Maestro Majid Derakhshani: Speaking to the Wind

Internationally renowned Persian musician and composer Maestro Majid Derakhshani chats with The Adelaide Review about performing for a global community ahead of his Australian tour with the Sarv Ensemble.

Diasporic communities have rarely had it easier in maintaining connections with their homelands. Relatives back home can be a Skype call away, news from home breaks over social media before traditional news services can file reports and traditional music and culture can be shared and enjoyed via platforms like YouTube.

Such tools have helped Iran-based composer and performer Maestro Majid Derakhshani court a following amongst Australia’s Persian community and the rest of the world, but as he explains via interpreter there’s nothing that can quite replicate the cultural experience of live performance.

“No matter how technology grows, I think the need for human beings to physically go to a concert hall and enjoy live music is still a unique experience,” he explains. “Today we’ve got Skype and Facetime, you actually need to see that person, feel them and shake their hand. That’s still a unique thing that technology can’t provide.

“For ethnic communities who live far from their home country, it’s even more important to have concerts and programs like this to come together and celebrate their cultural diversity and the country they live in currently.”

Derakhshani understands that sense of distance all too well, having spent two decades based in Germany following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. More recently, he briefly had his overseas movements curtailed in a move many suspected was related to collaborations with female performers posted online.

“If we were under pressure, it wasn’t because of the music,” he says of his difficulties with the authorities. “The actual music itself there isn’t much of an issue — it’s individuals who deliver it. If you are a musician or composer who is in favour of that system, you can pretty much do whatever you like provided you don’t cross certain boundaries and make sure you don’t talk about politics or social issues people are facing.

“But if you’re an artist or musician and take peoples’ side, and don’t follow regulations or rules that the Government tells you to, of course you face difficulties. Iran is a country where if you want to hold a concert, you need special permission from the government, which is a very unique requirement — not many countries around the world have that. The filtering the government has put in place isn’t about the quality of the music but about letting those people through who are working in favour of the government.”

With his movements now less restricted, Derakhshani returns to Australia this month for a series of concerts with Sarv Ensemble, a collective of musicians of both genders led by Canberra-based Oud player Salar Ayoubi (our interpreter, incidentally).

Of the material in the ensemble’s repertoire, one piece, Gavan, strikes a particularly strong chord. “Gavan is a conversation between basically morning breeze and dawn,” Derakhshani says. “That morning breeze is a symbol of freedom, and can travel wherever; dawn is basically stuck in the soil and can’t go anywhere, so it’s a conversation between the two — the dawn is jealous of the breeze and says ‘I wish I was in your position and could travel wherever I want, I could leave the desert’.

“So in the current situation in countries like Iran you see a lot of people wanting to leave because they’re not happy with certain situations, that particularly piece is quite powerful.

“But interestingly, the response to this song is the same from people outside the country. They live here for a number of reasons, whether it’s career or job or a better life, but they still miss their home country. So people in and outside of the country still make a connection with that song, it’s special.”

Sarv Ensemble perform with Maestro Majid Derakhshani at the Brighton Art Centre on Sunday, August 20

Tickets via pcasa.yapsody.com