"Electrifying, experimental jazz"
JAZZthing, Rolf Thomas
GOZAR the Sheen Trio’s debut album is released by BERTHOLD records on May 5th 2023. The line up: Shabnam Parvaresh on bass clarinet, flute and FX, Ula Martyn-Ellis on Guitar, and Philipp Buck on drums.
The album title (also the name of a track) means “passage” in Persian. Parvaresh composed all but one of the pieces. The music traces her life story from Teheran, Iran to Germany where she now lives. Moving between traditional Iranian motifs and modern experimental jazz, much of the music describes moments in Parvaresh’s journey. “In Teheran we grew up in a bubble,” says the composer. “I was so different to others. My parents listened to Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane, and we would watch movies. You had to call a person who would come in a taxi with a Samsonite bag full of VHS films, good ones including from the Cannes Festival. I’ve no idea how he got hold of them.” In the years before Parvaresh left Iran it was possible to connect to the internet, but with great difficulty. “It also wasn’t allowed to just go into a music store and buy rock or metal or pop music,” she recalls.
5 days, 8 hours and 35 minutes is about her experiences of downloading music in the 90ies.“That’s how long it took,” she says. “I was often screaming at the computer, then the electricity would get cut off and you’d have to start again. It was the only way to get hold of music from the west.” The piece is loud and experimental, reflecting her frustration.
“At home you could be yourself but as soon as you put your foot outside you had to be a completely different person,” says Parvaresh recalling her youth in Iran. She was learning to play first the flute and then the clarinet. She won second prize in a clarinet competition and her undoubted musical talents led to her acceptance into the Teheran Symphony Orchestra. “I was the second women to play in the woodwind section, but it was very hierarchical, very sexist. A horrible environment to play in. There were cameras everywhere to check if the hijab was correct or if we were shaking hands with men. They should have been looking at the quality of our music.”
Meanwhile protesters were being shot on the streets. “I wrote the song Gozar about the later 2020 demonstrations in Teheran, “she explains. “It’s a very political piece. The price of petrol went so high nobody could afford it. More than 300 people died, innocent people, also children, and thousands landed in prison and there were no reports in the media because they cut the internet. Today the people are demonstrating again and we are witnessing a revolution in Iran. I have never been so proud to be an Iranian women because it is the brave women of Iran who are taking center stage at the demonstrations against the regime.” “The tune of Gozar,” says the composer “is an interpretation of a traditional mourning melody which they play, for example, on the occasion of Ashura, a Shiite festival in memory of the Imam Hussein. Everyone wears black and they go into the street and they hit themselves. But instead of Iman Hussein I am mourning the innocent victims of the ongoing demonstrations.”
Parvaresh talks of her love-hate relationship with traditional Iranian music. It was used for propaganda purposes by the regime and yet she misses it as part of her history and background. “Flashback is the most Iranian composition that I wrote. Going back to the roots,” she says. It is beautifully written, intriguing yet slightly funky, and inspired by traditional Iranian Radif-Music. The song Avang (Pendulum) is a tribute to her late grandmother who passed away in Tehran last year. “My grandmother had a huge clock with a pendulum but it was out of order so she always needed to correct it, every hour or so. The pendulum was not regular, which is why I wrote this piece in five. It’s perhaps a metaphor for the dysfunctional Iranian society. You always need someone to correct it.”
By: Ian Bild