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 Nowroz Celebration in New York
“Night of Songs” Features Persian Poetry and Music

New York – The Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan, New York City, rang with Persian classical poetry and folk music on March 12, as part of a Nowruz celebration attended by a capacity crowd of about 200 people, who came to enjoy an evening of Persian culture and to celebrate preparations for the Persian New Year.

Many in the audience were born in Iran, but the audience also includes many young Iranians who were born and raised outside Iran, and who may not be fluent in Persian. Hearing poetry in Persian is an enjoyable way to get reacquainted with the Persian language, and with a culture many of them know only from a distance.

On this night, in the Bowery Poetry Club, in a warm, crowded room filled with the sound of chatter and the aroma of tea and coffee, Sam Davoodi, one of the event’s organizers, opened the evening by explaining to the audience what the Persian New Year symbolized. “It’s a symbol of a new beginning,” he said, “a new spring and a rebirth of life.”

Describing Shab-e-Sher as "a night of remembrance and a hope for a new future," Davoodi then introduced musician Ostad Amir Vahab, and his "Ensemble Soroosh." Vahab, an Iranian musician who teaches Iranian classical music in New York, formed the Ensemble Soroosh in 1981. His web site, (, is a veritable encyclopedia of Iranian traditional music and musical instruments.

Vahab said he sees performing for audiences like this as "part of my responsibility to connect them to their roots."

"Young people who come to Shab-e-Sher come with an appreciative curiosity and are ready to absorb the music," he added.

As Vahab began to play, running his fingers along the eight delicate strings of his tanbur, the audience was hushed. But when he began to sing, and the instruments to play, the crowd began to move in time to the music. When the ensemble turned to Iranian folk songs, the crowd danced and clapped. Several said it brought back memories of childhoods spent in Iran. For others the music was an enthralling new experience. And as the performance ended, it seemed that the poets and musicians had brought paradise - Persia - to New York, even if only for an evening.

by Tannaz Etebarian


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