“Wanderer” ~ music of Persia and beyond…
Amir Haghighi on vocals
Amy Stephen on harp, accordion, whistle and vocals
Hidayat Honari on tar and setar
Hamin Honari on tombak and daf
Navid Goldrick on santur and daf
Jesse Zubot on violin
Produced by Amy Stephen
Wanderer is a truly gorgeous mix of East and West. Amir’s captivating vocals lead every song, and wind their way with equal grace through Persian folk songs (To Beeya, Irelich) and Celtic and North American melodies (She Moved Through the Fair, Shenandoah, Un Canadien Errant). Energetic compositions Shaydaee, Sar Gashteh, and Sodayeh Yar are penned in the Persian traditional style, while the improvisation-based Chant is a musical mingling of 12th century German mystic Hildegard of Bingen and 13th century Persian mystic Rumi. Amy’s harp underpins every arrangement, her accompanying vocals float effortlessly around the melodies which have inspired generations of musicians.
Amir Haghighi was born in Tehran, Iran, and has been singing Persian traditional music since he was a young boy. Even as a child he possessed a special voice: people used to lean out of their windows and ask him for a song as he walked by. He came to Canada as a young man in 1983 and began learning English to make a new life in a new country. He performed off and on for the Persian community, in concerts and events that took him across Canada, to Europe and the United States. In 2003 he was featured as a composer and soloist in a Canadian documentary called “Music for a New World”, and he performed at the Vancouver Folk Festival with that group of musicians. Since then he has performed at various events around Vancouver including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Children’s Festival, and he has worked as a soloist with the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra and the Laudate Singers. Amir’s unique vocal style and sound comes right out of the Persian tradition: soulful improvisation and heartfelt expression are trademarks of his singing. Spiritual and mystical poems by many of the great Persian mystics such as Hafiz, Molavi (Rumi) and Sadi are a huge inspiration for this. “Tahreer” is the technical farsi word for the exquisite ornaments that wind their way through all of Amir’s vocals, even when he is singing songs in English or French. At Amir’s concerts, there are always several people in tears – its common to hear them say “I got goosebumps when he sang”, or “I just started to cry when I heard his voice, but I don’t know why”… even when the audience doesn’t understand the words, Amir communicates the passion of life in all its joy, and sadness, from the centre of his being – with his singing, he crosses every cultural boundary and goes straight to the heart.
Amy Stephen was raised in Vancouver in a very musical family. Four-part singing around the piano with the folks and Scottish highland dancing to the bagpipes were her earliest musical influences. Amy is a composer, producer, and performer. She often appears solo or with groups Jou Tou (world music ensemble) and Tzimmes (progressive klezmer…). With celtic band Mad Pudding (of which she was a founding member) she recorded four critically acclaimed CDs and toured extensively through Europe and North America. Amy has produced three solo CDs and several CDs for other artists and groups. She was also featured as a composer in the documentary “Music for a New World”. Her choral compositions and arrangements have been commissioned by groups as diverse as musica intima and the Baha’i Community, and are distributed internationally by Cypress Publishing.
Amy and Amir were married in 2002, and since then they have been discovering how to listen to and share in the music of each other’s traditions. The Persian “chang” (farsi for harp) was common in ancient but not modern times, and together Amy and Amir are slowly reintroducing the harp into Persian music. This Labour Day weekend they performed as a duo in Chicago at a national conference of the US-based “Friends of Persian Culture Association” and their combination of Persian songs and improvisations (known as Aavaaz) accompanied by the celtic harp was received with standing ovations from the all-Persian audience.
Hidayat Honari plays tar, setar, oud, guitar, banjo, and probably many more instruments than these! For years he has played professionally with his family, The Honari Family, who perform Persian and Balucchi music from their birthplace in Iran. Hidayat has a jazz degree from the illustrious Capilano College and has worked extensively with many artists including Amir Koushkani. Presently he tours with the fiddle mega-show Barrage as their principal guitarist.
Hamin Honari, Hidayat’s brother, has also played many years professionally with his family. He has studied with Persian masters and is an exceptional tombak and daf player. He is in demand as a percussionist and has performed across North America working with various Persian artists.
Navid Goldrick has studied santur since childhood and is presently studying oud (Arabic lute) with Persian master Hossein Behrooznia. Navid also plays daf and guitar. He has toured with the Honari Family, and has performed in Canada and the U.S.
Jesse Zubot became well-known in the Canadian music community with his Juno-award winning duo “Zubot and Dawson”. A national jazz violin champion, Jesse adds his own beauty and luster to the instrumentation of “Wanderer”, bringing just a touch of western tradition. Flowing with intuitive improvisation, he’s truly in tune with Persian expression and provides a fluid musical complement to Amir’s vocalizations.
Wanderer is a wonderfully organic expression of Amir and Amy’s work together, and it was more than a pleasure for them to be able to record it with good friends who also happen to be amazing musicians! Wanderer is very Persian but also somehow Canadian – you just have to listen to understand.