Born into a family and environment steeped in mystical tradition, the spiritual gatherings during Ostads childhood revolved around sacred music and were accompanied by the celestial melodies of the tanbour. A child prodigy, Ostad rapidly assimilated this sacred repertoire, as well as those of his surrounding regions. In order to fully realize the potential of the tanbour, he developed a complex and subtle playing technique that included all five fingers of each hand, notably the rolling motion of the right hand. In addition, he doubled the higher string of the tanbour to increase its expressiveness, enhancing not only its potential for ornamentation, but also its overall range and richness. It would only be a matter of time before these innovations were adopted by the next generation of tanbour players. Today, it is widely acknowledged that his instrumental technique and art of ornamentation mark the pinnacle of middle-eastern lutes of the tanbour family.
Among Ostads major contributions to the art of tanbour is an original repertoire of over one hundred pieces. Considering the richness of these compositions and their intricate ornamentation, this repertoire clearly transcends the one that preceded it. Moreover, Ostad used this repertoire as a basis for his improvisations, an art form in itself which highlighted Ostads musical genius and enabled him to play with a freedom never before heard in this type of musical tradition.
Through all these innovations, Ostad not only revived but transcended the ancient musical tradition he had inherited as a child. When we consider his significant contributions to the art of tanbourincluding the physical modifications he made to the instrument itselfit is not an exaggeration to state that Ostad Elahi is indeed the true creator of this art. Through his efforts, a popular tradition with a scattered and limited repertoire was transformed into a profound and learned music.