I had the pleasure of playing a Bahá’í Naw-Rúz this past Sunday (March 21, 2010). It’s another one of those wonderful events where I got to experience a part of American culturep–a non-mainstream part, that is. It’s kinda sad that I have to preface the experience with non-mainstream but there it is.
Several things of note:
1) The children absolutely adored us (il Troubadore) and could care less that we sang nothing in English and played music in relatively complex meters. They danced and laughed the whole time we played!
2) Ehsan Kousari after hearing our performance (as well as our warm-up during which he suggested we play Gole Sangam) thought we were wonderful and said, “Not many people like or play this kind of music” and “Everyone wants to listen to that Rock and Roll here, that music for teenagers.”
3) Eating a Persian dinner and Persian desserts!
4) Hearing Ehsan and Behrouz Kousari playing in dastgah-e-Shur on Santoor and Zarb!
5) Having all the Persians sing and clap along with us as we played Gole Sangam.
While the experience wasn’t mainstream–that doesn’t mean that it is a rare occurrence. Rather, it seems like these kinds of activities happen more in the private space than in the more public spaces. though with the changing demographics of the US we’re seeing more and more activities like this happening in public spaces (and here a public space can be a privately owned venue that caters to a general public).
This kind of experience is what makes my ‘job’ worthwhile–performing for underserved audiences–I don’t necessarily share Ehsan’s view of Rock being a kind of music for teenagers (though that is the context from which it emerged which has interesting social consequences which I won’t get into here). At the same time, I don’t feel the need to add more grist to an overflowing mill of Euro-American Rock and Pop music for audiences that already have a gazillion choices for entertainment that they prefer. I’d much rather spend time increasing the choices for the minorities that already have fewer options for live entertainment that they prefer.