Can music accomplish what Mankind cannot? It is said that people in comas respond to music. I believe it is the most powerful stimuli for the brain. The language of the cosmos that we all understand no matter what language we speak.
So can music create World Peace? I doubt it. But one brilliant musician, Hafez Nazeri, with a passion for peace, is trying his best; doing his part, by releasing his album, “Untold”.
As a voting member of the Recording Academy, occasionally I stumble upon genius…fairly unknown genius. But rarely do I find the genius accompanied by a good story.
I noticed a post of his on Facebook, of all places, that caught my attention.
This is a very disappointing and sad that after all the hard works I have been doing to bring pride to my country, I am not even allowed to perform for my beloved people in my own country!
But I believe in love and I know this will also pass!
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Naturally, this infuriated me. Imagine not being allowed to play your music? Imagine not having that freedom?
I felt compelled to reach out to this guy and find out exactly why he couldn’t play? So I sent him a note, after checking out his music. If he sucked, well, then maybe that would explain the cancellation of his show. But…UNTOLD is an amazing musical journey.
Hafez was open to speaking with me…fairly openly, as there are certain things he could say that might be translated as risky, with consequences in Iran.
If he desires world peace with his music, he has an uphill battle in his hometown to start.
As an example, women are not allowed to perform, solo, in Iran. They must be accompanied by a male. (According to Hafez in the interview below.) I guess I’ll be cancelling my tour dates there, too.
Q & A (Slightly paraphrased for language clarification, without changing meaning.)
So, Hafez, why was your concert cancelled?
I don’t know.
Can you take a guess?
Well, I just know that we applied for the Visas for my U.S. players a couple of months in advance, and I never received clearance. They kept saying it would be later. And then it was too late.
Is that normal?
I didn’t expect it to be a problem when we booked the show.
Do you think it was because you had Americans with you?
Untold crosses Classical Persian with Western Music, and I was really excited to perform with my musicians from the U.S, since I have not performed in my country for such a long time. Maybe this was a problem. I don’t know. I just know I didn’t get the permits.
Do Americans play over there?
Well, no American has performed in Iran for 35 years, since the Islamic Revolution.
Did you lose money?
Yes, I lost about $100,000 dollars of my own money .
Wow. That must have been a big show planned. When was the last show you did in Iran?
When I was nineteen. I played with my father for over 140 thousand people. We performed Classical Persian Music.
That’s a pretty big audience at 19. How were you that popular? And how old are you now?
I’m 34. My father is a very famous musician. They call him the Pavarotti of Iran. When I joined him on stage, it brought younger generations to the shows.
And how many shows have you played in Iran since then?
None. I came to the United States at 19, and studied music at Mannes College of Music, in New York, where I still live. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to expand my horizons.
Are you a US Citizen?
How did you get your citizenship?
From my music.
When I listened to Untold, I noticed your first piece, entitled, “Atomic Peace”, kicks off the creation of the universe, and is described on your album as “The Big Bang.” I adore that piece, and I can close my eyes, picturing the scientific creation of the universe. And I emphasize, Scientific. I almost feel like I could be in the Hayden Planetarium, listening to it. You are known as a controversial figure in Iran. Do you think because you refer to the beginning of the Universe with the Big Bang, that perhaps it could cause some controversy, or even be part of the reason your show was cancelled?
When someone comes along and introduces change to tradition, it always causes controversy, because there is fear to lose tradition. My album was even criticized for the clothing I wore on the cover. I was dressed in more Western fashion. I like fashion. There was objection to not being in proper traditional dress, for example.
Do you believe in Scientific Evolution?
Science is science. It’s hard to deny science.
How long did it take for you to record this album?
10 Years. And in several countries.
Several Countries? You are signed with Sony. They must have had quite a budget to fly you all over the planet!
Actually, I paid for much of this album on my own, with much of the money I made from shows. And we actually have been filming a documentary, “The making of Untold” in five countries: Toronto, United States, England, Scotland, and Iran.
When was your first show in the U.S.?
The Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles, in 2005.
So, I guess you didn’t start in dive bars on Bleecker Street….Who are your favorite Rock bands?
As a kid, I listened to Metallica and Pink Floyd.
I guess it was okay to play their stuff in Iran? So, can you play whatever you want there?
No Never! And as a musician in Iran, you must register your work with the office of music department in the Iranian government. They must approve your music and lyrics. I have been traveling with my mother and father since I was 4, so I was exposed to music from around the world. It was great!
And what about women in Iran?
A woman cannot play out in public unless she is accompanied by a man.
That is awful. Do you agree with this?
No. My Grandmother was like a Queen. I have grown up with very powerful women. It’s preposterous that half of the population cannot sing freely.
I noticed you shared an Iranian Newspaper with you and Malala Yousafzai on the cover. What an honor! She is my hero. She brings tears to my eyes when she speaks. Malala is the bravest woman I know. So inspiring.
What do you think of Malala? I only ask these personal questions, because your album is all about bringing peace to the world, and in the country where you were born, women do not have the same rights as men. Of course the unfair treatment of women, is certainly more harsh in other countries, and is not just exclusive to Iran. The unjust treatment of people exists everywhere, including the United States. There will be no peace if all people are not treated equally.
She has a great cause. She is helping women and education and this is great. She is one of the voices in the world that is now being heard. There are so many other ones like her and even better that no one knows about.
Aside from the slamming players, stunning arrangements, flawless engineering, and logical poetry from Rumi, Hafez also happens to have a voice that must have come from another planet. As a singer, I listened, and thought, “How the heck does he do that?!” As for his quest for peace, musically orchestrating Middle East meets West? It’s a nobel thought. If only music could disarm the world. If the sounds of injustice, cries, and bombs seized to ring in the cosmos, and there was only music, love, and laughter, the world would be magical. Put down your weapons, and pick up an instrument!
(My label is Dance More Less War Music. I say, get all of the world leaders together for a big jam session, give Malala the solo, and drop the childish, destructive, backward behavior. Please refer to lyrics of “Imagine” to fill in the blanks.)