Arts, Culture & Media

This Iranian composer makes a new kind of music that's 'neither east nor west'

hafez4.jpg

Hafez Nazeri

Credit:

Courtesy of Hafez Nazeri

Iranian musician Hafez Nazeri has been shaking up traditional Persian music for years. Take, for example, his latest album called "Untold," in which he says he wants to make a completely new "creature."

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

"I've taken the similar musical elements and integrated them from those common points — so the result is not eastern or western. It's this new creature. It's like an eastern man marries a Western woman and their child is not eastern or western, but has its own identity," Nazeri says.

Nazeri says most cross-cultural projects lack balance and that often times when eastern and western music mix, one dominates the other.

Hafez Nazeri
Credit:

Courtesy of Hafez Nazeri.

He wants to change that and one way he has done that is by limiting the words he uses. That's apparent in in his latest album, titled "Untold."

"[My goal was] to create a music that you can't really define that music by its language. It's mostly the harmony, the rhythm and the sound that's going to communicate with the listener rather than the words," he says.

Besides composing, Nazeri is also a vocalist. He takes a traditional Persian vocal technique, called "tahrir," and transform it into a new form. Nazeri insists that he is not taking traditional Persian techniques and fusing them with Western music. He says he is transforming it.

"If you completely delete the Western aspect [of my music] and play that for an Iranian, they will say this is new," he says.

Classical Persian music is very conservative, Nazeri says, and students strictly follow the their instructors. That's why his new music raised eyebrows in Iran.

But that runs in the family.

Nazeri's father, Shahram Nazeri, who is one of the greatest traditional singers, took a different path than his teachers 45 years ago.

"He broke the tradition and created his own new style and up to this day, people still criticize him," Nazeri says.

Nazeri grew up listening to traditional music as well as playing it. He began taking voice lessons at 3 and by the age of 9, he started playing alongside his father.

He says he's not yet sure how Iranians will react to his latest album. It's scheduled to be released in Iran in a couple of days.

But he does mention a recent press conference: "The great masters of Persian classical music were there and we played seven minutes of this music and they were all very surprised. They didn't know what they were listening to," he says.

And that's the goal for Nazeri: to make a "musical creature" no one has heard before.