Ancient traditions and future grooves 

The Persian electro-acoustic super group Niyaz — vocalist Azam Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian and DJ and producer extraordinaire Carmen Rizzo — may very well have perfected the art of combining the traditional Middle Eastern music world with electronica.

On Sunday night, Niyaz, with the help of tabla player Satnam Ramgotra and multi-instrumentalist and composer Dimitris Mahlis, showcases the melding of two musical worlds at Café Du Nord in San Francisco.

Drawing influence from such Sufi mystics as the poet Rumi, Niyaz, which means "yearning" in both Farsi and Urdu, blends together classic poetry and traditional Persian folk songs amid the backdrop of electronic and acoustic music.

"The poetry provides interesting insight to the human psyche. It’s very relevant to our time. As human beings we’ve progressed a lot technologically, but human issues haven’t changed much," Torkian says.

As far as human issues go, the current political climate has influenced Niyaz to create music that casts a positive light on Iranian culture.

"There is a difference between the Iranian government and its people," Ali says. "I think it’s important for people to know the difference. We wanted to create something positive that Iranians could relate to."

For Torkian and Ali, who both grew up outside of Iran, the music of Niyaz extends beyond blending various cultural influences together, be they Middle Eastern or Western. Niyaz is also about weaving together two seemingly polar opposite genres of music — acoustic and electronic.

"The electronic elements are blended so well on the record, it sounds very balanced. When we perform, the emphasis is on the acoustic sound and the electronic aspect sort of fades into the background and really serves as support. The acoustic aspect is not compromised," Ali says.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Six Degrees Records, the San Francisco label that put out Niyaz’s self-titled debut in 2005, the trio covered The Cure’s "Love Song" for the birthday compilation "Backspin." (Bob Duskis, co-founder of Six Degrees, opens Sunday’s show with a DJ set celebrating this week’s release of "Backspin.")

Ali, a self-professed former Goth, grew up listening to bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure, so it only seemed natural for her to gravitate toward such a song when the band was asked to do a cover for the compilation.

"I’ve always really loved that song. There is something really beautiful about its simplicity. There’s a real sense of vulnerability that comes out in it. I think you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in music and that allows a song to become all its own," Ali says.

Niyaz with Bob Duskis

Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 861-5016 or

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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