Review: Meditative Persian music cool as a shady palm

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PRINCE OF PERSIA — Farhad Bahrami, leader of the group Dornob, plays guitar and tar. Bahrami's group has made Persian music accesible to American audiences since 1985.  Photo by Karen Tome

PRINCE OF PERSIA — Farhad Bahrami, leader of the group Dornob, plays guitar and tar. Bahrami’s group has made Persian music accesible to American audiences since 1985. Photo by Karen Tome


Like cool water trickling over sunburnt skin, the Persian music from group Dornob was an instrumental oasis in a cultural desert.

Sitting upon a Persian rug, five men faced the small audience. Swathed in a Bill Cosby sweater, the eldest member began. Plucking each string of his tar he created a sparse yet hypnotizing melody for “Pish-Daramond.” Long necked and slightly peculiar, the band leader’s instrument sounded similar to a banjo. Astride a tall wooden box, the percussionist sat hunched on the instrument and softly set up a resonating rhythm on his cajón.

Enter the oud player, who added complexity. Resting on the lap of the stone-faced musician, the oud looked like a cross between a mandolin and guitarron, its odd shape and beautiful woodwork were compelling.

A creeping bass line slithered into sync, while the keyboardist offset the low tones.

Each instrument sounded unique, yet they melded perfectly. Music slowly made its way through the audience, hanging heavy and smooth like smoke from an old hookah pipe. Audience members closed their eyes and were cloaked by the music. Local ghetto overwhelmed Persian entrancement when a door swung open and eight obnoxious students filed in, their oblivious chatting ruining the mood. Exasperated sighs and irritated glances rose from the seated crowd, all annoyed that the atmosphere had been dashed by the poor manners of some clueless SWC students.

Class overcame crass. During “Sabzeyar” musicians led the audience through a maze. Complex and at times confusing, Persian music was puzzling yet pleasant. As the leader began to sing “Land of the Sun” in Farsi. His voice was guttural yet soft, unfamiliar yet soothing.

Strain and repetition caused some audience members to become weary. Although beautiful and foreign, the music was similar to instrumental jazz music in the sense that it can sound the same after a while.

For the final song, “Pas-Daramand,” the band leader plugged an electric tar into an amp and strummed a few notes that sounded fitting for a Persian metal band. As the song progressed the electric instrument added a hint of modernity to a complex traditional song. Keyboard notes sounded as if though they were ripped from an early 1980s band.

Audience members appeared drained by the night’s end. Dornob was refreshing as a cool spring at the end of a long hike.

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