It was during my first evening at the Damai Beach Resort that I had the chance to meet with Mohsen Sharifian and his troupe. Mohser and his extensive band were in the hotel hall at midnight, chatting and laughing in an
undistinguished language. Their spokesperson was looking for the WiFi codes to connect their phones, and we started a very interested conversation. He told us of their country, Iran, of their millenary culture and their instruments, of the happy people from their province, of their wish to play music and dance, mimicking the gestures of farmers and fishermen in their dances. And of their goal: to preserve and promote the folklore music of their region inside and outside of Iran. We were so taken by their passion that we looked forward to joining in at their workshops and concert in the days to come. And we did!
Hailing from the southern Iranian province of Bushehr, Mohsen Sharifian is Iran’s most prestigious folklore musician and composer and heads the troupe Mohsen Sharifian and The Lian Band.
Bushehr is a southern city in Iran, capital city and administrative centre of the Bushehr province, that lies in a vast plain running along the coastal region on the Persian Gulf, 400km south of Tehran. Bushehr has a population of approximately 170,000 people and used to be the main seaport of the country. Its ancient history and culture are deep, and this reflects on the music played there, one of the most prominent music types that owes to the mix of various cultures and religious melodies that passed through the province during the years. Bushehr former name, Lian, is 3000 years old and it is the name chosen by Mohser for his band. It means ‘shining sun.’
Born in Boushehr in 1976, Mohser holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Political Sciences in the field of research. Mohser started playing Bushehri folklore music with bagpipes in 1992 and founded the musical group Lian in 1993, which marked the beginning of his professional research in the field of Iranian southern music. He has published several books and articles in newspapers and magazines over the years, with some of his work decorated and awarded prices. Mohser has spent the last 20 years immersing in and researching the musical traditions of his region, composing works inspired by his musical researches and collection of songs and dance-tunes. He is a virtuoso performer on the two ancient, emblematic instruments of the Persian Gulf, the Ney-Anban – a bagpipe – and the Ney-Jufti – a double-pipe reed flute. Mohser has received seven awards for solo performances of Ney-Anban. Mohsen Sharifian and The Lian Band perform in international music festivals and give musical workshops around the world.
Music is a hereditary thing in Mohser family, passed from generation to generation. He started playing seriously the Ney-Anban and the Ney-Jufti at the age of 14 and added more unusual instruments to his music with the establishment of The Lian Band ensemble.
The Nay-Anban is a type of bagpipe popular in Bushehr. Nay-Anban literally means ‘bag-pipe’, and can refer to a type of drone-less double-chantered bagpipes played in Southern Iran similar to the Bahrain Jirba played by ethnic Iranians in the Persian Gulf Islands.
The Nay-Jofti is an Iranian double-pipe reed flute that figures prominently in Middel Eastern music. It has been played continuously for 4,500–5,000 years, making it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use. The Nay-Jofti consists of a piece of hollow cane or reef with five or six finger holes and one thumb hole, and its pitch varies depending on the region and the finger arrangement.
Boushehri music is the amalgamation of centuries of social, cultural and religious influences, a combination of forces of a footprint of African, Indian and Arab music and songs. It is a music that is present in the daily lives of Bushehr people, influenced by cultures and family life, and representing the life of people from fishing villages.
Most of The Lian Band folk and world fusion music songs are composed by Mohsen, who during these years has performed looking for interaction and dialogue with different music cultures. In various attempts to explore opportunities to collaborate with other breedings, bagpipes and a range of percussions are interspersed between cheerful hip-swaying dancers in traditional costumes, and mixed with flamenco, Indian and modern international music, absorbing other influences and resulting in a colourful musical journey that highlights The Lian Band ensemble role as representatives for their traditional music.
Since forming in 1993 during their student years and starting their activities under the supervision of Mohsen Sharifian, members of The Lian Band have been producing folk Bushehri music and have released nine albums. The group is currently regarded as one of Iran’s most prestigious folklore musical bands and, along with performances in different parts of Iran, they have played Boushehr music in various parts of the world such as Womex in Greece, Sweden, Belarus, Malaysia, Bulgaria, at the Olympics in Beijings, Russia, at the World Cup in Germany, Singapore, Turkey, Bahrein, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Turkmenistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Shanghai, and in a few states of the USA.
The Lian Band line up of artists is: Hadi Manoochehri (dancer), Hamid Akbari (tempo, kakhen), Hossein Sangsar (dammam), Mahmoud Bardaknia (dammam, dayere), Mohsen Sharifian (ney-anban, ney-jofti), Morteza Palizdan (zarb, timpo), Roohollah Safavi (vocals).
AT THE FESTIVAL
The Lian Band dynamic performance at the Rainforest World Music Festival final night drew loud rounds of applauses. They played an incredible array of instruments, driving rhythms that were enhanced by chanting vocals, dances and Mohsen Sharifian’s impressive centre-stage solos on his bagpipes and flutes. Mohsen was an intense force of nature, squeezing traditional melodies and complex tunes with amazing energy that urged the audience to clap and dance.
We need to remember that for groups in Iran, playing traditional music and bagpipes is still facing a degree of opposition. Performing in public and the use of women musicians are not allowed in the country as they are regarded as humiliating by many in their highly religious society. This has been slightly improving in recent years, and Mohsen performances are now regarded as honorable by some, hence allowing The Lian Band to perform their music and art, and to spread a message of joy and peace to the world through their international concerts.
IN THE MEDIA
The Lian Band official website was nominated in the 5th Iranian Web Festival in three categories (best main page, best visual design and best personal website), winning the best main page. Visit http://www.lianmusic.com