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The Mourning of Muharram
During the first month of the Islamic calendar, the Mourning of Muharram takes place; a time when Shia Muslims reflect and lament the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (Shia’s third Imam) whom died in the Battle of Karbala.
Throughout the 19th century slavery was – like in so many other countries – rife. Both white and black slaves were traded within Iran, the latter shipped from the North Eastern cost of Africa. With these African slaves came their culture and music, of which is prominent in the Mourning of Muharram in the Southern Regions of Iran.
As Iran is predominantly Shia, the Mourning of Muharram is a pious occasion observed throughout the five main regions of Iran, yet each has its own style influenced by local traditions, cultures and climates. In Southern Iran, the lamentations consist playing damams, karnas and karbs; some of which are instruments introduced by African slaves and Asian merchants.
The damam is essentially a large double sided drum that comes in various sizes with subsequently quite different sounds, in the mourning rituals there is three types of damam; standard, qambar and ashkoon. When used together they produce a polyrhythmic rhythm. The damam is played to announce the beginning of the mourning rituals.
Alongside the damams are large sinuous horns called karna, usually made of reeds, they are also used in rituals and ceremonies, usually in conjunction with singers.
Karbs perform somewhat like cymbals, made of two think pieces of wood with leather straps holding the hands of the musicians to their instruments. Karbs are played with a unique rhythm complimenting karnas and damams.
Milad is an Iranian documentary photographer, photographer for the Mehr news agency, member of LUCIDO in Bosnia & Herzegovina, National Iranian Photographer’s Society and the Iranian Photojournalists Society. Milad is currently focusing on the culture and customs of Southern Iran.
More about Milad and his work: panart.ir/en/milad-rafat/