A night with some dry drunk Persians

I got drunk on music at Frank Gehry’s last night along with two thousand other people. Even though independence day usually is accompanied by the two Adamses – Samuel (the beer),  and John (the second president) –  this year was different.

beer café michele roohani

It was amazing : an Iranian music ensemble called “Mastan” or the drunks, with its  director/vocalist, Parvaz Homaye, performed at Walt Disney music hall. The astonishing thing is that this group lives and performs in Iran and has chosen a name and lyrics laced with wine/intoxication/breaking repentance/dissent/hope… The young vocalist actually played on two big jugs – khomreh – that begged to be full of wine like Jesus’ in the marriage of cana!

Zal embracing Rudabeh british library 1576 michele roohani

How the mullahs managed to asphyxiate 70 million people by depriving them of music and wine is beyond my comprehension… Just look at these paintings: where there is music, there is wine. The concert last night proved that if you take the wine out of a Persian’s life, he’ll continue to sing about it! Move your mouse on the images to see a description of the paintings and the year they  were created.

Siavash and Farigis are married Metroplitan 1520 michele roohani

These instruments have not changed in centuries but the music has evolved. I love this painting of Kamancheh (upright fiddle), tar and daf:

Shah Abbas and ambassador(detail) agha khan colllection ca 1790 michele roohani

This gorgeous painting in a palace in Isfahan from around 1670:

persian musicians hasht behesht 1669 michele roohani

Last but not least is this funny looking dude playing a lute:

Robab player british museum 1530 michele roohani

Passionate improvisation is the basis of Persian classical music. Watch this clip to see some hard core first-rate Persian musicians – Kayhan Kalhor on kemancheh (spike fiddle), Hussein Alizadeh on tar (lute), Shajarian on vocals, and his son on tombak (hand drum) – warning to the uninitiate: there is heavy duty yodeling! I couldn’t resist adding these pictures of the great Kalhor playing and Yo-Yo Ma watching – they collaborated on the Silk Road Project:

keyhan kalhor yo-yo ma kamancheh michele roohani

Watch the Mastan here – they will be performing in San Francisco, San Diego and Washington D.C. this July.

صبح است ساقیا قدحی پرشراب کن
دور فلک درنگ ندارد شتاب کن
زان پیشتر که عالم فانی شود خراب
ما را ز جام باده گلگون خراب کن