NIYAZ (Iran/United States)
There was a time – before the revolution of 1979 led by the ayatollah Khomeini when the sharia was instituted, which forbids, among many other things, public musical displays with only rare exceptions and that has interdicted it completely to women – when Iranian singers (or better, Persian singers) sold hundreds of thousands of records, made unending tours in their own country and abroad. The biggest example of that is the singer and actress Googoosh, a diva of the Persian music scene – although in a more pop-ish and less classical and/or traditional perspective as the greater and more ancient Persian musical genre: radif. Meanwhile, and almost forty years after the revolution, times have changed and nowadays we can listen to classical Iranian music and even some classical Western music and some Iranian pop on the radio; there are also some public musical performances – although subject to authorization and previous censorship (but only featuring men and never women). But, for example, state TV cannot show musical instruments and the repression on musicians and singers of genres that are considered diabolic or anti-Islamic, such as metal, grunge or rap – as seen on the documentary ‘No One Knows About Persian Cats’ (2009) – continues.
This is why Iranian singers, like the amazing Sussan Deyhim (experimental music), more recently the young Tara Tiba (traditional music) – the same whose voice is brilliantly accompanied in a song by the Portuguese guitar player Marta Pereira da Costa – and the already-mentioned Googoosh and Rita Yahan-Farouz (both pop music), the rapper Ghogha or Azam Ali – the vocals of Niyaz, a band we shall talk about further in this text – had to abandon their country to keep on singing freely and pursue a professional career in music as they dreamed.
Niyaz – formed by the Iranian couple now based in Canada, Azam Ali (vocals and hammered dulcimer) and Loga Ramin Torkian (guitarviol – an electric guitar played with a bow – and the traditional instruments tar and saz), accompanied by the also Iranian percussionist Habib Meftah Bouchehri – are coming to Loulé Med to present their magical fusion of traditional radif and other Middle Eastern genres interpreted with traditional instruments, together with electronic and rock, a fusion that is well stated in their concerts and their albums and the EP they have released so far: ‘Niyaz’ (2005), ‘Nine Heavens’ (2008), ‘Sumud’ (2012) ‘Sumud (Acoustic EP)’ (2013), and the more recent ‘The Fourth Light’ (2015), which they are presenting at our festival and is a tribute to the saint and great Sufi poet Rabia Al Basri, who lived in the 8th century.
Niyaz were born in 2004 by the hands of Azam Ali – who had been a member of Vas, a band that he shared with the American percussionist Greg Ellis and played a type of music that was very similar to that of Dead Can Dance – Loga Ramin Torkian – former Axiom of Choice, a band of California-based Iranian singers that played a type of music that is very similar to what Niyaz do – and the American producer, DJ, and programmer Carmen (yes, it can also be a male name) Rizzo – who would later abandon the group in 2013 after having participated creatively in their first three albums and that before, during, and after has worked with such artists as Seal, Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Khaled, and A.R. Rahman. And in their music, which quickly started to conquer the main circuits of world music, the mystical and classical Sufi poetry (besides Rabia Al Basri, also the great Rumi poet of the 8th century) comes together with the traditional Persian songs, such as radif, but also other genres found in Turkey, Palestine, and Pakistan. Without ever forgetting an elegant and hypnotic trance that pre-exists in those old songs but which is strengthened by electronics in their work. It is a beautiful music of ecstasy, reflexion, contemplation that we will be able to listen to on Saturday July 1 at Loulé Med.