Interview by European Correspondent and Head of PR & Press for WAALM® Darius KADIVAR
There is something about the Noorsaaz Band that reminds me of the Von Trapp Family in the Sound of Music (**). That may seem far-fetched a comparison but I maintain this assessment. One can listen to them religiously and feel the warmth and communion they inspire in everyone who listens. As a band they seem so harmoniously tied to one another during their performances that they could well form a family of troubadour artists led by the beautiful Monika Jalili. That is exactly what I am sure many of us felt when we first heard the voice of the New York soprano artist whose concert at the Trinity Church in NY (***) was to be exchanged at the speed of light on many Persian internet blogs and websites.
addition growing up in
Well in many ways Monika Jalili and her Band are bridging this gap between the Western Music and Iranian Folk songs. Probably because of the fact that she is precisely not Iranian her performances have an exquisite and unique charm. Her simplicity and subtle adaptations of some of the most popular songs of Iran's Pre -Revolution years distinguish her performance from that of so many of today's young Iranian American Pop Artists who have rapidly gained fame in Dubai or LA trying to imitate American Standards both in content and form but who unfortunately often lack what many New Age or World Music groups lack: AN IDENTITY.
push the comparison further for Noorsaaz in many ways outshines them all by
being AUTHENTIC and TRUE to an era that is lost gone but which the younger
generation discovers with a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity.
The beautiful and Europeanized Lalezar Ave was
decades screening equally Iranian and
38 years (1941-1979) of American Presence in
cultural influence in the Persian Arts Arena.
©Photocompostion Darius KADIVAR
Monika Jalili and her band prove that Persian Music and Folk songs can be just as sensual and attractive to both Western and Persian ears. Their interest and tribute to our culture and music should honor us all in many ways and reconcile several generations of Iranians Worldwide beyond Time and Distances separated by the turmoil's of Revolution, War and Exile.
Appearing on a simple stage created inside the
It would not be exaggerated to say that for an entire generation the Noorsaaz performances have certainly become the Persian equivalent of the Madeleine de Proust .as described in the French Author's most celebrated novel A la recherche du Temps Perdu aka Remembrance of Things Past.
is something extremely moving to listen to the Classically trained Soprano born
In an era where most Iranian films of pre-revolution Iran are eclipsed by that of Abbas Kiarostami or Mohsen Makhmalbaf more artistically ambitious works, Noorsaaz' performance manages to remind us of a care free and joyful era where Iranian Men and Women could walk hand in hand without fear and flirt in Cafes or Tea Houses of Lalezar Avenue after watching their favorite Stars in the local Cinema.
Stardust Memories : Movies by Popular Stars of the 60's and 70's ...
roaring 1960's and 1970's Show Biz years of an overly confident Imperial Iran
saw the rise and fall of Great film Stars. The often simple plots or
melodramatic dramas of the Silver Screen were often pretexts for seeing your
favorite star of the time be it the handsome Fardin, the Virile Behrouz
Vossoughi or the comic Machissimo Nasser Malek Motei dispute the charms of their
female co-stars and often sometimes real life Love interests. Similar to
Maybe this explains why 27 years after the Revolution Monika Jalili's Sultan of my Heart appears to strike a sentimental cord for several generations of Iranian expatriates. Combining the best of two worlds Noorsaaz successfully alternates between Persian Folk songs and their subtle translations into English and French. In doing so it is not surprising that Jalili's new Album has drawn the attention of critics and fans worldwide. She is to be awarded this coming October with the Persian Golden Lioness Award ® in Music Category along with Music Maestro Conductor Alexander (Ali) Rahbari in Budapest Hungary with a particular tribute to one of the first classical music Iranian composers to have been noticed in the West the Great Aminollah Andre Hossein with such great compositions as Sherehazad and Persian Miniatures, or Symphonies of the Sand which has just been released in France as the music score of Robert Hossein's next Epic spectacle Ben Hur: Plus Grand que la Legende and performed by the Great Opera Singer Roberto Alagna.
Darius KADIVAR (DK): Were you surprised by the success
of your Album and particularly after your performance at the
Monika Jalili (MJ):I was particularly surprised by the success of the
DK: You sing in several languages Persian, French and English in this album all based on Persian folk songs. Was it difficult to translate them ?
MJ: As you know, I am in the process of learning Persian myself and at the time I started learning those songs, I had to go through each song word by word phrase by phrase to understand the intent and meaning of the lyrics. Translating the songs was something that came to me while working on the songs themselves. I started imagining how great it would be if people who did not speak Persian, could understand the meaning of some of these songs. The music itself is already so beautiful, but the poetry and lyrics are the heart of these songs, and something that should not be missed by anyone. I felt that it would be important to have some translations available for the audiences I hoped to reach who do not speak Persian. Translation, once I knew the songs, turned out not to be as difficult as I had anticipated.
DK: You seem to be particularly fond of "Sultan of My
Hearts" which is the Film Music score of one of
Did you see the film before translating it and did you know about his Aura and importance in the popular emerging Iranian Pre -Revolution Cinema ?
MJ: Yes, I am very fond of "Sultan of My Heart." I've known of the film, but, unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of seeing the film for which this song is titled.
TOP & BELOW: Parallel Lives : Burt Lancaster and
strangely both started off as accomplished Sportsmen in
Real Life before engaging into equally successful Film
careers and became Sex Idols in turn. Who copied who?
DK: Are there other folk songs that you are working on or inspired to translate ?
MJ: There are other songs that I am working, both folk song and love songs from 50 years ago. I often receive emails from friends with recommendations for songs. With the help of my music advisors - including my father in-law - I then select the songs that touch me.
DK :Eric Clapton was one of the rare Modern Western Musicians to be inspired by Persian Poetry with the adaptation of Nizami's Layla and Majnoon for Layla which also became the name for his band. Noorsaaz' music is obviously different in content and form but do you realize that maybe you are breaking a new ground for Iranian folk songs and by making it available to a larger audience which doesn't necessarily speak Persian or listen to Persian Melodies ?
MJ: Darius, that's a very interesting point. I appreciate that you have brought attention to the potential for breaking new ground for Iranian folk songs. That's my goal. I aim to take this music to everyone, including the audience that does not speak Persian. With Western instruments and musical style, and with the translations, but mostly because of the original beauty of the pieces, I think the music is accessible and resonating with audiences. I hope that our listening audience will grow.
It is virtually impossible to list the entire list and diversity of talented Iranian
Pop Artists and Actors whose immense contribution to the Arts paved the
way for the new generation. Some alas are no more with us today but
The Persian Golden Lioness Awards® in
some of these legendary icons at its upcoming Awards in October 2006
and more in the Years to come.
DK: You were born in NY, and all of your band members Megan Weeder Violin, Timothy Quigley Percussion, Mavrothis Kontanis Oud, Nathan Dillon Guitar are all very talented could you tell us more about them and how Noorsaaz got together?
met Megan first. I had posted ads
looking for musicians. Megan was
one of the musicians who responded. I am forever thankful for fate that connected us. With Megan, I was
fortunate to find the other 3 members of the band. I am very happy with my ensemble. I hadn't planned on everyone being
American. It just turned out that
way. Mavrothis, although he's born
and raised in
DK: Do you think that there is ground for more of such exchanges and mutual influences between Persian and American music and songs ? Are you planning other music adaptation in French and English ?
MJ: Yes, definitely. I am working on translations of more
Persian songs. The message in my songs is love. I am drawn to those songs. Is
there anything more universal than
love? Will those who don't know
DK: Your music has also been noticed in Europe for you will be honored in October for best Soprano in Classical Music for the 2nd Annual Persian Golden Lioness Awards along with other Great Artists like Music Conductor Alexander Ali Rahbari and several Hungarian Music celebrities like Classic Soprano Eva Marton or Pop groups like Nox and the Violin Trio group Princess.
is it to feel that you are certainly the First Trans-Atlantic Persian Music
group to date to receive such an honor and somehow become an ambassador of
Persian Folklore in
Well, I can probably say that it has been the surprise of the year for me. It feels very good to be recognized for
the hard work and the tremendous effort that not just I, but the group as a
whole, has put into this. I share the award with the musicians of the group. Of
course, I'm looking forward to being in
DK: Any Plans for Concerts in California?
husband landed in
The Hosts : Prof. M. Dorbayani, PhD and Dr. Marjan Abdi, PhD
the Founders of The World Academy of Arts, Literature, and Media - WAALM®
And Directors of the International Further Studies Institute-IFSI® www.ifsi.hu
Are you planning other tours in Europe and
are planning performances in Europe, including
DK: Now Monika a private and last question if you will? Being married to an Iranian who is certainly the Sultan of Your Heart, what is the best quality you find in the Iranian Man apart from cooking? ;0)
MJ: (Laughs) There are too many beautiful qualities to list If I have to mention one quality, it would have to be his heart of gold.
DK: For centuries Iran/Persia was known for its poets celebrating the beauty of life and human senses but as you know unfortunately music is ironically forbidden today except if they are religious or if classical music ensembles only express either nationalistic or religious compositions. In contrast do you think or hope one day that your joyful and sentimental songs so vivid in our collective memories and so superbly played by the NoorSaaz ensemble could one day be performed in Iran and revive the hearts of our dear compatriots back home in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran or other major cities in Iran?
is one of our dreams. It would be a
dream come true to be able to share our music in live performances in
Thank you Monika for your Time and looking forward to see you soon in Europe and
NOORSAAZ: A TRIBUTE TO THE PAST AND AN EYE ON
THE FUTURE © Noorsaaz
(*) This article and interview is copyright material and cannot be reproduced ( including in form or content) without the explicit permission of the Author.
(**)The Iranian film industry, especially before the revolution, was well-known for its exceptional ability to dub foreign films. One of the very best examples of this was The Sound of Music.
The Persian version of the film -- named "Ashk-haa va Lankhand-haa" (Tears and Laughter) -- was simply amazing because all the songs were translated and beautifully sung in Persian. As a result, the film was not only a huge success, but also the tunes remained forever recorded in the minds of an entire generation of Iranian children. Remember "do, do shab nakhaabeedam..."?
Soudabeh Safaeiyeh sang for Maria, Nazila Zand-e-Karimi for Liesel, Rashid Vatandoust for the Captain and Homayoun Moezzi-Moghaddam for Rolf. Other sigers for secondary parts were Simin Ghadiri, Azita Azarmi, Shamsi Shadmand and Nasrin Azarmi. Firouz Falahati translated the lyrics, the poet Touraj Negahban rewrote it and the dubbing manager Ali Kasmai.
(***) Official Website of Noorsaaz Band : http://www.noorsaaz.com/index.html
and Trinity Church Historical Concert that Launched the Band's popularity :
(*****) RECOMMENDED VIEWING: a Recent French Documentary L'Iran une Révolution Cinematorgraphique Produced by Avenue B Productions: The modern day history of Iran as told through its films, presented with the pertinent commentary of the young Iranian director, Nader T. Homayoun, who learnedly intertwines of interviews with directors, influential film personalities and excerpts from films made before, during and after the revolution.
More about the Awards:
About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian and Columnist of the OCPC Magazine USA. He operates as
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