Thursday, June 22

Persian music strikes chord


A&E


Despite the benefits of absorbing a culture other than
one’s own, it’s hard to find the money and time to
visit another country. Fortunately, the UCLA ethnomusicology
department is attempting to bring the musical experience of the
Middle East to Westwood.

“Alast: An Evening of Traditional Persian Music,”
which will take place Saturday in the Jan Popper Theater at 7:30
p.m., is in part intended to showcase Persian culture. The
performance will feature the talents of Bahram Osqueezadeh on the
santur, Sahba Motallebi on the tar and Faramarz Amiri-Ranjbar on
various Persian percussion instruments.

“I thought it would be a really great event to have
““ we have such a large Iranian community here in Southern
California, and some really wonderful musicians that are members of
that community,” said Ann Lucas, an ethnomusicology graduate
student at UCLA. “I was really excited to be able to utilize
that and to be able to put on this concert.”

Lucas, who plans to specialize in the music of Iran, is in
charge of organizing the event. She has focused on Persian music
for the last five years, as well as worked in the community with
local musicians. Through her work, she heard about Osqueezadeh and
other artists.

“I was really excited because Bahram Osqueezadeh, a
santurist, was in Santa Barbara for a while,” Lucas said.
“During that time, he did a lot more of composing and less
performing. When he decided to go out again and perform in public
more again, I was excited to see that.”

Not only was it Lucas’ intent to expose the UCLA community
to traditional Persian music, she also wanted to showcase the
different types of instruments that Iran had to offer. Among those
instruments was the santur, from which modern instruments like the
clavichord and even the piano have been derived.

“When they teach Middle Eastern music here at UCLA and
they bring out the santur, people just go gaga for it,” Lucas
said. “It’s like a dulcimer. It’s hard to tune;
it’s a labor-intensive instrument to keep on tour in public
performances outside of Iran. The santur has a clean, very airy
sound to it. It has that mystical aura around it that people
associate with the Middle East.”

Osqueezadeh, a native of Iran, has specialized in the santur
ever since he was a child. He began to play when he was only 14
years old.

“When I was a boy I was very intensely involved with table
tennis for a long time, but my dad and mom didn’t like
that,” Osqueezadeh said. “The only thing that could
keep me away from that was private lessons for the santur. When I
started doing that, I couldn’t go to the (table tennis) club
anymore. I started playing the santur more intensely and got more
involved with Persian music.”

Osqueezadeh is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of
California, Santa Barbara. It was in Santa Barbara where
Osqueezadeh found a group of musicians that also played traditional
Persian music. They now perform regularly, although their student
status keeps them from going on tour.

“People should expect a very fervent concert,”
Osqueezadeh said. “Usually when people go to a concert of
spiritual music it is a monotonous environment. Our concert has
sections that are very spiritual and soothing and sections that are
very lively and vibrant.”

Lucas is hoping that many people use this concert to experience
a side of Persian culture that the average Iranian, let alone the
average person, doesn’t usually have the chance to
experience.

“The traditional style tends to function like Western
classical in Iranian society, where it’s a very expensive
show and only a number of people get to access to public
performances,” Lucas said. “But, here we’re doing
this for free. It’s part of what we do here in
ethnomusicology ““ we want to make music accessible to
people.”

For students like second-year biology student Sheila Dejbakhsh,
events like “Alast” allow for more than just song,
dance and fun.

“I think the Persian events on campus are great because
they give me a chance to hang out with the people who share the
same culture as I do,” Dejbakhsh said. “Being in Iran,
I had a great experience learning about the people and the culture,
because I was born here. Being able to hang out with the same
culture gives me an opportunity to get in touch with my
roots.”

It is experiences like these that students like Neda Guiv, who
is of Iranian decent, are thankful for. The fourth-year economics
student has yet to visit Iran.

“It’s part of my culture, and it helps me connect
back to my roots,” Guiv said. “Especially here, where
the Persian community is so large, you can feel like you have that
connection to Iran even if you have never been there.”

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