North Vancouver was recently the site of an unprecedented musical collaboration. On Thursday (July 27), members of the celebrated Iranian Rastak Music Group jammed with two Tsleil-Waututh Nation members at a meet-and-greet event at Koja Café Art (239 St. George’s Avenue).
The organizer, Amir Bajehkian, told the small crowd that this marked a first for a Persian touring group.
“It’s never happened before,” said Bajehkian, president of Third Bridge Foundation.
The two Indigenous musicians, Will Thomas and Seth George, came to Koja Café Art to welcome Rastak Music Group to their traditional territory. The Persian contemporary folk band will perform on Saturday (July 29) at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver (in Coquitlam).
In his remarks, Thomas said that the Tsleil-Waututh and the Squamish people have been on the edge of Burrard Inlet for thousands of years.
“We lived off the land,” Thomas noted. “We are stewards of the land.”
He and George are part of a traditional musical group created decades ago by Chief Dan George. Thomas told the audience that Chief Dan George was a Hollywood actor in addition to being a great Tsleil-Waututh leader. The chief helped revive cultural practices after these activities were decriminalized in the 1950s.
At that point, Thomas and George, who also has Squamish heritage, performed their “Wolf Song”. Later in the afternoon, Rastak Music vocalist and tar player Farzad Moradi and percussionist Majid Poosti played Iranian music.
Moradi’s soaring Persian vocals filled the café as he strummed the tar with the speed and dexterity of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest guitarists. Meanwhile, Poosti’s rapid-fire daf drumming maintained the rhythm.
After they finished, a café worker said he wanted to hear a “conversation without words” between Indigenous and Persian musicians. That led to Thomas and George performing with Moradi and Poosti.
— Shervin Shahriari (@ShahriariNV) July 28, 2023
Rastak tours after release of Essentials
Rastak Music Group has five members in addition to Moradi and Poosti. The band director is tar player Siamak Sepehri. Dina Doosti (kamancheh, kahamcheh alto, gheychak), Behzad Moradi (lead vocal, daf, percussion), Akbar Esmaeilipour (oud, tar, setar), and Sahar Rashidi (qanun) round out the group.
They’re touring Canada following the release of their latest album, Essentials. It features 10 re-recorded and remastered tracks celebrating Iran’s illustrious musical heritage.
Rastak Music Group members play traditional string, percussion, and wind instruments. The band has recorded six other albums showcasing the diversity of Iran’s folk traditions, while incorporating their own contemporary flavour.
They also perform in different languages, such as Farsi, Kurdish, and Turkish. And their music reflects the different geographic regions of Iran, including the mountainous and forested terrain, the seaside, and the desert. The band is now based in Istanbul.
Among those in attendance at the Koja Café Art were Forests Minister Bruce Ralston; Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart; City of North Vancouver councillor Shervin Shahriari; Fiona Haftani, case work manager for North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson; and Honourary Colonel Farid Rohani with the B.C. Regiment.