Professional players of the ney are few, as it is the most difficult instrument of all to master. On this page I list the players that are generally recognized as the very best and most accomplished. For sure there are more, but the ones listed here are the senior masters. Click on the name for more info, click on"recording" to hear a short sound recording and when I have a video link I provide it too.
Asdollah lived in the last part of the 19th century. Some say he invented the curious technique of playing inside the mouth with the tongue, but I have never seen any evidence for this. Some recordings are available on tape. He was the teacher of the teacher of the teacher of my teacher Ghayori.
Hassan Kassai is considered to be the best ney player ever. He was born on September 26, 1928 in Isfahan and died June 14, 2012. His father appreciated music and his home was a popular rendezvous for musicians, among them Seyed Hosein Taherzadeh (vocalist), Akbar Khan Noroozi (tar), Gholamhosein Saranj (kamancheh), Jallil and Hosein Shahnaz (tar), Esmayil Addib Khansari (vocalist), Jaflal Taj Isfahani (vocalist), and Maestro Aboihassan Sabba. Growing up in such a home, Kassai developed a keen sense of musical and vocal appreciation.
His father, having noticed his son's being a music prodigy, asked Taj Isfahani to give him lessons on vocals. In 1947, Maestro Mehdi Navai (a great expert of the nay and one of Nayeb Asdollah's students) agreed to give lessons to the young Kassayi. This tuition period was to last only three months due to the maestro's demise before which he had mentioned to Kassayi's father, "All that I acquired in forty years, this youth learned from me in only three months."
Navai's successor as Kassai's instructor was Maestro Abolhassan Sabba who managed to transfer his unique talent and creativity to Kassayi who in turn took advantage of this opportunity to become acquainted with some of the delicacies of the rich heritage of Iranian music and, thus, achieve the honorable position he holds in music today. Maestro Kassayi has been playing the nay for over fifty years. It is to his credit and a result of his hard work and creative spirit that this instrument has won such recognition nowadays. Many a tune that is played today on the ney would be unthinkable prior to Kassai.
Kassai has one particular CD Which is readily available and I recommend. It is the cleanest recording I've ever heard, without any artificial effects added. Hassan Kassai, "IRAN Hassan Kassai: Le ney", Playa Sound PS65051. There are many bootleg tapes circulating, none official. Recently a double CD with many old recordings of Kassai has appeared: "In Honor of Maestro Hassan Kassayi's 50 Years of Contribution to Music Product of: The Society of The Music of Iran Supervising the production: Mahour Productions". Of course he has many more CD's which you can find easily.
I met Kassai several years ago when he was in Vancouver. When he played for me he first removed his false front tooth before playing. He then asked me to play something and I inserted my false palate before playing, which caused some amusement. I discovered he is also a remarkable setar player and sings very well too. He is the teacher of my teacher Ghayori.
He played occasionally with Shajarian. He published books on learning ney and a complete radif for ney.
Djamshid Andalibi was born in 1956 in Gharveh (Kurdistan). At the age of ten he began to study music with Hassan Kamkar and two years later was admitted into the Kurdistan Iranian Music Orchestra. In 1975, he went to the Teheran Fine Arts Academy studying with the late Nour-Ali Boroomand. There, he learnt to play the Ney under Hossein Omoomi. His master for Mirza Abdollah's classical repertoire "Radif" were Mohammad Reza Lotfi, Mohammad Karimi et Nasrollah Nasseh-Poor. In 1977 he joined Radio Iran and worked in the group Sheyda. In 1978 he was one of the founding members of the group Aref with young musicians like Hossein Alizadeh, Parviz Meshkatian, Ali-Akbar Shekartchi and Nasser Farhang.
He has had a long collaboration with the most famous classical singer in Iran, Shajarian, and can be heard on many CD's with voice and other instruments. A nice CD with santur and ney is: Jamshid Andalibi, "Senavazi va Taknavazi", Shahram SITC-170.
Andalibi has 2 tapes with with tar. One has Esfehan and Shur, the other Bayat-e-Tork and Esfahan. He produced 1 CD with santur, playing Segah. There is a tape with setar called "Majnoon" (Esfahan, Shustari, Shur, Abuata). He also made a tape with electronic instruments (MIDI piano, drums, etc.) with more popular songs which the ney is playing. It is called "Paeize Neyzar". He produced a set of 3 tapes with "radif" for ney which is very good, but rather academic and dry. It is basically the radif for tar by Mirza Abdollah played on ney. I only have 3 tapes with about half the radif and am not sure if there is more.
Anousheh lives in Germany currently.
I studied with Anousheh in 1995 when he was in Vancouver for about a year.
I have little information about him except he won an international ney competition and he has had formal musical training.
Forouhari has several CD's with solo ney music.
Manocher Ghayori was born in Esfahan, Iran. He started playing the ney at age 12 and has studied for 20 years with Hassan Kassai, the grandmaster of the ney. His style follows very closely the style of Kassai. He has performed in many concerts worldwide and is currently teaching ney and literature in Iran. He never published CD's unfortunately.
I have studied ney with him for about a month, twice during his visits to Vancouver, Canada, and would recommend him highly as a teacher. He is also a skilled instrument builder, and I bought many neys from him, which are all of exceptional quality.
For those of you living outside Iran, it is possible to study with Mr. Ghayori through an exchange of cassettes through mail. If you would like to get in touch with Mr. Ghayori, or get more information, you can contact him directly in Iran. His address is:
Manochehr Ghayori Sheyda music school 2th floor of the Refah bank Building South sheikh bahaei st. Najafabad Mailbox 85135-331 Esfahan Iran Tel: 0331- 64618 Mobile: 0913 - 1315091
Kiani-Nejad has published a book about the ney, which also has exercises and instructions on how to play. It is in Persian and available at some Persian bookstores.
Kiani-Nejad has 1 solo tape, very bad in my opinion. He dubs himself making orchestra's of neys and generally abuses technology. All of his recordings of performances with ensemble and vocalists are very powerful so this tape is not representative of his capabilities.
Mussavi (sometimes spelled "Mousavi", or "Moussavi") was born in 1946 in Southern Iran and began playing the ney when 9 years old. At first he was without teacher but imitated Kassai whom he heard on the radio. He met Kassai when he was 15. When he was 20 he won first prize in the radio competition and began his professional music career. Having heard him on the radio, Kassai called him to Esfahan to complete his training.
Mussavi has countless tapes/CD, many of poor recording quality unfortunately. Good ones are: Mohammad Musavi, "Iran: The ney of Mohammad Mussavi". BUNA Records, 92645-2 AD 761. Mohammad Musavi, "Dashtestani", Shahram Cassette MFG 1993. Mohammad Musavi, "Homayoun", Shahram Cassette MFG 1993,
Iran: Le Ney de Mohammad Mousavi Buda Musique du Monde 92645 Contents: 1.Chahargah 2.Bayat-e Tork 3.Shur 4.Shushtari Other performers: Ahmad Khaktinat (daf), Kamyar Mohebbat (zarb) Playing time: 68'12" Recording date: 1994 (Teheran) (This one features unusual techniques such as multiphonics and singing into the ney.)
Nahid plays in a very restrained but powerful style and is the oldest player after Kassai. In my opinion he is also the best, surpassing even Kassai in subtlety, though he seems to be under-appreciated.
Nahid has 2CD's and 1 tape. He has focused a lot on ensemble playing and can be heard on many recordings with other musicians. One CD is "Sounds Of Persia 3: Ney Solo, Caltex; ASIN: B00001QGQD", available at amazon.com. The other is "Gol o Ney, with M. Farahmand Bafi on Tonbak, Navaye Homayoun".
The figures shows digitally generated "scores" of Nahid, using spectrogram software. It provides a visual record of the amazing subtlety of his playing. You can see all his little grace notes and his vibrato and the pitchbends. Notice how accurate his timing is, especially in daramad Nava all his phrases are the same length to uncanny accuracy. Other things to notice is the consistent vibrato on the note F (common in Persian music) and the pitch slides on the A in Nava, a characteristic of this dastgah.
I met Nahid when he was in Vancouver for a concert several years ago. After the musicians entered the stage, and when they were about to start, the theatre manager interrupted: a bomb scare. The hall had to be vacated and there could be no concert. It was a nice warm summer night, so the musicians decided to gather in the park behind the theater and give an open-door concert. I was very pleased, as I hate the electronic amplification that is used at traditional Persian music concerts, and this was a unique opportunity to hear these masters live as they really sound. A few days later I managed to spend some time with Nahid and he played a bit for me, listened to me, and he gave me some advice.
Mohammad Nejad is a former student of Mohammad Mussavi. He lives in California, in the San Francisco Bay area. He plays and teaches virtually all Persian instruments, but ney is his main instrument.
I met him at his studio when I accidentally heard of him when I was in that area. He received me graciously and gave me preview copies of 2 CD's he's working on. One, called "My heart and Soul" contains tradional Persian music, the other contains interesting music with ney, such as jazz, rock music, and other innovative manners of ney playing.
Hossein Omoumi was born in 1944 in Isfahan, and is considered as one of the best ney players of Iran. Captured by the magical sound of master Hassan Kassai's ney, Omoumi began to learn the instrument with him when he was fourteen years old. At the same time he studied the vocal Radif with master Mahmoud Karimi. Later he collaborated with the Iranian National Radio and Television broadcasting. Omoumi taught the ney at The Iranian Center for Preservation and Dissemination of Music, the National Conservatory, and the Tehran University.
He left Iran in 1984 and pursued his artistic career in Europe and the United States. He received his doctorate in architecture from the University of Florence. Later he moved to France and started teaching ney and Avaz at the Center for Oriental Music Studies in Paris. His research on the making of the ney opened new possibilities in playing techniques which have been approved by master Kassa'i. Omoumi has been featured as the ney soloist in the soundtrack of the movie "The Sweet Hereafter", which won several awards at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival.
Omoumi has altered the ney by adding an extra length at the bottom with an extra hole operated by a key mechanism. As a result his ney can play an extra note which allows a slightly different playing style.
Omoumi has 2 CD's (Hossein Omoumi, "Persian Classical Music", Nimbus Records, NI 5359 and amore recent solo CD, I forget the title as I lend it to someone) and one tape. Also a CD with Parisa and one with Sima-Bina (Hossein Omoumi, "Sima Bina vocal", Nimbus).
I met Omoumi first in Paris, where I made a special trip to see him. As he has experimented a lot with making neys out of different materials I was eager to show him my PVC neys, and he was favourably impressed with the quality of my creations. A few years later he visited Vancouver for a concert with Parisa, a famous Iranian singer and I met him afterwards at a party.
Omoumi has a website.