Persian Soul of the Music of Sima Bina
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
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
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,
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
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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