I was rushing to get to my friends waiting at the Royce Hall where the Shajariyan concert was being held. I had gone to the Iranian Film Festival in UCLA but this theater was held on the other side of UCLA's campus, or at least somewhere I was new to. At the sight of couple of Persian women dressed in elegant dark garments I realized I was at the right place.
I parked the car and started following the people ahead of me to an ancient looking building, flinching in cold. Outside of the theater was crowded with people my father's and my grand father's age. As I had expected, I was the youngest of the aficionados.
By the time I met up with my friends and got inside, the theater had already been filled up and to my surprise there were many non-Iranians; Americans, African-Americans, Asians and etc. The stage was beautifully yet simply designed with traditional Persian clothes covering the long platform, four microphones and three musical instruments placed on it.
As the lights dimmed, the voices faded and the sound of music became to display. Little by little an odd aura hovered around me. I don't know what it was but I think I started feeling nostalgic and a bit irritated. Maybe I thought we were a wrong crowd for this, that this was too pure and sanctified for this society of people to get.
The couple sitting in front of us caught my attention. As Shajarian started singing in high pitch, doing the Persian “chah chah”, the American guy gave an estranged look to his Asian woman, rather uncomfortably readjusting himself in his seat. The reason of their on-their-own presence there remained a mystery to me for most of the other non-Persians had come with their fellow Persian friends and families, or just were invited by them.
The deep swerving sound of the “kaman-cheh” made me tremble internally, disturbed by the bouts of random flash backs in Iran. Swiftly I found myself gazing at this old man appearing in my vision. With a peaceful smile in his kind eyes, he was nodding and glowing in love and enjoyment. I felt depressed as hell. He reminded me of my grandfather and the glow in his eyes every time he read verses of Hafez by heart to us.
The Persian woman sitting behind me kept moving in her seat, kicking me in the back and falling on her husband. I'd turn my face sideway and see them at the corner of my eyes. She would be rubbing her head against his chest “ohhh, honeeeyy, mmmm”. The guy in his mid 20's next to me suddenly turned to his father and said impatiently “so when will Michael Jackson come?” “Bisho'oor” was his father's reply.
At the little break time, I managed to relax a bit and get a hold of a glass of red wine, the Persian poetic beloved. As the musicians retook their posture and started going into long melody frenzy, my Persian poetic beloved began to kick in. Unconsciously I started shedding off all the worries in the world and just seeping into the music, my eyes glaring at the hand moves of the musicians, my ears ringing with the tone of Shajarian. I was so entrenched in the vibe, my whole aura became numb.
I was just floating in my seat, my entire existence focused on the Tar player, vibrating to the intoxicating motion of his rapid hands. He was united with the Tar, his hand moving with the strings synchronizingly, his head swaying to the beat of the sound in harmony. It was like the instrument was his lover, holding it so heartily close, strumming it with such passion, like an orgasmic stage, making love to it.
Nothing in the world mattered to me anymore but the emotional resonance that music had struck me with. All of a sudden I look at the couple in front of me and I find the estranged American guy along with his Asian wife nodding serenely to the sound of music. If nothing can make us understand each other today, maybe art can.
Subscribe to The Iranian newsletter
Sign up for our daily newsletter to get the top news stories delivered to your inbox.