Special performance by the Sibarg Ensemble on Persian New Year

Arian Khoroushi, Hassam Abedini, and Niloufar Shiri after their performance.

Arian Khoroushi, Hassam Abedini, and Niloufar Shiri after their performance.

“We didn’t know we were lecturing and performing this day,” said Hassam

Abedini, the ensemble’s vocalist and Dammam player.

The night started a few minutes late, but that’s because it is normal. Set in the middle of the stage were two Persian carpets and a small table with Persian decorations such as an apple, flowers, and candles and three chairs on the outside where the ensemble mostly sat while performing. Abedini explained the main characteristics about Persians: poetry is all around, being late is normal and music is poetry with instruments and singing.

“I told the Persians it started at 4, then they get here at 5,” said Abedini. “If we don’t start late, it won’t be Persian.”

In Iran, poetry can be seen everywhere, whether it be on public walls and streets, even inside of a bank or store. Like music in the U.S., Persian music is for singing a poem and uses the same verb in Farsi when reading it. The most important component of a performance is the singer.

“Almost all of us sing, sometime at least, because the poetry is very important,” said Abedini. “At a concert, Persians ask ‘where’s the singer?’”

Niloufar Shiri and Arian Khoroushi, along with Abedine, make up the trio. Shiri plays her Kamancheh, a bowed string instrument made with sheepskin and four strings, play

ed like a mini cello. Khoroushi plays two percussion instruments made from natural camel skin called Daf and Tombak. These percussions added bass and rhythm to the sound of the Kamancheh. Abedini has played in Southern Europe, Africa, and Indonesia.

Abedine explained that Iranian instruments can be classified as Western, folk, and classical. The Daf is a large Persian framed drum that looks similar to a tambourine. It sounds very tribal, but also makes the sound of a rattle or rain-stick when it is shaken. Khoroushi also plays Zang which are two miniature symbols, like traditional dancers use, and are played by hitting the edges together.

The trio are completing their last semester at Saddleback and IVC. They are currently working at UCI as research assistants creating a website to teach Persian music in English and Farsi.

Classical Persian music is unrehearsed, occurring within a systematic framework called “Radif” meaning “special order” in Farsi. It is a repertoire of classical Persian music and contains more than 120 melodies together. Radif includes the Gushe, Avaz, and Dastgah.

Gushe is an open system based on four or five notes, where the central note is most important, and contains smaller systems built from this larger system. Avaz and Dastgah are closed systems and are very special to classical Persian music listeners and composers.

7 Dastgah, (meaning “system” in Farsi), includes seven main systems categorized in three sub-systems. The first subsystem is Shur, (the most important), and includes Nava, and Se-Gah (3-Gah). Second is Homayun including Chahar-Gah (4-Gah), and third is Mahour with Rast Va Panj-Gah (5-Gah). In addition there are five derived systems, known as 5 Avaz, or “singing” in the Farsi language. Shur is heard in all

systems and sub-systems of classical Persian music. In Avaz, we hear Bayat-E Tork, Abu-Ata, Afshari and Dashti, all of which are derived from Shur in 7 Dastgah. Bayat-E Esfahan is derived from the second system in Homayun and is the major scale.

If a system is closed, it cannot be composed. However, an open system can be improvised like Shiri’s self-composed “Folk Kurdish Melody” (Dastgah Shour), a song about spring coming and seeing flowers everywhere.

Abedini translated the message by saying, “Lets just love each other. Lets just use all these moments, because one day they will die.”

Most of the songs performed had a similar execution. Abedini would start off by telling the poem in Farsi and gradually flow into singing it. Shiri played the Kamancheh with her bow or by plucking the strings and had several solo parts. Khoroushi mostly played the Daf and Tombak. He used the Zang for the last song, “Saman Booyan” (Dastgah Rast-Pang-Gah).

The last two songs of the performance were the most exciting. They sounded very happy and celebratory, like a song that would be heard at a Persian


Setting of the Persian New Year performance.

birthday party. “Morgh-e Sahar” (Dastgah Mahour) and “Saman Booyan” are traditional songs Abedini hoped some of the audience would know.

“I hope all the Persians know this song,” Abedini said. “If you don’t sing, you won’t

learn music, this is what our teachers tell us.”

The Sibarg Ensemble will dedicate a “very special performance” to families on Mother’s Day in Laguna Woods on Sunday, May 11. There will be a reception at 6 p.m. before their performance at 7 p.m.