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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat

By Jill Ettinger
Published June 13, 2008

Songs From A Persian Garden

There have been some sad side effects to the Bush administration’s grudge against the Middle East, especially when it comes to showing any cultural appreciation for the wide range of artistic and musical talent from the region. With Iran in particular, there’s a dismissive Western taboo attached to the art and music—not to mention the religious and political views—of Tehran. For Iranian sisters Mahsa and Marjar Vahdat, the taboo is double-edged: not only do they get lumped in with the “axis of evil” by right-wing ideologues in the West, but they’re criticized by fundamentalists in their homeland for singing in public. Fortunately for us, the human need for self-expression is stronger than any political or religious dogma, so we get to hear the Vahdat sisters sing beautifully on Songs From A Persian Garden—a rare live recording captured by their Norwegian label. Though the oppressive atmosphere of Iran creates challenges for such young artists, the spirit of the tradition lives on in their voices, which flow with unrivaled grace and sorrow, blending into one intimate harmony.