ListN Up: Sahba Aminikia (May 22, 2020)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. This series is sponsored by American Composers Forum/innova Recordings with new releases every Friday on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

Sahba Aminikia is an Iranian-American composer based in San Francisco. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Flying Carpet Children Festival near the Turkish/Syrian border.

Hi, my name is Sahba Aminikia, and my playlist is called “Music of Conflict.” This playlist includes the type of music and experiences that are motivated and inspired by either internal or external conflicts. What connects the pieces and songs on this playlist together is that this music is created as a need and a necessary response, or as an outcry towards the environment the artist has experienced. I hope that you will enjoy it.

Faryad (Shout) by Hossein Alizadeh, with Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian

I witnessed this performance of Hossein Alizadeh’s iconic piece “Torkaman” along with vocals by Mohammadreza Shajarian, one the most iconic singers from Iran, in Tehran. You do not need the text since the music does it all, but the text criticizes the Iranian government for the lack of freedom of expression in Iran.

Atash, Atash! (Fire, Fire!) by David Rimelis, with Asli Kusakcioglu (dance) and Nima Dehghani (visuals)

This is a performance from Flying Carpet Children Festival in 2019, and it was performed in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Mardin near Turkish-Syrian border where millions of children from Syrian war took refuge. Flying Carpet Festival is a multi-disciplinary festival and an artist residency serving almost 15,000 children near the border of Turkey and Syria. Music: David Rimelis (United States), Dance: Asli Kusakcioglu (Turkey) and visuals: Nima Dehghani (Iran-United States).

…hold me in neighbor in this storm… by Aleksandra Vrebalov, performed by Kronos Quartet

Aleksandra Vrebalov is one of my most favorite composers of all time. This piece of hers has inspired me several times throughout my life. It reminds me that there is still life and hope in for beautifully dark music.

Sooge Sohrab (The Tragedy of Sohrab) by Sahba Aminikia, performed by The Living Earth Show and Nils Frykdahl

“Sooge Sohrab” is part of a series of works I wrote as a response to my own arrest, interrogation, and torture in the December of 2012 in my homeland, Iran. The Tragedy of Sohrab forms part of the 10th-century Persian epic, Shahnameh (The Epic of Kings) by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. It tells the tragic story of the heroes Sohrab and his father Rostam. Sohrab was murdered by his own father in the battlefield while Rostam had no knowledge of whom he was fighting against.

Mugam Sayagi by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, performed by Kronos Quartet

One of the most magical pieces of music I have ever heard. I think the piece truly challenged the idea of orientalism and presents itself as a genuine piece of art from the east. The piece is composed by Azerbaijani composer, one of my role models: Franghiz Ali-Zadeh.

The Blue of Passion by Mahsa Vahdat

I choose this song from one of Mahsa Vahdat’s albums which, in my opinion, is still relatively unknown. The album is performed entirely a cappella, and Mahsa has recorded every song in a different ancient historic site with different acoustics throughout the middle east and Iran.

Toranj by Mohsen Namjoo, with Abdi Behravanfar

This song sung by Mohsen Namjoo and might be one of the most influential songs after the Islamic revolution in Iran. Mohsen Namjoo is the voice of a generation of Iranians such as myself who grew up under the dark theocratic regime of Iran after 1979. The music speaks for itself; the text is by Hafiz.

Nowruz too Rahe (Nowruz is on its way) by Samin Baghcheban

Samin Baghchehban, was an Iranian composer who immigrated fully to Turkey after the Islamic revolution in Iran occurred. This song is from a children music album that he and his wife Evlyn Baghcheban created to oppose the idea of Nowruz (Persian New Year) being banned by the Islamic republic as a pagan event. This album had a large impact on children growing up in Iran during the 1980s.

Roozaye Roshan (Beautiful and Bright Days) by Hayedeh

This song was recorded by 1970s Iranian pop diva Hayedeh in Los Angeles in the 1980s after she realized that, due to the Iranian revolution in 1979, she would never be able to go back to Iran. This is considered a farewell song to her homeland. The song was recorded and produced using a MIDI orchestra and in very humble setting, but I think it is one of the most painful and emotional yet glorious songs I have heard.

Want More From Sahba Aminikia?

Read Lana Norris’ interview with Sahba about the Flying Carpet Children Festival on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.