Iranian band seeks a break

Female singing in the country still has lot of restrictions

By   |  Published: 17th Sep 2020  2:02 pm

Bandar Abbas: The men in the audience clapped and the women ululated as the band finished singing: it would have been commonplace except the venue was in Iran and the group on stage were all women. The catchy rhythmic music they played that balmy night is known as “bandari”.

Its lyrics are from ancient folkloric songs, passed down the generations and familiar to many at the concert in an amphitheatre in the southern port of Bandar Abbas.

Only this time, it was being performed by women in front of a mixed crowd.

“It feels as if you have been seen at last” by “a new part of society. All that training has paid off at last,” said band member Noushin Yousefzadeh, who plays the oud, the Middle Eastern lute.

Dressed in traditional clothing, the band was taking part in a state-organised festival to showcase “Persian Gulf music” and, as well as singing, also played their instruments. Formed in late 2016 after a conversation at the beach between two of the women, the band is called Dingo, which in the local dialect refers to the first wobbly steps taken by infants.

Informed only a few days before the festival that they had been selected and would be singing to both men and women, the band hastily re-arranged its routine. The members of Dingo, who are all in their mid-20s to mid-30s, had tried a number of times to arrange performances for mixed audiences themselves. But it was difficult to coordinate and in the end “we just gave up”, said Negin Heydari, a former member, who plays the kasser, a smaller drum usually played together with the dohol and pippeh. So now, whenever authorities arrange festivals and shows like this one in their home town, they apply and hope they will be selected, even if it means not knowing until the last minute if they have been.

But, the exhilaration of playing for mixed audiences is worth all the uncertainty and long hours of practice .

“We want to make Dingo international,” said Mohseni, a band member.