Haj Ghorban Soleimani
Haj Ghorban Soleimani was born in 1920 in Aliabad, a small village in the north of Ghuchan in northern Khorasan. Of Turkish origin, he has lived all his life in Aliabad whose inhabitants are in majority Turkish speaking. A musician as well as a farmer, capable of singing in Persian, Turkish, and Kurdish, Soleimani is the perfect example of the bakhshi. He is one of the last great living bards. He learned his art from his father, who, in turn, was taught by his own father. True to tradition, Soleimani has been the teacher of his only son Alireza. The sons of Alireza, in turn, already hold promise despite their youth (they are 11 and 15 years old), and follow diligently the teachings of their grandfather and father.
For twenty years, Soleimani stopped playing the dotar. ``One day'', he explains, ``as I was coming back from a wedding (after having been on pilgrimage to Mecca), a Sheikh (Mollah) told me that my musical instrument was damned and that I too was damned. So I threw my dotar in a corner and did not touch it until one day, another Sheikh reassured me that my music was a gift from heaven.''
In the course of his career, Soleimani has been invited to play at wedding ceremonies in the towns and villages of northern Khorasan. In his youth, he traveled to Syria, Mecca, and Turkey. Following the Iranian revolution, he has performed at concerts and festivals in Tehran. In 1990, he received the first prize for the ``best and most authentic musician'' at the Festival of Revolutionary Songs and Music. In 1991, he was invited to perform at the ``Traditional Persian Music and Theater'' at the Avignon Festival in France. His art was thus discovered by a bedazzled western audience. The press lauded him as ``a true national treasure''. The famous French cultural magazine Le Nouvel Observateur wrote: ``His virtuosity and musicality are as natural as they are incredible''. Following Avignon, Soleimani performed in Paris before an enchanted audience. The same year, he was invited to participate in the ``Festival of Iranian Arts'' in Dusseldorf, Germany.