The Nowruz Persian Music Festival was an event in the Masala World Music Series sponsored by the University of Oklahoma to highlight music from some of the lesser-known areas of the world. I attended the concert performed by a Båmdåd ensemble, which included traditional Persian instruments such as the oud, the santour, and the daf. The concert took place in Sharp Concert Hall in Catlett Music Center, which is a purposefully very hi-fi space, designed so that the listener is focused on the sound of the performance. There are several smaller sounds, though, such as a person coughing or a program rustling that make it a bit more lo-fi; the older woman sitting next to me sang along to the music at times, which added nicely to the soundscape of the concert. Other elements I noticed in the soundscape included quiet murmuring behind me in a language I couldn’t understand and the quiet tapping of feet next to me.
I thought the most interesting aspect of the concert for me was the cultural divide between those who were attending the concert to hear the music that is familiar to them and reminds them of their past or their home and those who were attending for a class, as a professor, or as a sponsor of the event. It reminded me a bit of Scrugg’s article “Come on in North Side, You’re Just in Time”, because there was a sort of ethnic divide between the audience which determined how they listened. There was also a bit of a language divide: I understood none of what was sang, so I felt I couldn’t appreciate the music as much as the older woman next to me who knew most of the words and sang along. Along with these, there was a cultural divide, because this was the music that many attending had heard all of their life or found a piece of shared experience in, whereas I, who had never experienced Persian music before, felt no such connection.
This didn’t prevent me from enjoying the music, though. I thought it was a spectacular performance that exposed me to an aspect of a culture that I am very unfamiliar with. I think my favorite part of the concert was watching the deep connection that each performer had with the music that was visible through their head and body movements as well as their facial expressions. I also really appreciated the quiet singing that came from the woman sitting next to me, who clapped with tears in her eyes after the performance. I’m really appreciative of the university’s efforts to promote music and culture from all around the world, because it allows us as students to see the world, even if just for an hour or two, from a slightly different perspective. I’m really looking forward to attending the other concerts that are a part of this series!