A Marriage of Persian and European Music

Attracting huge and varied audiences, the Berliner Philharmonie is host to weekly, unticketed lunchtime concerts. Today’s performance marked the commencement of the Female Voice of Iran festival in Berlin. The three-day festival celebrates female, Middle-Eastern musicians, recognising the difficulties they have faced in a culture that, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, forbids women to sing in public. Many female musicians, having left Iran, now have the freedom and possibility to express themselves freely through music, and this festival boasts a collaboration between these musicians that are now living and working in Germany.

Lead by German-Iranian singer Cymin Samawatie, the concert at the Philharmonie was a wonderful fusion of classical Persian music and European classical and improv. The band was composed of several instruments: ney (Iranian flute), tar (Iranian string instrument),  kamancheh (Iranian bowed string instrument), tombak (Iranian drum), as well as a double bass, double-necked electric guitar, viola and electronica. Beginning with the soft and slow notes from a single singer, the group steadily joined in one after the other, building up the music and sounds collectively. With the combination of sounds from distinctly unique instruments sitting in contrasting octaves, the overall acoustics were full, vibrant and well-complimented. The women’s voices were also absolutely mesmerising, especially with the added electronic effect.

It was an incredible performance, the music of which transported the audience to the Middle East, immediately invoking images of the hot sun over an Arabian desert. In an ingenious fashion, more European melodies were interjected occasionally like an unexpected ingredient that creates a new flavour. The rise and fall in tempo, collaborative volume and hypnotic rhythm lead the audience on an emotional and ethereal journey. It was atmospheric and utterly overwhelming – I honestly had goosebumps throughout the entire performance.

The festival will continue this week with more concerts, film portraits and panel discussions creating awareness of the different culture, music and lives of female Iranian musicians.

For more information on the festival, follow the link here.

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