Change resonates in music 

Peace, freedom, civil rights? Sign us up. But a concert dedicated to those very things that also manages to evoke compassion, empathy and interest for the people of Iran? Bring it on.

Raising the level of awareness about Iranian citizens, the country’s Persian roots and its fascinating music, some centuries-old, is one of the main things Shams Ensemble hopes to accomplish as it kicks off a three-city North American tour in The City on Sunday at Davies Symphony Hall.

Five group members will be on hand: Hamidreza Taghavi, Shahab Paranj, Robin Vassy, Hussein Zahawy and Neda Khaki.

While all the performers have their own unique emotional-creative barometer, Khaki may stand out the most, mainly because she is female. Women are not allowed to sing in front of men in public in Iran, and it was only recently that they have been included as vocalists and players of the tanbour (a lute).

“There’s an emotional bond between us,” Khaki says of the group’s close ties. “It’s not just about the professional. They feel more like family members.”

Each voice in the ensemble, she adds, is “like an instrument and each instrument has its own timbre and color.”

It also has a bit of mystery. The music, with all its political and cultural intricacies, seems to be seamlessly drawn from Persia’s distant past; it evokes a depth and emotion not present in many of today’s modern musical-cultural offerings.

But Shams, which was founded by Kaykhosro Pournazeri 30 years ago — two of his sons, Tahmoures and Sohrab, are in the group — has faced a number of challenges over the years, mostly obtaining permission from Islamic authorities to perform. (The group’s Sufi influences and devotion to the poet Rumi caused a stir.)

Recently, the group also turned heads when it created a song (“The Cry for Change”) to support the Green Revolution in Iran. There are hopes that Sunday’s concert will generate more international attention. It’s dedicated to Amnesty International and $1 from each ticket sale funnels into that organization.

“As a musician, this is one way we can contribute [to bigger causes],” Khaki says. “Through Amnesty International we can somehow help our country and countries like Iran that are in trouble. Hopefully, through the music, we can bring more peace and harmony into the world.”


IF YOU GO

Shams Ensemble

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $30 to $126
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com

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Staff Report

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