Music for rootless people

Happy spring equinox, Toronto!

And Nowruz mobarak to all who celebrate.

Nowruz is a non-denominational event that marks the start of the Persian New Year and the first day of spring.

But it doesn’t feel like spring here in Toronto. It was snowing last night and it’s -2 degrees Celsius right now. A few more days of such crappy weather and I’m going to take it personally, Toronto, you hear me?

Anyway, I hope by now you’ve hit the play button and started listening to this fantastic spring song by one of my most favourite artists ever, Iranian-born Azam Ali.

I discovered Azam’s songs by accident at the beginning of 2010. (I always knew that spending so much time on YouTube will bring something good sooner or later.)

I fell in love with Azam’s music before I knew anything about her and the philosophy behind her art. I had just returned to Bulgaria after spending two and a half years in New York City and I was depressed because I had wanted to stay. At the time I couldn’t imagine that leading a meaningful life outside of the Big Apple is possible.

New York tends to have that kind of effect – you fall in love with it so hard, you can’t imagine being away from it.

So the nostalgia that many of Azam’s songs are drenched with felt totally right.

I also loved the fact that her music is such a sublime mixture of Middle Eastern ethnic elements and modern beats. It has a truly exotic feel.

And then there’s her absolutely divine voice. She sings not only in her native Farsi, but in a bunch of other languages, too – Arabic, Turkish, French, English…

So I was listening to Azam for a good year or so, when I finally heard her describe the philosophy behind her music: that it’s a place for nomads, for rootless people who have lived in different parts of the world, but feel that they don’t belong anywhere, not even back home anymore.

However, I like to think that Azam’s music is also meant to help those same nomads learn to feel at home anywhere in the world. It’s certainly what I’ve been trying to do and gotten better at with my latest move, this time to Canada.

But back to Azam. She was born in Iran, grew up in India and then moved on to the United States and Canada.

The details of her life story are so inspiring (for lack of a better word) and at times heart-breaking. She spent much of her childhood separated from her mother.

Azam was also away from her mother when she died in Iran. I always cry when I listen to the part of the interview, around minute five, where she describes flying back to her home country after many years to attend her mother’s funeral.

I’ve never been a celebrity person, but I would definitely love to meet Azam one day. I feel so bad I missed two – yes, two! – of her concerts last year. At the time I was living in Brussels and she performed in both Paris and London.

I couldn’t go because I had to work – in both cases I had to cover meetings of the EU heads of state. Yeah, the joys of being a journalist – you have no life.

But hopefully I can see her soon. Until then, enjoy the spring and remember that home is wherever you are.

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4 Responses to Music for rootless people

  1. I am such a big fan of Azam Ali. Her music is my reminder of all the beauty that exists in this world, despite the horrors of which I read daily in the news. With a message of global unity, peace and understanding, she weaves haunting lyrical tapestries that transcend the barriers religion and ill-informed misconceptions have shoved between our nations like stakes in our hearts. Her voice is my greatest inspiration.

    • sadakova says:

      Wow, Alexandra, it’s great to connect with another Azam Ali fan! Yeah, I also really love the progressive and cosmopolitan philosophy behind her music. No matter who you are, that music makes you feel welcome.

  2. venzak says:

    Greetings from Bulgaria and congratulations for this blogpost.I love music of Azam and hers musical projects and hope one day to come and play here in Bulgaria.I think city like Plovdiv will be perfect for a concert of Azam or Niyaz may be.

    • sadakova says:

      Hi venzak, and greetings from Toronto! I’m Bulgarian myself – maybe that’s part of the reason why the music of Azam Ali and Niyaz (and Vas) appeals to me so much. The Middle Eastern elements of their music are so very similar to Bulgarian/Balkan folklore.

      I’m assuming you are familiar with this awesome piece?

      And yes, I agree: Plovdiv would be a terrific place for their concert.

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