Dan Rein: Playing Iranian Instruments as an American Musician

Dan Rein is an American musician who plays traditional Iranian instruments. He has studied classical Iranian music for over 25 years and plays music on a variety of Iranian instruments, including the setar and dutar. He also plays the dubanj, an instrument he created which is a cross between an Iranian dutar and a banjo, with an old-style gourd banjo, Iranian neck, and two strings.

Oftentimes, Rein’s performances are improvised collaborations between American and Iranian instruments. Rein enjoys challenging the limitations of music by fusing aspects of Iranian and American music. On his musical collaborations with a local percussionist, Rein shares, “It’s a conversation between my instrument and his percussion.”

As an American who plays Iranian music, Rein explores other aspects of Iranian culture in his everyday life as well. “If you learn the music, you also have to learn something about other aspects of the culture,” he emphasizes. “You can’t just learn one part of it. The music has its flavor, the food has its flavor, the poetry has its flavor.” Outside of music, Rein routinely eats Iranian foods like jujube and sumac, and shares them with his family. He also celebrates Iranian holidays like the Persian New Year.

When asked about what he would want others to know about Iranian culture, Rein stated, “Forget the politics of the U.S. and Iran. Iranian people are some of the kindest, most hospitable people you could ever meet. It’s as simple as that.” He asserts that you can learn a lot about Iranian culture by interacting with Iranian people and their community. “Once you meet somebody, it’s like you’re on a road to discovery.”

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