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An Axis Of Joy: Monika Jalili & Noorsaaz Band Triumph in Paris


Report from Paris by Darius KADIVAR

Author and Monika Jalili ©Reza Jalili


The crowd that gathered at the Maison des Cultures du Monde at the Bld Raspail was as Cosmopolitan as the Band that was about to perform for a unique concert in Paris. A mixture of Persian residents of Paris and American teachers and students of the former Alliance Francaise were talking about the latest cultural events in Paris. I arrived with my mother Jeanne to the main entrance and Mom told me that she used to take courses in the same building some 40 years or so ago before meeting my Father. Les Feuilles Mortes se Ramassent a la Pelle used to sing Yves Montand back in those years to the ears of all Lovers in Paris and Lovers of Eternal Paris ...

I bump into Shahrokh Golestan who acknowledges my smile and I introduce him to Mom. The well known Journalist of the BBC who had filmed the Shah's coronation and the Persepolis Celebrations narrated by the Legendary Orson Welles back in October 1971 has been living in Paris since the revolution of 1979. He was the manager of the famous Cinema Aryana in Shiraz that used to be one of the highlight places to go to in those care free years before the Revolution.


Noorsaaz Ensemble and photographer Aydin Salehi© Aydin Salehi

Americans and Shirazis used to hang around in the Khiabouneh Zand and Cinema Aryana's Discoteque was one of the most best frequented nightclubs in town. Mom and Mr. Golestan spoke about the common acquaintances in Shiraz and we spoke about the latest Sassanian Exhibition in Paris' Cernuschi Museum ( See Related Article) that has been drawing alot of attention.

I recognized some of the Band Members of the Noorsaaz Ensemble like the Very Tall and beautiful Megan Weeder Violin, Timothy Quigley Percussion, Mavrothis Kontanis Oud, Nathan Dillon Guitar all of whom were to make headlines a year ago on the internet thanks to a breathtaking performance at the NY Trinity Church that was broadcast on the internet. They had just arrived from Budapest, Hungary where they had received an Award of Excellence for their work at the Persian Golden Lioness Awards(R) 2nd Annual. It was high time for the Concert to begin so before I could say hello we all moved into the cozy theater of the Cultural Center.


Noorsaaaz on Stage © Aydin Salehi


As everyone moved to their seats and chatted, I could feel that everyone was kind of excited to hear and see Noorsaaz Perform their first live concert in Paris.

Then we got to see the Band arrive on stage and followed by the beautiful Cherry lipped and few months pregnant Monika Jalili. Everyone applauded and waited for them to get into the mood.

Noorsaaaz album signed by Monika Jalili © Aydin Salehi

What can I say other that the Band played marvellously well and that we were all took by the magic of the moment so superbly recreated by this All American Band. Monika showed no signs of fatigue despite her pregnancy and the Band was anything but Jet Lagged by their trip all the way from NY to Budapest and then to Paris. I got to sneak into Monika's Lounge and meet her and her Band members during the break halfway through the Concert. I offered Monika a bouquet of Roses and wished her and her husband Reza all the best for the new expected child.



Crowd at La Maison des Cultures Du Monde © Aydin Salehi


The beautiful folksongs succeeded to one another and the audience was genuinely charmed by the performance. Three Standing Ovations and Cheers of BRAVO's followed confirming if needed of the Band's increasing popularity. I was seated in between my French Mother and several Iranian young ladies when I noticed that tears of joy and emotion were spilling from these ladies eyes. Some were not even born when the Revolution took place. A young actress who was studying Drama at the French University was holding her head in her hands and sobbing silently. My own mother weeped when she heard Monika Perform her two favourite song Shekareh Ahoo and Goleh Sangam. I have been to many Persian Concerts and certainly Googoosh's has been one of the most emotional experiences for a live audience but there is something very special about Noorsaaz that I have rarely encountered in the past 27 years I have lived outside Iran. It seems they have always existed in our minds and hearts and yet no one ever had heard of them before their broadcast on the Internet a year ago. Maybe the reason is the simplicity of their performances and the joy they express through them. It is probably this Joy and the images linked to them that we had to some degree, if not forgotten, at most ignored, during the past quarter of a century during which Iran has been associated to War, Fundamentalist Revolution or Terrorism.


Relaxing after concert © Aydin Salehi

What Noorsaaz communicates is an Axis of Joy. They are the living proof that a Dialogue of Civilizations are indeed possible between the West and the East and that the rich Persian Culture is also Universal and that it belongs to all mankind.

Thank You Noorsaaz for reminding us of who we were and are!


An Axis of Joy: Reza and Monika Jalili © Aydin Salehi


Authors Notes:
Here are some photos taken during and after the concert by photographer Aydin Salehi who managed to capture some of that magical night's atmosphere. After the Concert Noorsaaz invited me and their friends and fans to a quaint French Restaurant to celebrate their success. I think Parisians will look forward to seeing them again.

Recommended Reading :
The Sound of Music : Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz's Remembrance of Things Past... by Darius KADIVAR

Recommended Listening: Radio Zamaneh coverage of Paris Concert and Reactions

Other Events in Paris:

-  Les Perses Sassanides, Fastes d'un empire oubliť (15 September-30th of December 2006) : Amazing exhibition on the Last Pre-Islamic Persian Dynasty at the Cernuschi Museum.

- East Meets West at Exhibition Venise et L'Orient ( 3rd Oct 2006-18th of February 2007) at L'institut du Monde Arab in association of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.




About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian and Media Consultant


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