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Constantinople

Photo: Michael Slobodian

High definition photo

Constantinople is the story of a musical ensemble that chose the journey as its cornerstone—geographical journeys, but also historical, cultural and inner—and to seek inspiration from all sources, to aim for distant horizons. Drawing inspiration from the ancient trailblazing city illuminating East and West, the ensemble, founded in 1998 in Montreal, was conceived as a forum for encounters and cross-fertilization by Kiya and Ziya Tabassian, who grew up in effervescent Teheran.

Kiya plays setar, sings and composes, while Ziya explores the infinite possibilities of the tombak and other percussive instruments. Steeped in the classical Persian traditions, both musical and poetic, each of them has a blend of self-taught, academic and traditional training. Knowing each other by heart and continuing to discover more, they have used their virtuosity and creativity to open up and reinvent the heritage of their native land. Their exile and discovery of Quebec in adolescence seems to have given them wings!

In 2008 the ensemble evolved, welcoming Pierre-Yves Martel to its ranks, a viola da gamba player of improvisational brilliance who was as insatiable and adventurous as the two brothers. An inspired musician with a multifaceted background and a balancing figure in Constantinople, Pierre-Yves has always embraced new languages, always felt at home in the crossroads of early and contemporary music, in the traditions of Persian music.

Since then, as seasoned travellers, the trio has ceaselessly explored a wide range of musical avenues: from mediaeval manuscripts to contemporary aesthetics, from Mediterranean Europe to the East and New World Baroque.

In its research and creation, Constantinople joins forces with other leading figures on the international scene, including singers Françoise Atlan, Savina Yannatou, Rosario La Tremendita, Ghada Shbeir and Irasema Terrazas, the Greek ensemble En Chordais, the polyphonic choir Barbara Furtuna, the Quebec group Vent du Nord, the Afghan rubab virtuoso Homayoun Sakhi, DJ Mercan Dede, and such prominent percussionists as the Istanbul-based Mısırli Ahmet or Israeli Zohar Fresco.

Constantinople is regularly invited to international festivals, where it is acclaimed by the public, music professionals and critics alike. It has performed on many of the world’s major stages, including the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (France), the World Sacred Music Festival of Fez (Morocco), the Festival d’Île de France (Paris), the Onassis Centre (Athens), the Festival de México en el Centro Histórico (Mexico), the Festival de Lanaudière (Quebec), or the MusicFest Vancouver (Canada).

Alongside these tours in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Cyprus, Morocco, Canada, United States and Mexico, Constantinople presents every year a season of creations and revivals in Montreal, the visibility of which continues to grow.

Most of its creations have been recorded and broadcast by Radio-Canada, and some have been relayed to European audiences via the European Broadcasting Union. Constantinople has eleven albums to its credit on the ATMA label, and has recently released Early Dreams with ANALEKTA. The ensemble is supported by the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres of Quebec, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Conseil des Arts de Montréal.

What the media says…

“The kora and setar sit perfectly well together, each played with great virtuosity and without unnecessary ostentation. The alternating voices are a breath of fresh air and contrast beautifully: Cissoko mellow and Tabassian spiritual. A disc of regal and dignified magnificence” — Songlines Magazine

“It is a performance as stirring to the mind as the intrinsic sounds of the setar are to the heart” — The Chronicle Herald

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