WHAT a remarkable place Canberra is – a city where mild-mannered people beaver away by day in the public service, then come out at night to show their true colours as writers, visual artists, actors and music-makers.
One such is musician Salar Ayoubi, who is throwing a fundraising concert to help raise $100,000 to purchase two illustrated Persian manuscripts for the Iran-wise State Library of Victoria.
It’s a labour of love for his yet-unnamed Persian music ensemble. It’s made up of recently-arrived Farzin Jamatlou on the “tonbak” (Persian drum), visiting “kamancheh” (string player) Gelareh Abdollahpour, ANU communications student and pianist Shahriar Etemadi Tajbakhsh, ANU medical science doctoral candidate Sahar Mirzaee as vocalist and Ayoubi himself as vocalist, also playing “tat” and lute.
The group, he says, has “a very bright future” and may morph into a more permanent ensemble to be called “Sarv”, after the tall pine tree of Persian poetry.
ANU Persian lecturer and international classical poetry expert, Dr Zahra Taheri, will join them in the concert to perform verses by the celebrated poets Rumi and Hafez.
Ayoubi, who trained at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, first came here in 2000 to sing at the National Folk Festival, returned the year after for a four-month project, met and married his wife Nassim in Canberra and stayed on. Eleven years later, they have two children, and he’s still busy by night doing concerts, mainly for Canberra’s Persian Australian Community Association.
I attended one such gig and it was packed out – and not just by Iranians.
Ayoubi laments the parlous state of the music industry in Iran, where, without large-scale sponsorship, it is hard to survive.
Worse, he says, you can’t just put on a concert.
“In Iran, you have to go through maybe 10 different departments each with 10 different permission forms for just one concert,” he says. That means that for his old conservatory mates “music has become a secondary profession”.
For women, it’s even harder. A woman can only sing solo in front of all-women audiences, so he is particularly happy to have Mirzaee in the group, praising her voice as “soft and beautiful… it’s a good opportunity to give Shahar, and all ladies from Iran, for the future”.
Persian music night, ANU Arts Centre, 7.30pm, July 28, bookings to email@example.com or 0421 548832.