Art And Culture

Honoring Persian Music in a Curious Blend of Genres

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Farshid A’raabi (C) and his band
Farshid A’raabi (C) and his band

Farshid A’raabi, a pioneering and long-standing figure in the Iranian heavy metal and hard rock music scene mixes the thick, massive sound of guitar riffs with elements of traditional Iranian music in his latest album released a few days ago.

He unveiled the album, ‘The Silent Death’, at a small public event held in Tehran attended by his bandmates, collaborators and young millennial fans, who were sporting their long hair and black attires.

 At roughly 40 minutes, the album consists of nine tracks which have been composed and arranged by A’raabi, 47. He is also on main vocal duty and plays the lead guitar.

While the majority of the lyrics have been once again written by his long-time collaborator and lyricist Abbas Roshanzadeh, the opening and closing tracks, respectively titled ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Come to Dance’, use poems by 13th century Persian poet Rumi whose work has permeated global markets, especially that of the US, in recent years.

The Album also uses traditional Iranian instruments such as kamancheh (a type of spike fiddle) and tar, which are respectively played by Vahid Soleimani Nejad and Afshin Alavi. Nima Navapour plays the drums, Mohammad Nik plays the base guitar, Ali Momenian delivers guest vocals, while mixing and mastering was done by Hadi Kiani. A’raabi's daughter, Ava, plays the cello. 

Mix of Iranian & Metal Music

In an interview with the Financial Tribune, A’raabi explained about fusing eastern and western music in his work, “in ‘Come to Dance’, for the first time (in Iran’s authorized metal music), we have combined heavy metal with traditional Iranian music which I believe is a step forward”.

The two types of music may seem very different and perhaps at odds with each other, one (heavy metal) employing amplified distortion, emphatic beats and overall loudness while the other (Iranian traditional) is more spiritual in nature; however, A’raabi believes they make a good match and points out that he has mixed the genres out of love for the indigenous music of Iran.

“Traditional Iranian music has gained momentum and been known (in the West) much more during the past few years,” he told the Tribune, adding that it still has a long way to go and that is why he wished to promote it with his album.

Replying to the query if he will make use of Persian classical music in his future works, the musician said, “I would surely like to incorporate it in my future recordings too,” but it might be quite a while before fans see another album from the musician because his albums have all been roughly five years apart.

 4 Albums, 3 Concerts

A’raabi began playing in 1988 with a classical guitar and took up electric guitar lessons a year after that. He started writing music and worked with various artists as a composer, but it was not until 2003 when his first album, ‘Hidden’, was released.

It was the first Iranian metal album with Persian lyrics to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and be released in the local music market. It too used spiritual poems by Rumi and also dealt with themes like addiction and introversion.

‘Silence of the Narrator’, his second album, came out in 2008 and talked about war, potential harms of technology for the younger generation and how it might distance people from each other.

Next came ‘To the Color of Night’ in 2012 which continued his lyrical trend of incorporating social themes. It was his most successful album. He also produced a music video called ‘Shout’, which was the first of its kind in Iran.

He has been tutoring electric guitar privately and in various music institutions across Tehran for more than a decade and trained many pupils who have gone on to make a name for themselves.

His albums and teachings have garnered him a reputation as the ‘father of Iranian heavy metal’ which he is aware of, but is less than keen to be referred to as.

A’raabi has so far managed to obtain a permit for three live concerts all of which were sold out. The first and second concerts were staged in 2010 and 2011 respectively, but there was a huge gap until he was able to go live again last fall.

With all the difficulties and stigmata challenging Iranian metal musicians, which have not left A’raabi untouched either, he is not complaining, and in fact, believes that things are getting better.

“Although a certain level of bureaucracy exists, it has become relatively easier to get a license for albums and concerts during the past couple of years,” he told FT.

A’raabi has also written music for pop singers such as Qasem Afshar, and has composed for a number of motion pictures and plays, namely Chista Yasrebi’s ‘Garden Party in the Snow’ and Jafar Mahyari’s ‘Rainy Dream’.


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