Ramin Roshandel & Jean-François Charles - Setar & electronics

Ramin Roshandel and Jean-Francois Charles
Picture by Ramin Roshandel & Jeff Martin, hi-res version linked

Tiny Desk Contest 2024

The sonic dust of a country that has been burned to the ground several times over the centuries and yet has formed some of the most elaborate and highly sophisticated musical structures to have ever existed. That’s how performer of Persian classical music Nima Janmohammadi described Jamshid Jam’s music. Indeed, the story behind Jamshid Jam is ancestral. In our entry video for the Tiny Desk Contest, this long history is embodied in the 16th century book Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, i.e., the Persian Book of Kings.

The video opens with a manuscript illustration of King Jamshid’s court. According to Persian myths, Jamshid, who ruled during several centuries, was responsible for inventions ranging from the manufacturing of weapons to the mining of jewels to the making of wine. He is also credited with the discovery of music. This is what brought us together: the search for music at the crossroads of the tradition of the Radif (Persian classical music) and the development of musical instruments such as the turntable and live electronics. Every time we play a new concert, we strive to re-discover where music is hiding.


December 17, 2024, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, with Ritwik Banerji on saxophone and artist Maryam Taghavi, concert at 6 p.m.

March 11 & 12, 2024, University of Minnesota School of Music, concert at 6:30 p.m.

Sep 22, 2023, Stanley Museum of Art, Iowa City

Sep 15, 2023, Impromptu Fest @ High Concept Labs, Chicago

Sep 12, 2023, Iowa State University

Sep 11, 2023, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Sep 8, 2023, University of Iowa, Musicology & Music Theory Colloquium

May 14, 2023, Blanc Gallery, Maryam Taghavi’s exhibition A Leap Has No Return, Chicago

Apr 29, 2023, Iowa City, performance with Ben LaMar Gay & Pascal Niggenkemper, Pang! concert

Pascal Niggenkemper, Ben LaMar Gay, Ramin Roshandel, Jean-Francois Charles

Apr 7, 2023, SEAMUS Festival 2023, New-York City

Mar 25, 2023, Turn Up Multimedia Festival 2023, Tucson, Arizona

Mar 18, 2023, MOXsonic Festival, Warrensburg, Missouri

Oct 21, 2022, Album Release Party
Public Space One
, Iowa City, 7 p.m.

Apr 29, 2022, New York City Electroacoustic Improvisation Summit
New York City College of Technology, Voorhees Theater

Nov 13, 2021, Chicago, Chicago Artists Coalition
A Form By Which To Be Possessed, an exhibition by Maryam Taghavi, closing reception

Feb 17, 2021, Iowa City, Englert Theatre

Jamshid Jam in Iowa City

Dec 14, 2019, Iowa City, Voxman Music Building, first shared performance


March 7, 8, 9, 2024, ORiNOKO, for six dances, choreographed by Jaruam Xavier features Bayāt-e Esfahān and Chāhārgāh in the soundtrack.

October 14, 2023, Chāhārgāh from the album Jamshid Jam is the soundtrack to choreographer Jaruam Xavier's Elementary Latitude for a collaboration with the University of Iowa's International Writing Program.

August 10, 2023, Bayāt-e Esfahān from the album Jamshid Jam is featured in the soundtrack to an interview with Johanna Winters.

Duet Short Bio

Ramin Roshandel is a composer and setār improviser. He grew up in a family surrounded by artists; his luthier dad, his painter uncle, and his setār instructor Farshid Jam had strong influences on him as a teenager. Ramin worked with the renowned Mohammad Reza Lotfi at Maktab-Khāne-ye Mirzā Abdollāh and won second place in the 7th National Youth Music Festival in Tehran, Iran. As a composer, Ramin Roshandel works with indeterminate, improvisatory, and liminal structures to contrast or converge with post- or non-tonal forms. On the one hand he is inspired by Persian music intervals, on the other hand he is mindful of phenomena such as instability, cultural identity, and communicational language. ramin-roshandel.com
Jean-François Charles is Associate Professor of Composition and Digital Media at the University of Iowa. He creates at the crossroads of music and technology. As a clarinetist, he has performed improvised music with many artists, from Maurice Merle to Douglas Ewart and Gozo Yoshimasu. He worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen for the world premiere of Rechter Augenbrauentanz. www.jeanfrancoischarles.com

Ramin Roshandel and Jean-Francois Charles
Picture by Ramin Roshandel & Jeff Martin, hi-res version linked

Ramin Roshandel & Jean-François Charles have worked on several projects together. Roshandel was the setār soloist for the premiere performances of Charles' opera Grant Wood in Paris in 2019. They performed together as part of the live soundtrack composed by Charles and Nicolas Sidoroff to the 1923 Hunchback of Notre-Dame movie, a commission by FilmScene with premiere performances in November 2023 in Iowa.
As the Jamshid Jam duet, Ramin Roshandel and Jean-François Charles have developed a unique sound combining the traditions of Persian classical music and live electronic music. They have been creating this new shared musical language since their first concert in December 2019. They have been invited to perform in Chicago, Iowa City, Ames, Omaha, New-York City, Warrensburg, Tucson. Their debut album, Jamshid Jam, is available on streaming platforms and CD. www.jamshidjam.com


The setār is a stringed instrument originating from Persia. In Persian, “se” means three, while “tār” means string. The setār used to have three strings, until a fourth one was added around the 19th century. The setār may be seen as the urban member of a family that includes the dotār and the tanbour. While the dotār (“do” means two) is typically used for performing Eastern Persian Folk Music and the tanbour is seen among the people of the Western sides of the Iranian Plateau, the setār has classically been used for performing Persian Radif music.

Ramin Roshandel with Setar
Picture by Andy Yau during Impromptu Music Fest 2023, New Music Chicago

The instrument Ramin Roshandel used for the Jamshid Jam album recording was made in 2012 by the Iranian maestro luthier Reza Davoodian.

Live electronics with Spectral DJ

Jean-François Charles designed the Spectral DJ software to perform electronic music in the most intuitive and tactile way. Spectral DJ builds on the tradition of one of the most pervasive and powerful interfaces for musical expression invented in the 20th century: the turntable, which allowed for the turntablism performance practice.

Jean-Francois Charles with Spectral DJ
Picture by Any Yau during Impromptu Music Fest 2023, New Music Chicago

In Jamshid Jam, the sound of Ramin Roshandel's setār is continuously captured live. Jean-François Charles can immediately scratch and remix these sounds using traditional turntable gestures, granular and spectral re-synthesis, or an exclusive collection of graphic filters to pixelate, blur, or spiralize a spectrogram.


According to Persian myths, Jamshid was the "inventor of music." In Jamshid Jam, Roshandel & Charles combine haunting melodies and ancestral rhythms with live sampling and remixing to create a new imaginary folklore.

Jamshid Jam album cover art

Ramin Roshandel: setār
Jean-François Charles: live electronics

Street Date: October 18, 2022
Available on major streaming platforms, bandcamp, and CD.

Label: New Flore Music
Catalog Number: NFM002
UPC Code: 198003428133

Track List

1. Bayāt-e Tork 18:22
2. Chāhārgāh 09:39
3. Segāh 20:07
4. Bayāt-e Esfahān    12:54
Total time: 61:21
Jamshid Jam duet in New York City

Composed & performed by Ramin Roshandel & Jean-François Charles
Mixed & mastered by Frédéric Apffel

Cover calligraphy & photography by Ramin Roshandel
Graphic design by Marc Dannenhoffer

© 2022 – New Flore Music

Liner Notes:
Touching Language, Sounds, and Shadows
by Nima Janmohammadi, composer and performer of Persian classical music
Excerpt: How do you imagine taking part in a dialogue with the sound of an ancient tradition that has always been on the verge of disappearance? The sonic dust of a country that has been burned to the ground several times over the centuries and yet has formed some of the most elaborate and highly sophisticated musical structures to have ever existed. How does one find a language to communicate with such a phenomenon? How would one penetrate the many ephemeral layers of such a sound world? In Jamshid Jam, Jean-François Charles and Ramin Roshandel assume the impossibility of such dialogue by taking it to its extreme, where the very nature of logic and language is dissolved. The two sonic sensibilities do not meet for a dialogue, peace-making, or other metaphorical forms of meaning-making external to the sounds, but to touch, just to touch what is in front of them through the medium of an ancient instrument and a futuristic machine...

Jamshid Jam booklet

From an Artificial Existence to a New Identity
by Nima Hamidi, computer scientist and composer
Excerpt: We invent to replace ourselves. We create tools that imitate us or our surroundings. They even do our jobs – sometimes much better than ourselves. In a similar manner, we design musical instruments to emulate human voices and natural environments. But just as new tools create new tasks, so new musical devices redefine music, music creation, and aesthetics...

Album reviews, media, awards

Feb 2023, Little Village, USA: review by Kent Williams
Nothing repeats, exactly, but as Marvin Bell would say, it repeats "inexactly."

Jan 2023, Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, i.e. German Record Critics’ Award
Nomination in two categories: Crossover Productions and World Music.

Nov 29, 2022, Fanfare Magazine, USA: review by Huntley Dent
The two musicians behind this release are in the rare position of creating a new genre of music. Roshandel and Charles have fascinating imaginations. The weaving of setār with electronica often assumes the contour of a spectral nocturne, and at every turn the sound world morphs into something new and strangely enticing. The feeling of Jamshid Jam is always musical and appealing.

Oct 26, 2022, Expanding the scope of sound and the setar: Ramin Roshandel portrait by Portia Leigh on medium.com
Composer Ramin Roshandel continues to expand the scope of the setar’s sound and possibility.

Sep 29, 2022, Global Music Awards: Silver Medal
Outstanding Achievement, categories Persian modern music & instrumentalist.

Sep 11, 2022, WORT-FM 89.9 Madison: RTQE, hosted by Gregory Taylor
Bayāt-e Esfahān on the air.

Jamshid Jam CD

Aug 28, 2022, WORT-FM 89.9 Madison: RTQE, hosted by Gregory Taylor
Bayāt-e Tork on the air.

Aug 25, 2022, Vital Weekly, The Netherlands: review by Frans de Waard
In their jam sessions, they couple ancient musical folklore with modern technology. (...) [In Bayat-E Esfahan], Charles lays down a delicate, mild drone, mid-way picks up the setār, and there is an excellent tension between both players.

Jamshid Jam album information

Technical Information

The musicians need:

  • one microphone (C414 or equivalent or KM184 or equivalent) + microphone stand
  • keyboard stand plus a small table, or a larger table
  • minimum one monitor speaker, ideally two monitor speakers
  • optional, for video projection: HDMI connector on stage

Audio connections:

  • live electronics input: needs microphone signal, XLR (either from analog splitter on stage, or direct return from house mixing board)
  • live electronics output: stereo two XLR, balanced signals
  • house sound engineer balances live setar (microphone) & live electronics