Arts / Persian power tops the bill

WHEN the old Persian poets wanted to describe a drop-dead-gorgeous princess, their favourite poetic comparison was with the Sarv – the cypress pine tree; tall, refined and elegant. 

Maliheh Moradi vocalist.

“Sarv” is exactly what Canberra musician Salar Ayoubi has called the ensemble he’s been building for the past 10 years and now Canberrans will see them as one of the three headliners at the Chinese New Year concert that kicks off this year’s National Multicultural Festival.

To Ayoubi, best news of all is that their featured performer, visiting from Iran just for this concert, is the drop-dead-gorgeous vocalist, Maliheh Moradi. A graduate in Persian language and literature as well as music, she’s been studying the traditional song repertoire since age 10 and has performed publicly in Spain, Turkey and Poland.

Sarv is a dream come true for Ayoubi, by day an events manager for the ACT Office of Multicultural Affairs. In a demographic change that has seen an influx of expert Persian musicians migrating to Australia, he’s at last been able to engage a team of professionally trained artists from Melbourne, Perth and Canberra who now perform together regularly. Like Ayoubi, several have been through the Tehran Conservatory of Music. As well, one was a professor of music and another a string player with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra.

Ayoubi is proud to be putting a female Iranian musician to the forefront, saying: “I try to encourage the female artists from Iran, the males get exposure but it’s the women who need support.”

In Iran, he says, a woman can only sing solo in front of all-women audiences.
Moradi will be here for less than 10 days, but Ayoubi has persuaded her to return in June to rehearse for a national concert tour he’s preparing for Sarv in July.

Festivals are important to Ayoubi. He first came to Australia in 2000 to perform at the National Multicultural Festival and the National Folk Festival, eventually emigrated, married and started working on projects for the festival, later joining the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Miriam Lieberman kora player.

“They are very flexible about my musical arrangements, they have always tried to accommodate me and I’ve been very thankful,” he says.

Forming the band has been difficult financially but after 10 years he feels he’s there, with Sarv’s reputation established through performances at quality venues in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. A trip to Perth now beckons.

Here they’ll be performing a combination of classical music and folk melodies that will have some audience members singing along. A typical highlight will be the famous song “Sabzeh” from north-east Iran.
Ayoubi is pretty sure that the concert will appeal to Canberrans, who have the reputation of being the most open of all Australian audiences to the classical traditions of other countries.

We’ll soon see, in the festival’s Llewellyn Hall concert when Sarv performs alongside the distinguished Chinese Orchestra conducted by Hong Xia and kora player Miriam Lieberman’s ensemble, a hit at last year’s National Folk Festival.

“Treasures of a Nation: Chinese New Year Concert 2017”, Llewellyn Hall, Thursday, February 16. Bookings to ticketek.com.au or 132849. Sarv will also perform at the Multicultural Festival’s Stage 6 at 8.30pm on Friday, February 17, and Stage 1, 5.30pm, Saturday, February 18.

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