23 June 2010

Flamenco Guitar Virtuoso Mehran Unleashes The Angels Of Persepolis

There have been many fine concept albums released in recent years, but none more pertinent to today's affairs as the new CD by Iranian-born flamenco guitar virtuoso Mehran. 'Angels of Persepolis' is a concept instrumental CD that intertwines ancient Persian history, Persian mythology and Iran's current affairs. This objective was reached by usage of sound effects, insertion of actual excerpts and sounds of the recent affairs in Iran and the mood translated by the music. On this CD Mehran composed music with a unique sound that evokes a nostalgic blend of exotic worldliness. The recording of 'Angels Of Persepolis' took exactly a year and in the beginning the concept was more cultural and focused on composing Flamenco guitar music with the theme of nostalgia and romanticism with some poetry. As the summer of 2009 brought with it a new and rejuvenated movement in Iran for freedom and basic human rights, the concept of this CD changed to that of support and raising awareness. "As the world witnessed the silent and peaceful demonstrations of the Iranian people and how it was met with some of the most barbaric attacks a government can unleash on its people, it was then the concept of this CD started to get a form," explains Mehran. "The concept is freedom. I was glued to TV, news, youtube images on Iran as I was composing and recording the music for 'Angels of Persepolis'. I saw how the people rose above the limitations and hurdles the society had imposed on them and did the unthinkable. They revolted against one of the most barbaric and backward regimes ever. That inspired me. As I was making this music last year, I felt my heart was with what was going on in Iran and they inspired me so much to the point that I wanted to dedicate my work to them. I felt like that my music should be a mirror image of these events and in a way I wanted to inspire others and raise awareness here, outside of Iran."

Symbolically, Persepolis represents Iran and the angels are the men and women who have risen to ask for their rights. The news and images of these events that found their way all over the world, the bravery of the Iranian people and the manner in which they stood up to the face of tyranny were the inspiration behind most of the compositions on this CD. "Persepolis was the capital of Iran 2500 years ago," explains Mehran. "It was destroyed by Alexander. I was born in Shiraz about 50 miles from its ruins and I had visited it many times when I was growing up in Iran. To me it represented our heritage and history. The angels refers to the masses who have been rising up for their freedom." Musically the CD ranges from world, classical, jazz, flamenco, traditional Persian and even prog, with unique interludes between compositions reminiscent to Pink Floyd. "It is next to impossible to tell a story with just instrumental music and no lyrics. Being a die hard fan of Pink Floyd, I decided to use sound effects to create an ambience to help describe the intention of the Cd." One music critic felt "the music is very fresh sounding, or very international - I feel like I just travelled from Spain to France and to the Middle East and ended up in the Mediterranean after listening to Mehran's  'Angels Of Persepolis' ".

Mehran Jalili, who relocated to the US at the age of 14, has studied extensively in Spain with great Maestros of Flamenco guitar including Amir Haddad (Radio Tarifa), Antonio El Muneco and in the US with Pedro Cortes. Mehran has appeared as a soloist and accompanist at the Chicago Cultural Center with Northeastern University Ensemble Espanol Dance Company. Other appearances include the Hot House with Azucena Vega “soul and Duende Dance Company”, Old Town School of Music with “Maya Tatiana and Lucero Flamenco Company”, the Goodman Theatre and many other colleges and universities. He has also studied the Cante accompaniment in Spain with Mr. Manolo Segura (singer in the movie disappearance of Garcia Lorca). Currently Mehran teaches Flamenco Guitar at the Old Town School of Music and performs at this venue with his ensemble seasonally. Mehran has also performed at private events for Britney Spears and Oprah Winfrey.

"The intensity, the expressiveness, the complexity, the depth and the fire - Flamenco is amazing," says Mehran. "It sometimes is so intense that it wants to rip your heart out and sometimes so gentle like a butterfly landing on your arm. The moodiness. I played rock guitar for years since I was 14. At one point I decided to quit everything and go to law school. I got admitted to a school in Chicago and a week before the program started I saw a Flamenco guitarist playing at a show. My jaw dropped just watching this guy. I said to myself one day when I become an attorney and I see another guy playing like this, I am going to get jealous and regretful. That night I could not close my eyes to even go to sleep. The next morning I called the school and requested them to remove me from their roster and give my seat away to someone else. In the next few weeks I packed up my bags and went to Spain to pursue my Flamenco dream. I started to study in Spain with whoever I could. I went back and forth to Spain for the next 10 years and studied with some of the greats there. The best lesson I got there was to be humble. Although Flamenco is Mehran's primary passion, along with Pink Floyd, he also has many other musical influences. "I became interested in the guitar when I first saw Jimmy Page," says Mehran. "I was 14 years old and just arrived in the US from Iran. I had never seen anybody playing the way he did, so free and so full of soul. I liked the way he took chances in his playing. Today I listen to guitarists like Vicente Amigo and El Viejin."

The entire 'Angels of Perspolis' CD was composed by Mehran except “yare Dabestani” which was composed by Mansour Tehrani but rearranged by Mehran. Mehran used the talents of 13 different, very capable musicians during the course of this recording. Each one of the musicians were given the freedom to play their own accompaniment for the most part and when required, their own solos. "I used 2 categories of musicians," Mehran explains. "Flamenco musicians and non Flamenco musicians. All the Flamenco folks are my friends that in the past so many years I have worked with. The non Flamenco musicians are all superb and elites in their genre of Jazz and classical music in Chicago."

Most recently Mehran filmed an exciting video, which can be accessed from his website. "The video I did was on the song 'The Little Song Of Hope'. It was offered to me by the artist/videographer who created the CD cover for me, Carlo Serran. The song is a romantic ballad and in the form of Bolero. I will be doing another video of the song 'Korean Soup' which will be a live performance with my whole group involved." Likewise, in support of the CD release, several performances have been scheduled. "I have formed a quartet with some of the musicians on the Cd and performing the music all around Chicago. It is a work in progress and little by little the gigs are compiling. With the right backing I would love to take the show on the road. I am already writing for the next Cd. I just created a piece for a short film on Iran by Soheil Tavakoli which will be presented in the Tiburon International Film Festival in San Francisco this summer. It is called 'Saramad Zemestan' (winter is over). This is another Persian song with heavy political innuendo. I completely rearranged the song and added my own composition to it". Lastly, a few weeks ago, Mehran was invited by a company in Pennsylvania, "guitarcontrol.com" to record a 6-hour Flamenco guitar Instructional DVD which will be published and distributed all over the world in a couple of months. "It was exciting and refreshing to do this," says Mehran, "and I tried my best to unravel some of the secrets of the Flamenco guitar for students to learn from. The DVDs will be 2 series. A 3-hour beginning and intermediate set and another 3-hour series of advanced studies during which I even teach some of the songs from 'Angels of Persepolis'."

Mehran's Angels Of Persepolis can be purchased through CD Baby, Amazon.com, iTunes as well as Mehran's official websites:

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