By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
It has been a consistent trend over the past couple of decades in which eastern practices and traditions cross over to the west and vise versa. Azam Ali and her group Niyaz have been growing in popularity in the west and recently came to Portland in order to share their message.
On March 14, Niyaz performed at Port City Music Hall. The venue attracted a variety of different people, some came to watch the performance, while others came to dance to the unique sound. Ali was certainly not afraid to dance, as she moved across the stage frequently throughout the show. Her performance displayed her passionate energy.
Niyaz has produced four albums, all of which have ranked number one on iTunes, and caused the group to grow in popularity. Niyaz was founded in 2004 by Ali, who is the lead vocalist. She was born in India, then moved to Los Angeles when she was 15.
Her husband, Loga Ramin Torkian, is the cofounder of the band and he was born in Iran. Carmen Rizzo is based in Los Angeles and handles all of the electrical aspects of the music. He has worked with other bands like Coldplay and Seal. Habib Meftah Bouchehri is also from Iran but he now lives in Paris. Bouchehri specializes in percussion and flute instruments which reflect the ancient history of the music style.
Niyaz blends these traditional folk songs and methods with electronic mechanics from the 21st century. This mixture creates a unique rhythm which resembles the music of her culture, but the inclusion of several modern electronic soundboards gives the music extra life and energy.
Despite the multiple century long age gap in between specific instruments, the members of the group kept a synchronized rhythm which symbolizes a joining of cultural parties.
The event featured a series of songs which the band had complied for their Best Of album which debuted in early 2017. These songs were some of their personal favorites and it also featured a new song called “Del.” The songs are all in Ali’s original language and the band’s music heavily relies on historical Middle Eastern instruments. It also features talent and instruments from the Persian Gulf.
Ali said that the music they produce is meant to blend all of these different cultural components together in order to create a “perfect harmony and a vibrant energy.” This was noticeable before the concert had officially begun. During their tuning session, the different sounds all blended into an ominous rumble which vibrated the venue. Since tuning is usually a sporadic activity, this illustrated that the chosen instruments really portrayed Ali’s desired effect.
The songs transitioned through different instruments, giving each the chance to take the spotlight. During string solos, Ali would move to the side of the stage in order to give the focus to other members of the band. Bouchehri in particular had a lengthy solo in which he played the drums at an incredibly fast speed, causing an increase in the audience’s energy. Several audience members thought that this was one of the highlights of the event.
Before the final song of the night, Ali decided to speak to the audience. She wanted to show her overall gratitude since she had never expected the audience’s generosity. She introduced each member of the band and put an emphasis on where each of them came from. She wanted to illustrate that each of them are from different corners of the world and that it’s because of globalization.
“We wouldn’t be on this stage without globalization,” she said. Ali said that the goal of their music is to transcend cultural boundaries by bringing all types of people together. She mentioned that this is necessary in combating negativity and oppression in the world.
“For us, art becomes the beacon that illuminates our lives,” she said. At the end of her speech, she encouraged everyone to dance with her. It’s evident that Ali takes great joy in bringing people together. Niyaz’s music has the potential to bring people together in order to make this world a better place.