Born in 1979 in Milan (Italy), Ziya Tabassian began playing the tombak (Iranian drum) at the age of ten. After a brief initiation period in Iran, he continued his autodidactic training in Quebec, his adopted homeland.

From 1994 to 2001, he studied classical Western percussion with Julien Grégoire and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in interpretation from the Université de Montréal. His artistic aspirations, which lean toward improvised music from the Mediterranean and Middle East, found an outlet in Constantinople, an ensemble that he co-founded with his brother Kiya Tabassian.

In a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts (Alberta) in 2003, he explored the contemporary repertoire with Iranian percussion instruments, which was to have a lasting influence. A tireless traveller, he continues his personal research in advanced courses with Bahman Rajabi (Teheran), Aziz Alami (Fez), Trichy Sankaran (Toronto) and Mısırli Ahmet (Istanbul).

As a percussionist, Ziya Tabassian is professionally active in Early Music (Middle Age, Renaissance and Baroque), as well as in contemporary, current and world music. He performs with several other musical groups, including the Ensemble Caprice.

Supported by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts, he has dozens of albums to his credit, including ten with Constantinople on the Atma and Analekta labels, and two in tandem with his brother Kiya Tabassian.

He has also performed in recordings by the Kronos Quartet, Mercan Dede, Hossein Omoumi, En Chordais and Lo’Jo. His first solo album, Tombak, stemming from his acoustic explorations and research on the rhythmic cycles of early Persian music, was released in 2007 on the Ambiances Magnétiques label.

Instrument

The tombak (or zarb) is shaped out of a walnut or mulberry tree trunk and covered with goatskin or lambskin. The huge variety of beats and the considerable range of tone and colour invited Hossein Tehrâni (1912-1974) to make evolve its language in the 40’s. His innovations created a role for tombak of far greater importance than maintaining the rhythmic cycles and pulse of the piece. It opened new skylines for solo. Ziya’s tombak, that can be tuned, was conceived by the music master Hossein Omoumi.

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