Music of North Khorassan
Sima Bina

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Melodies Of The Sahara
Sima Bina
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Sounds From The Plain
Sima Bina

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Gilded Serpent presents...
The Persian Soul of the Music of Sima Bina
by Yasmela

I have been involved in this crazy music/dance world for so long now, that when something comes along and grabs my attention, it's a big deal!

So I'm going out on a limb here, sticking my painted toenails in my rouged mouth, and I'm going to say a little bit about Persian music.

One of the points I stress in my dance classes is music. ANY kind of Middle Eastern music is a must for those of you who want to dance. If this isn't obvious by now, it should be. There is a ton of it!

If you weren't born into a Middle Eastern family, you have to work extra hard to make this music part of your dancing soul.

We all have favorites, just like we have favorite western music. Some of us stick with the music with which we learned to dance and never move beyond. That's a shame, because the Middle East is a big area and the music and dances of its various parts are as diverse as country western and rap. Much of the music isn't composed for dance; it is classical, just like Mozart and Bach. Moreover, some of it is"popular", some of it "folkloric" and some of it is "religious". I think it's important to identify what music styles you are using for your dance, and I think it's important to listen to more than only dance music.

One of the things into which I first branched as a novice dancer was Persian music. I picked some Lyrichord discs that had classical Persian music, played by the santur, nai, and tar. I also found some Sufi music, and by diligent reading and listening, I learned to tell the difference between a Persian and Egyptian nai.I learned that "tar" in Farsi means "string" and so denotes the stringed instrument used in Persian compositions as well as a hand drum in North Africa. Then I learned to distinguish a Persian 6/8 and tell it apart from a Moroccan 6/8. That ability to differentiate led me in a dozen additional directions. So with very little pain and a lot of pleasure, I also started to differentiate between the music of different regions.

I realized the dances of the various regions also had differences, and I finally made the connection.. THE MUSIC AND THE DANCE GO TOGETHER! WOW!

This was a big leap for me. It set me back a little because it meant I couldn't just jump around the same way to every piece of music I deemed had a 4/4 beat. Along with that revelation came a deeper appreciation and understanding of the cultures of these areas. I use the word "cultures", because lumping them all into one "Middle Eastern" thing is a disservice to all concerned.

So what is my point? Well, fortunately, I have just recently "discovered" the most amazing Iranian singer! I am so glad that at last I have found her because I love Persian music and dance, and I am extremely fond of Persian poetry.

Farsi has the most sensuous sound. It flows off the tongue like velvet, half-whispered and full of longing, meaning and beauty. That's the emotional way I feel about it, anyway.

One morning, as I was busy ripping apart yet another area of my old house, and my still-recovering husband was channel surfing on the couch; we were stopped in our tracks at the International Channel by the most wondrous sound! You have to realize that I live in Bellingham, in the state of Washington, a remote and still somewhat rugged corner of the
U.S.A. We have indigenous people but few Middle Easterners and fewer diverse channels on our local cable system. We get about one hour of Iranian programming once a week on Sunday.

So there she was, a beautiful Iranian woman with an all-woman band! They were playing
wonderful folk music and dressed in beautiful costumes from Khorassan. The lead singer had the most engaging smile and

her voice was just soaring over her music and I was simply stunned.

We caught about two minutes of her song, and then the program switched to another woman playing a grand piano. We hung on through rest of the whole boring show and, at the end, we were rewarded with our amazing singer doing one more song, introducing her band, and accepting flowers along with shouts and whistles from the audience. Then it was gone. All of the titles on the show were in the Farsi language; not even western script.

I had not a clue who she was.

Off to the Internet I went. I e-mailed a friend in Los Angeles who not only spoke Farsi, but also sang and danced. I was sure she would know. "No," she wrote back, "but I have been wanting to get an all-woman band together for ages." She suggested I copy the tape and send it to her. She would read it and be able to tell me who it was. Well, right! I'll get right on that. Days went by, and another friend from San Francisco wrote, a long time friend, who is very involved in not only International films, but also one who has recently "discovered" Iranian music. He just had to tell me about a concert he had just attended, by fluke of getting two free tickets. It was this amazing woman with an all-woman band and her name was Sima Bina.

My Musical Epiphany
Sima Bina. Obviously, that's who it was. I e-mailed my friend in Los Angeles."Have you ever heard of this woman?" "Of course," she replied, "oh, Sima Bina."
I felt like the Village Idiot, and perhaps many of you are saying, "Oh, right, Sima Bina. What's the big deal?" but it has been such a delight for me and has re-awakened my love for this music. This is a renewal, so to speak. Could I call it an epiphany? I immediately bought two CDs (and she has several, though none with the all-woman band) and I listen to them at home, on my way to work, whenever I could. They transport me. That music makes me want to move, and it moves me. Her voice soars, smiles, and laughs, laments, and whispers, all in a language I do not speak, but it speaks directly to my heart. I know I could dance to that music.maybe not in perfect Persian style, though I know enough to move intelligently. Sima Bina's voice and music remind me of why I came to this dance in the first place. It is something deeper than chiffon and beads, turbans and ruffled skirts, and jazzy chest dropping combinations.

It doesn't mean I don't love Egyptian orchestrated epic arrangements, or piercing Turkish zurnas, or bouncy Armenian clarinets, or twangy Greek bouzoukis. My life has been
enriched, and I think I have become a better listener.

Sima Bina's music feeds my soul.

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