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INTERVIEW with the Iranian Artist Ali Asghar Rahimi: “I address my music to those who want to swim into the depth of their soul”

The great Iranian artist Ali Asghar Rahimi, composer, master of the Tanbour and vocalist, the most important representative of Persian ancestral music, concerted for the first time in Bacau on Thursday, October 17th, 2019, on the stage of “Bacovia” Municipal Theater, during the National Aesthetics Symposium, organized by the “George Apostu” Cultural Center. His concert was part of a show launching the book “The Woman Who Lost her Husband”, written by the Iranian author Sadegh Hedayat and translated into Romanian by Mr Gheorghe Iorga.

Deeply and carefully, Ali Asghar Rahimi express, through the cords of his Tanbur, Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi’s deep ideas, capturing the souls of the listeners. You do not have to see, but to hear in order to understand how deep his passion for music and art is. Meeting him fills you with warmth and quietness, a fact that spills over into his work. Ali Asghar Rahimi manages to create a new and distinct style in Persian mystical music by blending emotion, mystery and professionalism with everything he does.

But the Iranian artist has impressed us not only with his talent, but also with the generosity and kindness of accepting to be interviewed by a team of teenagers, students in journalism, from the Journalism Center of the Bacau Children’s Palace, coordinated by Mrs Laura Huiban, their teacher. He answered the questions that he was asked very warmly and patiently, making the interview not only a cultural encounter, but also an experience that you can only live with true artists.

Ali Asghar Rahimi is a Member of the Committee for registration of spiritual music of Iran in UNESCO’s World Heritage, Head of Tanbour Society of Esfahan, Member of the House of Music of Iran, Founder of Yasna Production Co​. (Alexandra Bordeanu, Patricia Unguru, Georgiana Gabor)

“My work is my life and my passion”

(Interview with Ali Asghar Rahimi and Georgiana Gabor)

Georgiana Gabor: How did you react when you received the invitation to this event in Bacau? Why did you accept it?
Ali Asghar Rahimi
: Im always happy to return to Romania and I seize every opportunity to be back. So far Ive been here five times and every time I’ve had the joy and privilege to meet and collaborate with very interesting and professional people.

Georgiana Gabor interviewing Ali Asghar Rahimi. Photo Credit: Claudiu Negru (17 years old)

 When I received the invitation to be a part of this event I was told about the activity of the Cultural Centre “George Apostu” in Bacau and the culture-oriented people that operate the center.

 I was also told about the books translated from the Persian literature, which were launched during the past editions of the symposium.

 I was honored to be invited and I accepted it with great pleasure. Especially knowing that my music, which is old, somehow strange and sad, deep and mystical – could match the stories of Hedayat and talkabout the atmosphere and the feelings he is sharing in his writings.

 I was thrilled about this project, was a new adventure for me, that’s why I accepted the invitation. My other musical projects in Romania have either been with an orchestra or a choir, or accompanied by Romanian musicians. This was the first solo opportunity where I was singing and playing on a Romanian stage.

-Which was your first impression about Romania?

-The first time I was invited to perform with my orchestra in Bucharest was in 2013. I instantly felt like home and I knew I would be back one day.

-How did you discover your passion for music?

-Its difficult to say…I was a young teenager and was invited to a ceremony where I accidentally met an old Tambour player. I felt an instant bond and I was fascinated by the sound of this old instrument, unknown to me at that time. However my curiosity led me to start learning and playing it. The love for the Tambour grew and I decided to study this art full-time, with some of the most famous Masters of this instrument.

Almost 30 years have passed since that moment and I am still trying to discover some very old and almost forgotten parts of our ancestral music. I strive to bring back/to recover the music from the mountains and remote villages and incorporate them into my compositions.

-If you have read the book ,”The woman who lost her husband”, by Sadegh Hedayat, what did you feel about it, and if you didn’t, do you plan to read it?
I know Sadegh Hedayat very well and I have read most of his books, including “The woman who lost her husband” which has been translated to Romanian by Mr Ghiorghi Iorga. It is a sad story about limitations, lack of freedom some women endure in a male-dominated traditional society. The book also touches the damages, misconceptions and old traditions that might affect people and their lives.

-What is important to Ali Asghar Rahimi? And what makes him happy?

My work, nothing else! My work is my life and my passion.

Photo source: Official Page Ali Asghar Rahimi

“When I play the tambour I feel connected to an ethereal, otherworldly, celestial source”

(Interview with Ali Asghar Rahimi and Alexandra Bordeanu)

 Alexandra Bordeanu: What was your first thought when you decided to come to Romania?

 Ali Asghar Rahimi: I love Romania and Romanian people. It feels like home here. People are warm, kind, friendly and their reaction to my music is overwhelming. It is always a pleasure to return to beautiful Romania. I have traveled to many countries but here there’s a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt in any other place.

 -How would you describe the meeting with Mr. Ghiorghe Iorga?

 – It was a wonderful surprise and a great pleasure for me to make his acquaintance. He has a deep knowledge about the Persian culture and literature and he has done tremendous work to promote it in Romania. I feel honoured to know him and I will be grateful forever for all his work and dedication. He is a great man, and a dear friend of mine.

Prof. Gheorghe Iorga & Ali Asghar Rahimi. Photo Credit: Victor Eugen Mihai

-What is specific and special about the Persian culture compared to other cultures?

-Music and art in all its forms. Everything related to our culture is deeply connected to and inextricably linked with poetry/ literature.

-What do you feel when you play the Tambour? What is so special about this musical instrument?
The Tambour is a very old Persian instrument. It was dated 7000 years ago and until recently it was only used in sacred ceremonies. Its not just a musical instrument it is the sound of universe crying out loud” according to one of Rumi’s poems.

When I play the tambour I feel connected to an ethereal, otherworldly, celestial source. The sound takes me to an unearthly world; it is mysterious and supernatural just like the old times.

Back then, the tambour was used in ceremonies, and people felt connected through its sound to a spiritual atmosphere and to the original source of humankind.

-To whom do you address the music you are playing?

– I address my music to those who want to swim into the depth of their soul.

Photo Source: Official Page Ali Asghar Rahimi

-What do you want to communicate tonight by your presence and your music?
-That Music is a universal language that connects people across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

 -What do you think about the city of Bacău?
-Unfortunately I didnt have enough time to visit the city but I like the vibe, the weather, the park that surrounds the Cultural Centre ”George Apostu”. Above all, I like the people, their kindness, their warm personalities, and their love for culture.

 -Would you like to visit Romania again? Why?
-Definitely. Seeing people touched by my music motivates me to come back again. Meeting professional people and amazing musicians gives me new ideas for future joint projects.

 “My music is mystical, it is a spiritual journey”

 (Interview with Ali Asghar Rahimi and Patricia Unguru)

 Patricia Unguru: When we listen to it, your music seems in the middle of the distance between art and prayer. What does the music you play mean to you? Does it have a special purpose?

 Ali Asghar Rahimi: Well, you asked and answered at the same time. My music is mystical, it is a spiritual journey so its purpose is obvious.

 – In what language do you play? And why did you choose to sing in this language, knowing that it is not so well known?
– Im singing in Farsi, my native language, the language of the great 13th century Persian mystical poet Jalaluddin Rumi whose poems Im usually singing. It is the original language of the Tambour, the instrument I play.

 -Have you ever thought that you would not be successful with this kind of music?
– When I compose, improvise, and play I follow my senses, I let my feelings flow and I never think of success. If my music reaches to the heart of the people and it touches their soul, that is success. Although, “success” is not the word I have in mind when I make music.

 – Do you know any Romanian musicians? Can you nominate somebody?
– Of course I know, I have already collaborated with some of them in different musical projects: composer, sound designer, musician Mircea Kiraly, cello player Attila J. Szabo, singer Aida Sosic (Aida si Noi), Evloghia Choir… Others such as Grigore Lese, Gheorghe Zamfir, Teodora Enache, Mircea Tiberian, I either met or listened to their music.

 Special thanks for this interview to the artist Ali Asghar Rahimi, and also to Mr Gheorghe Iorga, Anca Rafiroiu, Victor Eugen Mihai (VEM), Yasna Production and “George Apostu” Cultural Center.

Official Page:

Instagram: @aliasghar.rahimi51
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