Mahsa Vahdat & Marjan Vahdat

12th Annual World Traditional Album Winner

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Record Label: Kirkelig Kulturverksted

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Home Base: Iran, Tehran

Genre: Persian Traditional

Categories Entered: World Traditional

Work Submitted: Twinklings of Hope

Artists Featured: Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat

Label: Kirkelig Kulturverskted (

Who are your influences?: Iranian Singers: Sima Bina, Gholamhossein Banan, Marzieh, Delkash, Mohammad Reza Shajarian Ghamarol Molook Vaziri. Non-Iranian Singers: Dolce Pontes, Lorena Mckennitt, Sting, Rashid Behbudov…

Describe your nominated work: Twinklings of Hope is the result of many years of work with Persian ensemble (Pasha Hanjani, Ney; Atabak Elyasi, Setar; Ali Rahimi, percussion; together with Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat.

Two Iranian sisters and their struggle to keep up hope.

They are singers in a country where the regime does not accept that they sing. They have no stage, no audience to sing. Yet they sing, and they are the best in among 70 million.

Sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat are invisible in their home country. They are professional singers of the highest quality that break the law every time they practice their profession. Norwegians and many others in Europe have learned to recognize them through CD projects with Knut Reiersrud, Tord Gustavsen and other Norwegian musicians. Kirkelig Kulturverksted discovered them through the work of “Lullabies from the Axis of Evil.” Erik Hillestad was very moved by their artistic expression and the quality in the music he experienced when he met them in Tehran in 2003. This led to many album releases with “Songs from a Persian Garden” (2007) as the first of them.

In this album, the sisters cultivate their Persian style without any influences from Western musicians. “Daramar Omidi – Twinklings of Hope” is an album with the sisters Persian ensemble.

With Persian old and contemporary poetry as the foundation, these two sisters together with their ensemble, and throughout the years, matured some versions of their own composed music. KKV wanted to let them work fully on their own premises, and Erik Hillestad made the recording in an old patrician property in Tehran in August 2011. In the large park surrounding the old pavilions which today houses the Italian embassy in Tehran, we can find the old harem that the house´s original owner had once used. Beautiful rooms with a nice acoustics; here is where the recording found it´s location and its cover was supplied with photographs that show the rooms, the recording process and also details of ceramic reliefs in the traditional Iranian style that decorate the walls. Poems of Hafez, Attar and Rumi exchange their voices with contemporary poets of Iran’s rich poetic tradition.

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat can sing in venues outside their homeland. They regularly get invitations from countries in Europe, America and Asia. But the longing after being able to communicate to their own people and be respected for the profession they’ve chosen is large. They carry the hope that it will again be possible for them to act in the great scenarios in their homeland, where today there are only men who are allowed to perform.

Performing this kind of Persian music where improvisation is such a powerful part of the performance is the result of cooperation of each of the five artists in the ensemble, with their emotions, ideas, experiences and musical expression.

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat reflect the current evolution of Persian song in this Album. They are a new generation of musicians, university-educated and completely devoted to their artistic cause. They express the continuation of a tradition that faces problems of identity in today’s Iran.

The two sisters with both similar and different characteristic timber in their voices and with devoted passion take Persian Poetry to new heights and new spaces in this album .The way their voices soar and intertwine create special landscape for audience. They reflect joy, sorrow, hope, longing and love of Iranain people in their songs.

The Album is recorded in an old Persian mansion in Italian embassy in Tehran, as the ensemble and producer wanted to record this project in inspiring place with elements of visual Persian art in Iran (not in Studio) and as solo female voice is not allowed in Iran after Islamic revolution so it was not possible to use public monuments for recording.

Twinklings of Hope received wonderful reviews and attention in the world. The album is among Songline Magazine’s editor’s choice selection of the 10 best new release (top of the world) of August –September 2012.

Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording?: No, everything has been recorded natural. The album is recorded in ensemble gathering (not Multi track).

Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned?: Yes, in many places during the recording it happened that the feeling at the moment impressed us and something was created that we did not planned. Some parts in the recording are based on improvisation although all of the songs are pre-rehearsed and pre-planned.

How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses? It was funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs, we did not have any out of pocket expenses, our contribution was a long term working on the arrangements and performances .

Why did you choose to submit this work to The 12th IMAs?: I was approached by mail by IMA

What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? When we can continue to work as independent artist is very important for us and when we can create music independent from all kinds of restrictions and the interaction between performers of  the group is the important aspect to create art and its effects on audience and also when we can reach people in our homeland and they can hear our music because at the moment it is banned in our own country .

How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? To receive an award that celebrates the importance of a piece of music independently recorded is a great honor, specially because of the effort it takes in managing to complete a piece of art when there are many obstacles in our way. To be noticed and nominated by the IMA is already a big achievement in our careers and it is of course a powerful tool for marketing our work when we have the backup and credibility of such institution.

Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique?: Our audience has music knowledge for this particular genre so fans know what they want and search for it. Part of our audience are Iranian and also some of them are non Iranian and  hey follow professionally these kind of music and for us is so wonderful that the non Iranian audience connect so deeply with our music, even when they don´t understand the text still, they are so devoted and passionate to our music. Without being visible in our own society, the continuous contact with a large audience who appreciates our art inside and outside of Iran is so precious for us .

What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour?: Sleeping and eating chocolate cake .

One time we were stuck in Poland because of ashes activity in Iceland, then we had to go by car  and train to Italy and then fly to Tehran .

Who are your musical heroes & influences? Ghamarol Molook Vaziri ( Persian  diva), Abolhassan Saba , Hassan Kasai, Rohollah Khaleghi, Parviz Meshkatian (Persian Composers and players ). Sima Bina, Gholamhossein Banan, Marzieh, Delkash, Mohammad Reza Shajarian (Persian Singers ) .Om Kolsoum (Egyptian Singer )

What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? Googoosh (Persian Pop Singer)

How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming?: Mostly I buy

How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free?: Our situation is different from other artists, because we can not release our albums in our own country Iran where is a big market for our albums, they are released outside of Iran and to sell the original ones in Iran will be very expensive and also it is not allowed, so people and fans listen to our music and they burn our cd’s or download free from Internet without paying the copyright.

What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? All the efforts that are behind making music and art and they too seldom don’t accept that music is something valuable that needs to be paid for.

Finish this sentence: The music industry is…in difficult situation and needs large scale support.

What do you have in the works for the upcoming year?: Marjan’s  New Album has been recorded and  soon coming in April .Mahsa is working on a project of Omar Khayam (Persian poet) with Belman (Swedish poet) with Norwegian and Swedish singer and musicians . Mahsa is also working on her new album that will be released in 2014 and also she is working with Atabak Elyasi for an album and also many other project. Mahsa is also working on an Acapella project. Mahsa and Marjan are also working with Zar theater in Poland in a long lasting cooperation. Mahsa and Marjan also planning a series of concerts and workshops.

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