Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 26th 2007 11:00AM by Steve Hochman
Whatever it might be called, the blending is effective enough that it has picked up a decent following thanks to some limited touring in Switzerland, with one impressed fan being no less than jazz-rock drummer Billy Cobham, co-founder of the pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cobham, who lives in Bern, offered to play on a couple of Mahmoodi's new tracks after being introduced to the music by a mutual friend. Derakhshan explains that this is the result of more than a decade of work by guitarist Mahmoodi to create a distinctive blend of traditional Iranian and Western styles -- but not in the sense of Iranian legend GooGoosh's slick pop, or even the cross-cultural ambient hybrids of the remarkable American-based, Iran-born singer Azam Ali in her solo albums and work with the groups Vas and Niyaz.
"He started playing guitar when he was very young, learning from his father -- and then he picked up the electric guitar and mastered blues and rock," says Derakhshan of Mahmoodi, 31, who previously worked at this goal with the band Barad, which put out an album four years ago on the Iran-based Hermes Records label. "In the meantime, because of his love for Iranian traditional and folk music, he studied ancient folk tunes, specifically those on wind instruments, and tried to play them on electric guitar. That was his first attempt to fuse Iranian music with Western styles, which led to a much wider fusion, created in his guitar-playing style as well as his singing and songwriting."
Now the trick is getting the music to people. "The music scene in Iran is almost nonexistent," Derakhshan says. "There are very few shows allowed to be played. Traditional music has easier times, but in general live music is rare. So musicians like Pouya cannot really play." He adds that despite the lack of live music, Western sounds are very popular in Iran -- hip-hop and rock in particular, mostly accessed through illegal downloading, all fueling a hunger for more. "I can guarantee that if Metallica came to Tehran, they will fill the 100,000-seat Azadi soccer stadium at least five times," he says. For his enterprise, though, building an audience is quite challenging. No live shows means no following, which makes it hard to get distribution for recordings or bookings for shows in other countries.
Derakhshan, though, is committed to doing all he can to get Mahmoodi's music out. However, his background is not in music but in the production and export of handmade Iranian carpets. But that has given him extensive experience in international business, and he believes he can apply his knowledge and skills to distributing and promoting music. To that end, he has started a new label, Faryaad, with hopes to find European and American distribution through an established record company. Mahmoodi's album, 'Mehr,' will be the label's first release, with plans to follow that with what he describes as a "chill-out/lounge" album, a world fusion project with production from Cobham and -- the one he's looking forward to the most -- an "Iranian hard-rock/metal project," all also featuring Mahmoodi.
He believes, rightfully, that the very fact that this music is being made in Iran is worthy of attention, but he doesn't want to sell it on that basis. "What we don't want to do is exploit the political situation of Iran to get attention," he says. "We believe the music should be good enough to get enough attention."