Ahmad Sheikh Ahmad Khamsei
CountryIslamic Republic of Iran
First NameAhmad Sheikh Ahmad
BirthTehran, Iran (1912)
DeathTehran, Iran (1996)
Iranian puppeteer of traditional string puppetry, kheimeh shab bazi. Master Ahmad Sheikh Ahmad Khamsei was one of the most famous puppeteers of his era. He studied Iranian traditional string puppetry from Kaka Mohammad Shirazi and his son Kaka Hussein. He started his career as a sandogh kesh, a person who carries the trunk containing puppets, costumes, and puppet booth and sets up for a performance. With perseverance, he acquired skills and became the major performer of the group as a morshed, the person who sits in front of the booth accompanied by a musician and narrates the story, talking to and translating for the puppets. The puppets’ speech is delivered via a voice modifier, called a sootak or safir, so the morshed’s interpretation is crucial.
Khamsei partnered with the noted puppeteer Kaka Hussein for many years. Later, he played the show independently with a booth of his own. For about sixty years, he performed the well-known play Bargahe Salim Khan (King Salim Palace, see Shah Salim Bazi). Khamsei’s clear performance and subtle improvisation were key to his success. He was a chasbideh, a person who has learned puppetry through enthusiasm and perseverance, but is not from a traditional family of puppet masters. Ahmad Sheikh Ahmad Khamsei performed kheimeh shab bazi in many countries, introducing this Iranian traditional string puppet art to the world.