One million Iranians live in the United States, making Iranian Americans the largest community of Persians outside of Iran. But they don’t just bring their passion and dreams for a better life, Iranians also bring their musical traditions and their openness to American music styles. From Los Angeles to New York, Iranian Americans are influencing American music and being influenced by it and all the musical traditions that find their way to these shores.
Decades Long Music Journey
The first mass migration of Iranians arrived in America between 1950 and 1977 before the Islamic revolution followed by a second wave after the revolution. Many of these new Americans were musicians who migrated because of Iran’s prohibition on western influences in Persian culture. Hundreds of musicians arrived in Los Angeles, soaking up the myriad of American musical genres that they then merged with traditional Persian tunes creating a Persian Pop genre known by many in Iran as LA Style.
Farzam Fattahi, who immigrated to the United States in 1978, doesn’t shy away from this mergence of music. His music is at once contemplative, upbeat, and celebratory, seamlessly blending tradition with modern and American influences. He views music as constantly changing and going through necessary and radical transformations.
“Persian music has gone through many changes, many evolutions through the years,” Farzam said. “From the traditional Persian music to the pop music you hear the young people create today. But so many of the artists are inspired by Iranian traditions but also their new home, America. And those traditions come together to create something new but still fundamentally Persian.”
Planting The Right Seeds
Farzam’s own musical journey didn’t begin when he came to the United States as a teenager in 1978 but it began 50 years ago at the age of six when he began to learn and master the violin. And he hasn’t stopped playing the violin for more than a few moments to learn multiple instruments so that he can bring his blend of Persian and pop tunes to audiences around the country on the violin, piano, bass, cello, harp, or just about any other instrument (minus the wind instruments) he can get his hands on. Despite his brilliance and skill as a musician, Farzam is modest as he talks about why it’s important to perform for a variety for audiences not just fellow Persians. He aims to not just show off his musical talents to the world but to help connect cultures and people.
“For me, it’s important to educate the public about Iranian musical traditions but to also bring happiness to the people…to bring something positive, a positive vibe. That’s important,” Farzam said.
And Farzam Fattahi has done a lot to bring a positive vibe to as many people as possible. For the past 10 years he has committed his time to traveling and playing Persian music for all audiences around the world. He says he doesn’t have an album in works at this time but that may change.