Don’t call it a Persian show—rather, think of it as looking at human culture through a Persian lens. That’s the aim of Bayan, tonight at Galapagos in Dumbo. The show (the name of which means “expression” in Farsi) features five Iranian and Iranian-American artists, showcasing work that ranges from photography to stand-up.
Last month, Bayan’s organizer Susan Peret ran her first concept show called Bakwas (Urdu and Hindi slang for “nonsense”), which showcased various artists on India’s Independence Day. Peret just filed to start her own corporation, called Clasht, to keep non-monolithic events like Bakwas and Bayan flowing through New York’s cultural scene.
Peret said the clash began with herself. She was born and raised in New York but her parents came from India, and her father also worked in Iran before the 1979 revolution. She attended NYU’s Stern School of Business and worked for several years as a consultant before she embraced her creative side full-time, becoming a comedic writer and storyteller. “I know the way that I think and I experience culture is mixed,” Peret said. From this mixture she hopes to foster community. “I want to learn. I mean a lot of this is my version of adult education.”
One act in Tuesday’s show is Brooklyn-based Vatan, a self-described “Iranicana” band that blends Persian lyrics and chord progressions with American country and bluegrass.
Vatan’s music is characterized by soaring harmonized vocals and the twang of country motifs played on tar, a long-necked stringed instrument heard commonly throughout Iran and nearby countries. Vatan’s Piruz Partow said the idea to bring together tar and Americana music came to him in the shower. “It was a point in my life when I was listening to a lot of country music and then I was listening to a lot of Persian music, especially tar, and I would constantly switch back and forth. Then somewhere in my head I thought that the two could really come together nicely,” he said.
Vatan, after all, means “country,” in the sense of “homeland,” or where you are from. In this sense, the name is perfect for a band that brings together the music their parents played to them as kids and the music they otherwise grew up listening to and learning. “I think that the process that makes New York and so many places around the world so magical is that artists are a product of their environment,” Partow said.
Vatan’s vocals also stand out for their use of harmonizing, almost unheard of in the Persian tradition but common in the Americana tradition. “In Persian music you don’t hear like thirds and fifths in vocals. You just don’t,” said Mona Kayhan, Vatan’s lead vocalist. She said she enjoys bringing together Persian songs and elements of a capella, which she sang in college.
Also look out tonight for Navid Kandelousi, a classical violin and kamanche soloist who has been playing since the age of six; Asie Mohtarez, the evening’s host who will be telling stories and stand-up; and Neimah Djourabchi, who will be performing musical storytelling. There will also be photographs from Mahmoodreza Nourbakhsh, an Iran-based photographer whose subject matter explores a variety of themes including dogs, solitude, and the color blue.
Bayan, Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn
Correction: The original version of this post was revised to reflect that Iranian as well as Iranian-American artists will participate in the show, and to correct the name of the musical storyteller.