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Meeting Iranian Musician Was Key To New Album

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#1 darkstar


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Posted 24 August 2008 - 06:55 AM

Densmores' Doors Widens
Meeting Iranian Musician Was Key To New Album
Persian classical music with a twist at Lula Lounge
By John Goddard
The Star News
Circa 2006

When former Doors drummer John Densmore undertook to "Westernize" an album of Persian classical music, he ended up partly Orientalizing himself.

The project began a year and a half ago.

Densmore was attending a Great Mother spirituality conference in Wisconsin run by U.S. poet Robert Bly.

Performing solo was Iranian musician Reza Derakshani, a singer and virtuoso on several gourd-like string instruments and the ney flute.

"When I saw him, I thought: `How creative and charismatic and shy all in one package,'" Densmore, 61, recalls by phone last week from Los Angeles.

Reza, as he is known, invited Densmore to alter the time signatures and add a backbeat to some of the songs.

Afterward, the two gathered with a few other musicians in Venice, Calif., to cut the album Ray of Wine, just released on the independent Henhouse label.

This week, the group is also touring for the first time to three venues: the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Lula Lounge in Toronto and; Theatre Le National in east-end Montreal. If all goes well, a west coast tour is planned.

"The process is ongoing," Densmore says cheerfully.

"I'm comfortable in 4/4 and 3/4 (time) and a couple of these songs are in 7/4, or something."

Of all 1960's rock bands, the Doors rank among the most poetic and sonically diverse. In that sense, Densmore's leap is not so huge from "Light My Fire" from 1967 to "Heart of Fire" on the new album, on which he leaves his kit to sit astride a wooden box drum, leaning over it to play with his hands.

And just as he supported Doors' frontman Jim Morrison, Densmore takes care never to outshine Reza or overwhelm the Persian sound.

Reza remains the star.

"I'm comfortable in 4/4 and 3/4 (time) and a couple of these songs are in 7/4, or something'
John Dennsmore, on learning Persian rhythms

Born in Tehran in 1952, he became a singer and multi-instrumentalist principally on the tar and setar, both long-necked lutes, and the kamancheh, a type of Persian violin.

In 1983, after Iran's Islamic revolution, he immigrated to New York to pursue a career in Persian classical and folk music. He taught private lessons and performed at such venues as the Juilliard School and the World Music Institute.

"Gradually, I think there was a transformation in myself," he says by phone from New York. "It made more sense not to isolate myself from the society I was living in. I decided to try new sounds."

Ironically, not long after first experimenting with pop music and contemporary arrangements, he moved back to Tehran.

"I went back in 2002 for a show," Reza says. "I had been away for so long I thought I was forgotten, but the reception was extraordinary. I was effected emotionally and two weeks later I went back again. I got engaged there more and more, and I decided to have a place there."

Iran has banned rock and roll. If Densmore were to play there with a drum kit, he would be arrested, Reza says.

On the other hand, "there are about 500 underground rock and roll bands in Tehran," he says, and from the Internet everybody seems to know about Ray of Wine.

In Tehran, Reza performs with six young musicians "very knowledgeable, hard workers," he says. With two of them he has also formed a trio, he says, "to create some sort of avant-garde form of Persian music."

Asked to describe what he is bringing to Lula Lounge, Reza says: "To anybody who knows Persian music, obviously I've gone too far, but at the same time all the songs are faithful to Persian classical and folk music."

Onstage, a total of five players are to appear, including a Brazilian trained Italian percussionist and a Cuban bass player.

"So we've got a global village going here," Densmore says.

"Maybe I'm going to read from a blog or two from people in Tehran and maybe a little Rumi will go down," he also says, referring to 13th-century Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi, from whom Reza takes most of his lyrics.

Both performers express pleasure at their collaboration at the time of nuclear tensions between their two countries.

"In the dialogue," Reza says, "there is a role for art and music."

"I think," Densmore says more provocatively, "you should learn about a culture before you bomb it."


#2 mewsical


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Posted 21 June 2009 - 11:47 AM

This would be a good time to express support for the people of Iran in their struggle against an oppressive regime.  Twitter is EXPLODING with support and messages.  The regime is trying to shut down all internet access, but failing.  This is an example of the evil intent of the regime. Ghalam is the outlet that Mousavi is using to speak to his supporters.


If you are on Facebook or Twitter, please change your city to Tehran and advance your local time to GMT +3.30.  This serves to confuse the basij, who are searching out dissidents on the internet for the purpose of silencing them.