Got intro’d to Ali Azimi through a random Soundcloud track in early summer. It was Pishdaramad, different, playful, and fundamentally new. It had the joy of a street Iroonee ballad, but then again it was episodic like Mercury and had Floyd sounds here and there. And then that drum, who was that beatmaster who hit the right thump every time an emotion sparked? Then got into Zendegi and although I knew of Sayeh, I really didn’t his work. Had heard about him from Nader Naderpour in another life when I was in LA. Sayeh escaped me for some 20 years until Ali Azimi brought it back to life with zendegi.
I asked ‘What is the sorcery in this music that gradually possesses?” And as translating wonders into words go though it falls short, it’s got to fall out.
1- Awakening. A category of Iranian poetry I call awakening is known for its ability to throw one from the life of habits into a higher reality which is often insecure and melancholy. Insecure because not too many others there and melancholy as the mountain of could-have-beens emerge along with the alas that little time is left to capture them. But better late than never. Awaken and run like the wind. There is awakening in Sayeh’s poetry. As a matter of fact he is mouthing awakenings and the harmonious messages coalesce into poetry.
2-Rock it. Awakening poetry in Iran has traditionally been accompanied by the classical instruments with a strict defined boundary. It’s only recently that the rigidity has given into alternative forms. Hold that thought
3- She’ereno, same metamorphosis happened to the formal classical poetry of Iran. With the advent of She’ereno or new poetry, the inflexible molds gave way to a multitude capabilities of artistic expression. Classical poetry is a clock with predictable measures, beats, timing and adorned by harmonious sounds of the words e.g. rhymes. The predictable rhythmic nature of the verse is perfect for overlaying music. This holy grail of Iranian classical music until contemporary times has been to proliferate the awakening classical poetry by cradling it tightly. Time for the child to crawl out.
With no strict structure of the poetry, weaving music around wildly varying verse lengths becomes a very different business. The only way to envelope She’ereno musically is to do it the way Rumi, Mozart, and Einstein did. Remember that you are a reed and worthy enough for the piper to pick you up and blow through you. Take a dash of rock and roll, a thirst for awakening, and a dab of She’ereno and we are now at the Azimi baseline.
4-Intercultural Alchemy, Now let’s deliver this culturally exotic delivery with 4 non Iranians as though the original feat wasn’t tough enough. Rumi comes to the rescue saying “Hamdelee az hamzabaanee behtarast” همدلی از همزبانی بهتر است. (like heartedness is better than like tonguedness). This quintet is one heart that beats in five bodies. Nothing but Hamdelee can guide that drummer to hammer in the message at the exact moment and that blues guitar to whine when melancholy erupts.
5-Visual Journey. And finally take the jaw dropping work of a video maestro and backdrop the musical wonder with a whirlwind of visual picture frames, each curated to awaken the child inside.
Sometimes wonders emerge in the harshest and most unlikely places. Ever see those flowers that flourish out of a rock? That is Ali you’re looking at. Come to the concert in the city on Sunday and pay your tribute to Sayeh, Ali and the gang.