— NYT Magazine, “The Dream Boat,” an incredible article by Luke Mogelson, on the plight of refugees (mostly Iranians) who make the perilous boat trip between Indonesia and Australia. Heart-wrenching and critical journalism at its finest. Don’t miss it.
Sound: The Encounter — anew project conceived, curated and produced by the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) as part of its mandate to support talented artists who develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms and revive historical connections among artistic communities from countries and regions in which the Initiative operates.
Acclaimed Iranian musician and dancer Saeid Shanbezadeh traces his ancestry to Zanzibar in East Africa. Born in Busher, he is a virtuoso performer on Iranian bagpipes and percussion, as well as zar song and dance. Winner of the Fajr Music Festival (Teheran), he leads the conversation with a small consort of instruments that becomes a vehicle for improvisation in a sequence of virtuosic solo breaks accompanied by sustained drones and percussion.
Basel Rajoub hails from Aleppo, Syria. A graduate of Damascus High Institute of Music and winner of Radio Monte Carlo Moyen-Orient Music Award, Basel is known as a consummate performer, skilled improviser, and highly original composer creating new music that is rooted in a thousand-year-old tradition. Known for developing oriental music for the saxophone and merging jazz with Middle Eastern rhythms, Basel performs as a solo artist and a leader of the Basel Rajoub Ensemble.
Naguib Shanbehzadeh is a disciple of master Mahmoud Farahmand and a virtuoso percussionist from a very early age. Naghuib tours widely with the Saeid Shanbehzadeh ensemble and participates in artistic collaborations worldwide.
For the past two years, we’ve lived together, worked together, created together. We were living our dream. We wanted the world to discover us as we were, a community defined by our music, our friendships, our culture and our art. This is not the way we ever imagined the world would learn of our story.
Ali Eskandarian was nearly finished with his memoir, Arash had just received political asylum from Iran and Soroush was hard at work on new Yellow Dogs material. Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true…the future was so bright.
All of that ended Sunday night. We’re here now, without our brothers, unable to make sense of what has happened to our family. To say we are heartbroken does not come close. These are the darkest hours of our lives.
All of us – Obash and Koory from Yellow Dogs, Ali Salehezadeh (Manager), street artists Icy and Sot and Pooya, from Free Keys – want to extend our deepest thanks for the overwhelming support, love and encouragement we’ve felt during this time of incredible loss. We’d like to express our deepest condolences to the families of Soroush and Arash Farazmand and Ali Eskandarian, who together share our sorrow.
Ali Eskandarian was an incredibly talented Iranian American musician, artist, and author born in Pensacola, FL and raised in Tehran, who eventually moved to Brooklyn, NY to pursue his music career. He was one of the musicians tragically killed two nights ago along with Yellow Dogs band members Soroush and Arash Farazmand. Now Ali’s family in Dallas needs help to fund his memorial service. Consider donating and spreading the word to help pay tribute to this young artist taken too soon.
Bringing together internationally acclaimed and award-winning journalists, writers, bloggers, activists, cinematographers, photographers, cartoonists, & scholars to explore the visual arts & expressive media of the recent uprisings in the Arab world.
“Over the past twenty years, as he has traveled throughout Iran, Mohsen Rastani has been taking family portraits. From sparsely populated villages to small, crowded cities, wherever he goes, he takes a white backdrop with him. Sometimes when he stays in one place for a while, he opens a temporary studio to shoot his portraits. And sometimes he makes the street into his studio. When he sees people he wants to photograph, he tells them he doesn’t wish to bother them but asks them to call him. In this way, his subjects come to him, and when they stand between his camera and the backdrop he allows them to present themselves however they like.
“To Rastani, the white backdrop is almost as important to these photographs as the people that appear against it. The backdrop, he says, ‘isolates people better in our minds, so they become eternal … like myths, carved images on the stone walls of Persepolis.’”
I was fully on board with this project (there are some beautiful images here, truly) until that last quote from the photographer. I’m going to assume it’s a poor translation and choose to appreciate the images and the spirit of the project as it appears, rather than believe he meant to eternalize or essentialize the subjects he so carefully chose not to impose upon. (Add this to the growing file of Iranian photographers disserved by their English translators.)