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Celebrating Kurdish Music, Despite Iranian Roadblocks

In the Kurdish region of Iran, Roham Sobhani was preparing for a big concert. The concert was to be played in the Kurdish-majority city of Sanandaj, and was intended to be in celebration of the famous Kurdish musician, Mazhar Khaleghi. Hours before he was scheduled to perform the concert, Roham Sobhani was called into the offices of Iranian intelligence.

Overcoming Roadblocks

As Sobhani spoke with the Iranian authorities, he was told that Khaleghi was too controversial of a figure, and that the concert should be dedicated to the founder of Shi’a Islam, Imam Ali, instead. Sobhani, not one to fight with Iranian authorities, agreed to the change, and proceeded with his concert.

This kind of setback is not new to Sobhani, and has not deterred his fans from attending his concerts. Ironically, the shift in the dedication of the concert only motivated more Kurds to attend the concert, curious to see why there had been a big last-minute change.

Sobhani says that while this kind of roadblock may be discouraging to other musicians, he does not discourage other young Kurds from following their passions.

Music is a painstaking profession, and financially, is not so rewarding. It is a labor of love that requires patience, persistence, honesty, and awareness of social matters. Yet, I recommend it to anyone who wishes to live a fulfilled life.

Celebrating All Kurdish Music

Sobhani plays the stringed tar (see photo above), and has been practicing since he was nine years old. Originally from the Kurdish region of Iran, Sobhani studied music in Tehran before founding his current music group, Jwan, in 2004. Created to celebrate Kurdish and Iranian music, Jwan has won national awards for its performances, but Sobhani says that there is plenty more Kurdish music that hasn’t been explored.

According to Sobhani, in Rojhalat (Iranian Kurdistan) alone, there are 300 to 400 unknown Kurdish songs that have not been introduced yet. “In their obsession with repeating fashionable songs, Kurdish musicians in Iran have failed to showcase the magnificence and diversity in Kurdish music of the four parts [of the Kurdish regions],” he complained.

I want to reproduce music from all parts of Kurdistan. The diversity is really necessary and people are tired of hearing the same old melodies over and over again. We should keep our fans thirsty for more Kurdish music.

Booking Performances Abroad

So, for the past 12 years, Sobhani has been celebrating Kurdish music from all the Kurdish regions. Sobhani is interested in spreading Kurdish music across all of the Kurdish region, but has recently found it difficult to perform in Iran.

Bakur (Turkish Kurdistan) and Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) music, for example, are quite fascinating, progressive and authentic. But to achieve this goal, I can’t really work in Iran.

Although Sobhani says that he finds it nearly impossible to work in Iran, he is not giving up yet. Sobhani is busy composing new music and planning concerts in Germany, France and Holland in the spring of 2016.

[Read more at Rudaw]

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