This video tape contains dance performances and choreographies by Robyn
Friend. The performances date from 1977 to 1999, and include solos,
duets, and group dances. There are also some songs and instrumental
Each of the principal musical modes of Persian classical art music is associated with an aspect of love -- in the case of dashti, the perspective of a young man, who is likely to complain about the problems in his love life!
In this segment, Robyn sings two songs in dashti -- hajjiani, and deylaman.
Hajjiani: "A vagrant said this secret to his companion: 'Oh Sufi, wine will be pure when it has remained in the bottle 40 days'."
Deylaman: "I am so shackled by love of you, I am like a roped gazelle. Sometimes I weep at my incurable pain; sometimes I laugh at my loveless life. But I am not mad enough to forget about love, and if you are wise, you won't try and change my mind".
These songs are built around their poetry, and the musical rhythm of the melody follows the poetic foot, rather than a repetitive measure-mark; this sort of singing is often called "avaz" in Persian. While such singing is often called "arrhythmic" or "non-metered" by western musicians, that is not correct; the rhythm is derived from the poetry, albeit with significant room for improvisation. The vocal ornamentation and the relationship between the text and the melodic emphasis are also improvised, as is the instrumental accompaniment. Robyn learned these songs from Morteza Varzi, her long-time Persian music teacher, in the 1980's.
We are then treated to a great solo on the tonbak by Siamak Pouian. We met Siamak in the early 1990's; our first performance together was a concert in Vancouver, BC, that was a part of a celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of the publication of the Persian epic "Shahname", by Ferdowsi.
The dance which follows is in three sections, with tempos of medium, slow, fast (this is not mandated by tradition, but Robyn likes it). The first and third pieces are well-known rengs (dance pieces) in dashti. The second was adapted by me from a piece taught (and probably composed) by our friend, the late Philip Harland, in the musical mode of hicaz.
The dance includes two special sections, jâheli and raqs-e bazak. The jâheli style is perhaps the most unusual Persian dance style, especially from the point of view of a non-Iranian. Jâheli dance is part of an Iranian sub-culture that has its origins in 9th and 10th century, a period when eastern Iran especially suffered under the incursions of Turkic and Mongol tribes seeking pasturage and pillage. Local, informal constabularies were formed to protect each town or village. The men of these groups, called jâhel (meaning “ignorant” in Persian), along with their women, developed a group culture with an interesting mixture of street smarts and spirituality. In this dance, Robyn imitates a jâheli man’s “tough-guy” style of dance. Raqs-e bazak depicts a lady at her toilette, washing, combing her hair, applying makeup and perfume, and putting on jewelry.
Musicians: Siamak Pouian, on the tonbak (Iranian wooden drum), and myself, Neil Siegel, on the târ (Iranian long-necked lute).
Performance date: July 1992
In the 1960's, Leona Wood, one of the two co-founders of the Los-Angeles-based AMAN International Music and Dance Ensemble, used the same idea to create a set of dances (in her case, just for women) featuring both "floating" and a dance with a picnic cloth (sofra). In the 1970's, Mardi Rollow, another AMAN dancer, extended this choreography.
In the early 1990's, long after AMAN had stopped using this dance in its repertoire, the Duquesne University Tamburitzans asked Robyn to revive and adapt it for their use. With Leona's permission to do so, Robyn created a new version on this wonderful theme.
The Tamburitzans -- all undergraduate college students -- accompany
themselves, as they do in every number in all of the 80 or so concerts
they do every year. The melodies were selected and sequenced for
them by me, using the same melodies that we used in AMAN at various times.
The second and third melodies were composed for AMAN's use by Phil Harland.
The orchestration is by the Tamburitzans.
When Robyn received the offer to dance in a concert that was a staging in dance of this poem, I could not resist the urge to use music in this special musical mode. The music for the dance piece that follows the recitation of the poem is in the older, slower version of the reng form, and is an improvisation built around musical themes I learned from recordings of Majd and Banan.
We recorded the sound track on 19 February 1999.
Musicians: Neil Siegel on the târ (Iranian long-necked lute), and Robyn Friend on daire (frame drum). The sound track to this dance is available on Robyn's new audio CD.
Performance date: February 1999
The complete dance portion of this performance is shown on this video. It includes a jaheli solo dance performed by Robyn. This is part of a concert by the AMAN International Music and Dance Ensemble that took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California, as part of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival.
The beautiful stage set was designed by Leona Wood.
The music is in the musical mode of chehargah. The musicians are Peggy Caton (santur), Morteza Varzi (kemance), Neil Siegel (târ), and Ali Tavalali (tonbak).
Performance date: July 1984.
The music is a traditional melody for this dance, recorded by the AMAN ensemble in the 1960's. The AMAN orchestra was at that time led by Phil Harland.
The video recording was made as a part of a student film project.
Performance date: September 1977
Let me extend a big "thank you" to our friend Manoochehr Gorguinpoor, now the khan of one sub-tribe of the Qashqa'i.
The dances and musicians are with AMAN, during a performance at Royce Hall, UCLA, in Los Angeles.
Performance date: June 1989
The song is called Kolâh Makhmali ("felt hat"), in the jâheli style. "My curly hair makes everyone crazy. Show me the money, if you want me to go to the ends of the earth. I am sweeter than cookies and candy. I have crazy moves. If you don't have any money, get out of here. I won't be tricked; I always land on my feet".
After this (very cute!) song, we are again treated to a great solo on the tonbak by Siamak.
The dance that follows is in three sections, with tempos of medium, slow (including raqs-e bazak), and fast. All three are well-known rengs (dance pieces) in segâh. The second is a particular favorite of mine, called reng-e del-gosha, and is a very old composition indeed.
Musicians: Siamak Pouian, on the tonbak (Iranian wooden drum), and Neil Siegel on the târ (Iranian long-necked lute). A longer performance of this same musical set is available on on Robyn's new audio CD.
Performance date: May 1997
Don't blame Robyn for using this music; her accompanist was just beyond her control!
The dance itself is in the Uzbek style of Ferghana.
Our friend Massoud Modirian is playing the daf (frame drum).
Performance date: February 1991