"Music in the Islamic World"
Interview by Cory Lasser
1. The role of some of the music that you play is connected to the Sufi sect of Islam. Do you feel that this fact is more or less important than the music itself?
Let me answer you by using a short but deep quotation from Ostad Elahi:
"If used for spiritual purposes, music will connect us to the divine, for music is related to the soul and the soul is related to God. Pity it has been turned into a vehicle solely for material enjoyment."
2. How can a non-religious western listener understand the Sufic connection to a higher power through music?
You have mentioned the word Sufi a couple of times, and maybe we should explain its meaning. The word Sufi, comes from the verb: Safi, which is Arabic means filtering. Sufi is a person that is filtering and purifying his inner-self. This is a spiritual stage in religion, and it does exist in all authentic religions, such as: Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, etc. In Islam it is called Sufism, and in other religions it has a different name.
One does not need to be religious, nor an eastern listener, to appreciate Sufi music (spiritual music). All we need is our spiritual senses, and we have all been given those, since we all have a soul.
3. You left Iran before the Ayatollah's laws took power, and thus greatly limited the opportunies for musicians in Iran. Why did you leave at that time,and how have musicians who stayed in Iran been able to practice their craft?
I left simply for the reason of continuing my higher education in Europe. As for the other musicians, they could not have practiced publicly for a while, until the situation has changed.
4. There is an Iranian musican named Googoosh who decided to stay in Iran in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini took power, even with the fact that she would not be able to perform or record. Why do you think she stayed in Iran, and how do you feel about that choice?
One would never know what was her intention, except herself, and since I don't know her personally, I could not guess why she did that.
However, if you say she had a choice and she did stay in Iran, one can assume that there where more important things for her to do in Iran than singing in public outside of Iran.
5. You have scored Iranian film and theatre. How recently did you do this work, and was it at all limited by the Iranian government?
I started working with Iranian films and theater since 1990 and it still continues up to this date.
So far none of it has been limited, maybe because I live here.
6. In Afghanistan, under the Taliban, music was not publicly played or recorded for over 10 years. Do you feel that there are similarities between how music has
been treated in Iran since 1979 and how it was treated in Afghanistan?
No, Iran's view on music was never and will be never like Taliban in Afghanistan. The reason is simply because people in Iran generally are more educated and will not accept such ignorant and misunderstood interpretations of religion on music. However, we always have to be careful, since the root of fanaticism and ignorance is the same everywhere.
7. In 1989, "licit" religious music was once again allowed to be played in Iran. Today, reformist President Mohammad Khatami seems to have created an environment that has allowed the annual Fajr festival to diversify in the musicians allowed to play, even including Jewish musician in 2000. Do you feel that steps such as these will allow music to one day be played freely in Iran?
Yes, certainly. The music is kind of free already, but there will be less and less restrictions, until it's completely free.
Incidentally, music in Iran started being played since 1982, but so called spiritual music, and then little by little got to where it is now, with pop music and female singers and so on.