Art And Culture

Persian Play, Spanish Sound

Sports, Art & Culture Desks
The musicians and singers sitting backstage play Spanish music with their guitars and sing Spanish songs while actors move rhythmically on the stage
Standing from left: Ashkan Sadeqi, Emad Ejlal, Kian Kordestani, Ahmad Qaed and Farhad Jam. Sitting from left: Hana Kamkar, Atyeh Javid, Negar Abedi, Elham Shakib and Parandeh AlaeiStanding from left: Ashkan Sadeqi, Emad Ejlal, Kian Kordestani, Ahmad Qaed and Farhad Jam. Sitting from left: Hana Kamkar, Atyeh Javid, Negar Abedi, Elham Shakib and Parandeh Alaei

Many Iranians have a taste for Spanish music; they either listen to it or follow the style in playing an instrument and composing musical works.

Now the play 'Yerma' directed by Ashkan Sadeqi and Elham Shakib, which is on stage at Tehran's Hafez Hall, has integrated live performance of Spanish music and acting by thespians. The result has been greatly appealing for the audiences and the show was extended twice so far.

'Yerma' is written by the famous Spanish poet, dramatist and theater director Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). Literally meaning barren, it tells the story of a childless woman living in rural Spain whose desperate desire for motherhood obsesses her and eventually drives her to commit a horrific crime.

In this adaptation of 'Yerma', Sadeqi has refrained from presenting a classical play in which actors' solely utter monologues and dialogues and are confined to the original mise en scene. Instead he has added a touch of Spanish music, singing and movement to the performance.

In an interview with the Financial Tribune the entire group of directors, actors, musicians and singers explained about their "new experience."

The musicians and singers sitting backstage play Spanish music with their guitars and sing Spanish songs while the graceful movements and body performance on the stage by actors resembles Spanish dancing, though it is not exactly the same. The music and singing help convey the feeling of movement much better than words.

"I have always loved Spanish ethnic music and wanted to perform the pieces I liked. Such an idea was with me for over a year and I thought 'well, I cannot organize a concert but I can combine it within a play' and then I chose a play which could go with that kind of music," Sadeqi noted.

Sadeqi, 40, holds a bachelor's degree in dramatic literature from Islamic Azad University, central Tehran branch. He is a theater director, screenwriter, actor and voice artist. He has directed, written and acted in over 40 plays since 1998.

"My main idea was to stage a play without any dialogue and only with music accompanying actors' movements. But when there are skilled actors like Fahad Jam and Negar Abdi in the cast, it is a pity not to benefit from their eloquent speech. Moreover, Lorca's script is so beautifully written that you cannot ignore the dialogues."

Both directors also have a role. The role Sadeqi plays needed an actor who can also play the guitar and sing in Spanish. "I could find nobody who could do these roles so I played it myself". And he does it really well as he speaks Spanish fluently.

Shakib, though, said she tested many actresses for a character named Maria but none matched the part. "We had little time for rehearsals and they could not connect with the role so I took it up."

  Proximity to Persian Music

Speaking on the similarities of Spanish and Persian music, musician and composer of the pieces in the work Emad Ejlal said, "a talented Iranian musician Ziryab, who lived during the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258), established the first school of Andalusia music in Cordoba and combined the two types of ethnic music, and that is why Iranians feel good about Spanish flamenco now".

Ziryab is rather famous in Spain due to his contribution to Spanish music. Every year, they pay tribute to him in a ceremony and even the world’s top flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia has named one of his compositions after Ziryab.

Musician and singer Ahmad Qaed who sings in Spanish in the play said he has been involved with flamenco music for 23 years but had little chance to sing. For this performance, he has memorized the lyrics word by word and because of his special type of voice and ability in flamenco singing, one feels one is listening to a native singer.

Hana Kamkar is the co-singer in the work. A member of the famous Kamkars' family, Hana, 36, has sung along with her siblings in Persian folk and Kurdish at several concerts. Here, though, she performs in Spanish. "Before this play, I knew nothing of Spanish and listened to the songs just a couple of times," she said. So for two weeks she practiced singing the three songs for the play. She listened over and over again and even read the English translation of the lyrics "to get the correct feel of the songs". The result is that when she sings, one feels as if she is a native singer.

  Spanish Moves

What makes the acting outstanding in the play is the rhythmical moves by the actors on stage. "We wanted to imply we are performing a Spanish play so we asked an expert in the field, Behzad Javdanfard, who designed the movements for us," Shakib said.

Actress Negar Abedi, who plays the lead role Yerma, said that she was familiar with flamenco dancing but in the play her moves are simple to represent the Spanish style. "It was like walking on the edge of a blade, but the directors guided us all the way" she said.

The other two actresses however were not familiar with the style. "I liked it but I had not done it before and it was new to me, Atieh Javid said. And for Parandeh Alaei it was quite an unknown subject as she was "not into that kind of music and style", but after practicing for about two month she loved it.

The group plans to continue staging the play in future in more halls in Tehran as well as other cities and even abroad. The play will run through September 8 at Hafez Hall, across from Vahdat Hall.