“Human justice is like ice/Melts with sunrise/Give me the ney and sing/Singing is the justice of hearts.” The Lebanese singer-songwriter Tania Saleh put these words by her countryman Khalil Gibran to music in 2017. Now she is back with her seventh album, and an intensely personal take on justice. In the 90 years since Gibran’s death, many nations have gravitated toward his feminist views—but not his homeland, where gender equality is the victim of … More Tania Saleh: 10 A.D.
Paradox or simple fact, the greatest expressions of freedom often emerge from landscapes where it is conspicuous by its absence. Having grown up in a nation that prohibits public singing by women, the Iranian vocalist-musician Mahsa Vahdat knows the push-pull of oppression and resilience. She sings truth to force in the form of classical and contemporary Persian poems, put to music with … More Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night
Dawn is inevitable but some nights are longer than others. The eight songs of Nelia Safaie’s debut solo album are suspended in the fog between night and day, winter and spring, sadness and happiness. She sings gently, often with exquisite melancholy and ultimately with hope. Her poetry is both explicit and allegorical, images from one song shadowing themes from others so that everything … More Nelia Safaie: Songs from Lands of Silence
Can art and politics remain separate? Can musicians avoid banning? Can corrupt leaders escape satire? Freedom is everywhere in the imagination and often scarce in the real world. Songs from a beautiful album like Placeless ought to navigate auditoriums, airwaves and digital channels everywhere; and yet, doesn’t conflict pump … More Kronos Quartet, Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat: Placeless
Flowers, dreams and music have this in common: They bloom even in harsh climes. An elegant example is Waiting for the Dawn, Ooldouz Pouri’s first solo album. The hour of sunrise, even the year, may be in doubt. The point is that she sings—passionately, radiantly—her voice floating on songs from bygone eras that inspire hope in difficult times. Pouri was born in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, where … More Ooldouz Pouri: Waiting for the Dawn
The Kurdish-Turkish singer-songwriter Ferhat Tunç has achieved artistic success, but he has also provoked criticism that goes well beyond negative reviews. Over the course of his 30-year career, he has been harassed, censored, fined, indicted, arrested, jailed and received death threats. As this review posts, he awaits trial in Istanbul on charges of “insulting the president” of Turkey and “propaganda for a terrorist organization” over his support for the Kurdish rights movement. The alleged crimes arose from Twitter … More Ferhat Tunç: Kobani
The world music movement is a bridge, allowing artists who once might have been heard only in their own land to reach across borders and oceans. But sometimes distant ears represent a lifeline for performers who can’t be heard in their own country at all. In Iran, women are prohibited from singing solo to mixed-gender audiences or having their voices broadcast. Providing a stage for eight supremely talented Iranian women to sing of love, hope, longing … More Young Iranian Female Voices: Songs in the Mist