Last night, a very popular and accomplished traditional Persian music ensemble based in Iran performed at a seemingly sold-out concert at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco . The group, Homay and The Mastan Ensemble is on their 3rd annual North American Tour called Sarbazan or The Soldiers. In previous years, among other places, they’ve had sold-out performances at Lincoln Center, NY, Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, Strathmore in Washington, D.C. and Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
Following the Persian tradition of “chameh soraei”, the group’s founder, Saeed Jafarzadeh known as Parvaz Homay writes his own lyrics, composes, and sings. His lyrics promote non-violence and engage the audience in an inquiry into principles of consciousness, freedom, compassion, unity, and transformation. The group’s exhilarating performances engage the audience to live with intent into these principles that they view as true spirituality.
Since early 2009, Homay has been banned by the Iranian authorities to perform publicly in Iran. In his songs, Homay with his poignant lyrics courageously and passionately cries against the oppression of our people and human rights violations in our homeland, all the while amplifying words of optimism. “… My message is that we should not bemoan hardships, instead keep steadfast and remain in love in face of adversity and injustice….” said Homay in an interview with VOA last year (below, in Persian).
The Ensemble, composed of a group of nine talented young musicians, was formed in 2005. Since then they have something fresh to say every time they go on stage; last night was no exception. Sarbazan or “The Soldier” the main story of Part I is a mesmerizing epic composition with a perspective into the Iranian history which introduced the audience to those brave souls, the Soldiers, who have defied “the tyrant” for the love of the country, people, human rights and freedom. Part II had a more global intent; the message was to respect the mother earth and preserve the wild life. This part included pieces with lyrics in English and Spanish mixed with Persian, along with music composed of a fusion of traditional and ethnic Iranian music. They performed songs from the Kurdistan and Gilan regions. Homay performed a very original version of Besame Mucho singing in both Spanish and Persian lyrics and connecting more deeply to the Iranian audience with mixing subtle melodies from an old Persian song, “Mara Beboos” or “Kiss Me”. Coming back for an encore, they brought the audience into an euphoric uproar as they began playing one of their most riveting pieces called “Sarzamin-e Bee Karan” or “Boundless Land”, referring to Iran and its vastness, beauty and splendor; meanwhile the lights slowly turned distinctively green. Here is a symphonic arrangement of the same song played last year at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The group received several rapturous standing ovation throughout the night. Homay & the Mastan Ensemble will continue their North American tour to cities including San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, New York, Toronto and Montreal.
Homay has already started working on his next project, an opera called “Esgh, Ensaan, Aghl” ( Love, Human Being, Wisdom) in collaboration with renowned international artists to raise awareness about protection of wildlife, and the earth. We’ll be waiting….