q--did you compose anything under the influence!! (Influence of Persian music of-course!)
Pedram--yes, I have created a few that clearly show that I am
a Persian composer.
Babak--you see, our concerts usually have a title. For
example, we had a Baroque/Renaissance concert, a Latin concert
which we mostly played tangos and Brazilian dances, etc. Some
of our concerts are totally based on Iranian or Middle Eastern
music. One of them was perfumed on this last April for the
Middle Eastern day in San Jose, in which we played Middle
Eastern music using guitar. They invited us because guitar
sounds like tar and setar.
Q--what is your style, any preferences for old or new?
Pedram--we tend to go more for contemporary music and produce
more of a contemporary sound. We prefer modern touch rather
than the older style.
Q-- what do you think about classical music in general, who is
your idol among the Masters?
Pedram--my favorite has always been Bach, he is the great
father of classical music. Everything I have learned, I can
say for sure was from him.
Babak--to me in fact it is a little different. Bach and
Beethoven are great but to my taste they are a little too
heavy. I love romantic music; Chopin, Mendel son, Schubert are
my favorites. I listen to Bach too but...
Q--anyone for Mozart?
Pedram--we can't say that we don't like him but Bach is sort
of a father for them all. Mozart studied Bach's music, so did
was influenced by him, Mendelson revived Bach's music. So when
I say I love Bach, it means I love them all.
Babak--and also Dominico Scarlatte is the favorite of both of
us. We play his transcription for harpsichord. He has
something around 550 sonatas for harpsichord. We arrange them
with guitar and we enjoy them immensely.
Pedram-- he was a contemporary of Bach, he was born on the
same year, died almost on the same year and they never met as
far as I know. Two people from two different countries but
both created such fantastic songs that are so irresistible to
Babak—Scarlatti was born in Italy but lived all his life is
Spain. So his music was very much influenced by Spanish
culture and fits very well with guitar. although they were
composed for harpsichord, but when played with guitar, they
sound very natural, especially when played with two guitars.
Pedram has been inspired by some of his work.
Q-- now let's get back to real world! Loving music is great
but can you support yourself. How do you support yourself
financially, does it pay off to be a classical guitar player.
Are you a full time song-writer and musician?
Babak--music is our job. We teach classical guitar to Iranian
or international students, we play at concert halls or perform
in smaller concert halls or at different events. We also play
at different senior centers sometimes.
Q-- do you get paid?
Babak--yes we do. We love playing at the senior centers.
Meeting all those people from different background makes us
work harder to learn the music of different countries. We
perform music from Russia, the Middle East, South America,
etc. It is so great communicating with them through their own
Q--and you get paid for the concerts that you have at
different cultural events and universities?
Babak--yes, our next concert is going to open in San Jose
Museum of Art, on June 9th. We are going to perform Vivaldi
Double Concerto with Chamber Orchestra.
Q-- you also have a studio, do you teach children or adults?
Babak--children mostly but adults too and we teach private
lessons at home too.
Q--do you have a phone # where they can reach you if they need
to contact your for your classes?
Babak--if they want to get lessons, they can reach us through
this number: (510)299-4299 and also the email:
Q--with all you do for the love of your life, what is your
goal, your aspiration, your dream?
Babak--when we started playing guitar, mom and dad thought it
would be just a serious hobby but now we know that it is
indeed our main profession. Our goal is to be original
musicians with original music and we hope to always remain
Iranians who belong to all nations,
Q--any major achievements in the past?
Babak--I should mention that Pedram has been a full time
Fulbright scholarship student at the San Francisco
conservatory, every four year of his studies. I was awarded
foreign student scholarship during my studies at Prague
Conservatory to study with Milan Zelenka but we are looking
for greater achievements.
Q-- what do you expect from the Iranian community, how can
they help you?
Pedram--Iranian community has been very supportive at the
individual level. Life in the Bay area is very intense you
can't expect more, we really enjoy playing for our own
Q--yes, but what do you expect them to do to help you, to
support you. Perhaps to come to your concerts, to buy your
CDs, or how else?
Pedram--while in Iran, Babak enjoyed the support of people,
but here, it is a different story. We need to spread the news
among the Iranians who might be interested in Classical
Babak--since I came to this country I enjoyed a lot the
support that I received from individuals who were interested
in our music but there is not any cultural organizations that
we know of that might be interested to support us, to make
people aware of the existence of the events that we are
Q--do you mean that you expect the cultural organizations to
promote you and to support you by introducing you to the
Pedram --yes, but as far as we know such organizations don't
Bababk--as far as we know, the organizations that exist try
either to bring entertainers for pop music or if they want to
bring serious music, they tend to invite musicians who play
traditional Iranian music either from Iran or other places.
Pedram--to be frank, we have enjoyed the support of individual
Iranians but the active organizations of the Bay Area have not
been too helpful.
Babak--I think the main reason is that not too many people are
interested in classical music and classical music is not
something sure at the business level as the pop or traditional
Iranian music are. It is as though they say "these guys
are playing western music, so they don't need our
support." Other communities support their musicians
regardless of what they are playing. We know, for example that
the Turkish community support their classical musicians and so
do many other communities.
Q--I hope they read this and I am sure if they know of your
dilemma they will support you. You will have to somehow let
them know that their support is crucial for your advancements.
Even if you would want to ask help from American organizations
they will probably want to know what your community is doing
Babak--exactly, whenever we reach for a grant and other
financial support, their first question is exactly that, what
is your community doing for you, how they are helping you.
Q--and in production level, did you produce anything, any CDs,
Pedram--we are just working on our CD, nothing is out yet. It
will be out soon, it is called "tango," it mostly
consists of Argentinean tangos with some contemporary tango
composers, including myself.
Q--great, let us know when it is out. One final question: do
you have a family of your own or you are yet too young for
Pedram--no, we are married to our music for now!
Q--anything you would like to add, any thoughts, any message?
Babak--although our music is different but still we enjoy the
support of individuals who so whole heartedly encourage our
effort, we are so grateful to them. But we need more support
from Iranian organizations and we hope to be able to attract
their attention to our music, our efforts, and our cause. We
hope to be able to make a point that music should not know
boundaries, every inch of their help will give us energy and
Pedram--we would like to thank you for the interview and hope
to see more of our compatriots in our future concerts and hope
we can count on their support.
Shirin--I thank you both for this interview and I wish you
more and more success in the future. we are all so proud of
you and wish you all the best.