Dive into the Culture & Traditions of Iran
They are grieving and celebrating their greatest tanbur player, Seyed Khalil, whom they’ve lost physically. It seems as if he lives through the string of every tanbur in this city. Now everyone is the greatest tanbur player in Sahneh. It’s as if the common language all generations speak here is music. There is no miscommunication. I feel part of their family listening to the intimate sound of their heart beating through this spiritual ceremony. Sahneh is a gathering of all souls who speak the language of music. I close my eyes and feel the spiritual vibrations of my body through the magic of Sahneh.
Details You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip
Sahneh commemoration event is a public spiritual ceremony that happens every year on November the 18th. It takes place in Sahneh, in the Kermanshah Province. This ceremony brings together Yarsans, tanbur and daf players, music lovers, and all of Seyed Khalil Alinezhad’s fans. Moreover, people gather together to share their love for spirituality woven with music, Regardless of their differences.
- Kind: Kurdish Traditional Commemoration Ceremony
- Location: Sahneh, Kermanshah, Iran
- Date: 18 November
History of the Festival Through Ancient Stories
On November the 18th of 2001, unknown men murdered the famous tanbur player, “Seyed Khalil Alinezhad,” in Sweden and left no footprints behind. So many hearts broke over his death. For he was not only one of the best tanbur players ever known but also a pioneer in making tanbur. So, they made him a tomb in Sahneh. They celebrate his spiritual presence and mourn his death ever since. Also, these people have a particular way of grieving that is rooted in their religious practices.
The spirituality in Iran has more than 4000 years of history, starting with Mithraism. However, Islam slowly took its place in most regions of Iran. Yarsans are the keepers of Mithraism as they are highly influenced by this ancient Iranian religion. Moreover, the mystical religious and spiritual practices since ancient times have been interwoven into the blood of the Persian culture. From ancient Mithraism to current Yarsanism, Ahle Haqq rituals, and many more minority groups, these people have had a significant impact on our culture in many ways.
The interconnection in their prayer ceremonies to music and prayer dance practices has been a beautiful mystery to many of us living in Iran for years. Therefore, Sahneh brings forth the opportunity for the public to go behind the closed doors of these traditions and ceremonies. It is a commemoration event in which anyone could participate.
Musicians from Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan, Iraq, and the Turkish Alawites join the local musicians to pay respect to the memory of one of the pioneers who contributed his life to the progress of Kurdish tanbur.
Sahneh is the scene that reveals the cultural mysteries through music, zikrs, and poems to all who search for more authentic traditional subculture events.
Culture and Ambience of This Festival
Somewhere in the middle of the mountains where trees grow tall and music projects everywhere, Sahneh is happening. People from all regions travel to this village on this day to join hands in unity and honor one of the most influential Kurdish figures. The commemoration day is a special day of remembrance. However, it’s not just remembering Seyyed Khalil, but for most people in the region, it’s a day to remember what has brought them together every day of their lives.
They start the day by cleaning the cemetery and preparing it for the evening ceremony. People from near and far places start walking towards the cemetery while some of them play tanbur and daf, and sing poems and zikrs. They enter the cemetery with the sound of music, paying respect to Seyyed Khalil.
In the evening, there is a special ceremony in which some of the most talented musicians will play tunes, read poems and tell us the unheard stories of the spiritual mysteries held within this region of Iran.
The ceremony never ends. As after leaving the cemetery, people go to these houses called “Jam khaneh.” That’s where the music continues to live on until the sunrise. Some dance through Sama, and some get lost in the beauty of watching the whirling of the bodies, sounds, and the energy flow around them.
The healing sound of tanbur gets ingrained in the heart of the people who visit Sahneh for the days to come.
More Magical Stories from Previous Participants of the Festival
They said anyone that visits Sahneh during this time is a guest of Seyyed Khalil inviting us to their house. As I walked into this beautiful house, I got shocked. After a few minutes, tears started streaming down my face. Some men were playing tanbur and daf, while a few women were singing Kurdish spiritual poems. A group of children among elders were whirling in Sama dance. I wondered how they don’t fall turning around themselves this quickly and for so long. It was beautiful. An elderly woman read my mind. So, she walked towards me and asked me if I wanted to learn to whirl. As she taught me the wisdom of the dances, I started practicing. Whirling, while the music echoed in my ears, made me feel like the wind.
I never felt so free in my expression and connection to my surroundings. Moreover, I felt like I was part of something bigger as if our bodies had all became one through zikr, dance, and music. I was disconnected from anything that did not flow in my life in Sahneh and felt connected to the breath of the moment in front of me.
Every string was an expression of a higher note. Sahneh was not a musical gathering. It was a praying ceremony. It was as if the voice of the gods and spiritual leaders were coming out of the tanburs and dafs grounding everyone to listen in silence. I’ve never believed in any religion or spiritual practice, but this was not about believing. I felt the higher notes. I heard the higher notes through the mountains of the region echoing the sound of the instruments and the wind together. I felt one with nature at this place.
The resistance of the mountains was very much the same as the look on the musicians’ faces. Also, the softness of the wind was visible in the depth of their eyes. They were also one with nature. It felt as if unity found a new meaning in this community through music and songs
What Makes This Festival Special and Unique?
- You’ll experience an authentic regional Iranian commemoration ceremony. Moreover, you’ll get to know the ancient musical instruments of this land.
- You’ll get to know some of the unique spiritual cultures in Iran, such as Yaranism, Ahl-e haqq, and Sufism culture up close.
- You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful city of Sahneh and Kermanshah. Mount Behistun, Taq-e Bostan are two UNESCO world heritage sites in Kermanshah, just to name a few.
- You’ll have the possibility of buying tanbur directly from the various local makers of this ancient instrument.
Why Do We Care?
Keeping the Sahneh commemoration ceremony alive
To familiarize foreign travelers and a potential worldwide audience to our traditional ceremonies and native instruments like tanbur and different ethnic groups and minorities of Iran and their culture.
Creating a unique experience for travelers
To organize a more in-depth experience for travelers through a unique Iran musical tour combined with deeper human interactions and visiting historical sites.
Changing the ugly narrative
We want to expand the cultural narrative of this land through the travel stories of others. Therefore, the world gets to know Iran beyond what’s portrayed in the mass media. Also, helping the local economy of the region by showcasing the real experiences travelers could have when visiting this less popular part of Iran.
Why Take a Tour?
- Etiquette: Sahneh is a local traditional commemoration ceremony with a lot of elders participating in the events. Therefore, travelers need to learn the dress code, body language, and the culture of the region. Moreover, it enables them to participate responsibly in the most respectful way to the local community. We will have conversations and discussions around community outlines before attending the event.
- Translation: The role of a translator could be crucial for travelers. It helps them to form a deeper connection both to the people, culture and also to the music they experience at the festival.
- Accommodation: Most accommodations during the event are private. Due to the difficulty of reserving the right place to stay during these nights without a tour operator, our tours are the most hassle-free and efficient way for attendees to find suitable accommodations.
- Transportation: We help travelers find transportation to get around in the city. Finding a public taxi might take some time. Due to the schedule for the festival, time is an essential element to enhance the quality of the experience during this short trip to Kermanshah.