Nearly 10 years after release of her last internationally acclaimed CD, “Madman of God,” Iran’s great vocalist, composer, and performance artist, Sussan Deyhim has a new album titled “City of Leaves.” She is releasing it on on her personal label, Venus Rising Records. Release date is scheduled for January 31st.
The album is a profound testament to Sussan’s belief in the eternal alchemical and transformative power of music, despite the tyranny against women in her country. It is at once a banner of defiance and a fierce moment in her brilliant career. “My interest in ancient music and the indigenous vocal techniques has much more to do with the alchemical space the music takes me to, rather than analytical academic or traditionalist rhetoric on the value of the ancient culture, not that I don’t appreciate those intellectual or even spiritual attempts to understand them,” explains Deyhim. “I feel and believe it is the alchemical power of these traditions that has made them stay and last in the hearts of their cultures and their people for centuries.”
Female master musicians and vocalists in Iran have been banned from singing for the last thirty years. Sussan’s work in exile in the U.S. has allowed her to not only continue to promote her sublime Iranian musical heritage but also to become one of the most innovative and unique vocalists in the world.
Deeply committed to speaking out for oppressed women in Iran, who are prevented by law to perform for men, Sussan was planning a risky and important concert tour of her homeland two years ago to reach out to her enormous following there. These plans were upended by the events of the Green Movement following the election in June of 2009. Ever since, Sussan worked tirelessly at the forefront of the international protests in support of demonstrations, organizing aid, concerts, speaking dates and financial support. She has spoken out politically about Iran at great risk for many years.
“City of Leaves” includes acoustic pieces, such as the opening two tracks as well as sonic sculpturing of her 4 octave voice by some of her greatest collaborators, including Richard Horowitz, Bill Laswell, Duke Bojadziev, and DJ Spooky. She interprets 4 poems by the classic Persian poet, Rumi, in Beshno Az Ney,” “Searching for You,” Fire Within,” and “Secret Garden.”She also constructs her own language in “Tender Gaze,” “Glyphs on the Horizon,” and “Dukebox.”
Years of admiration for and study of indigenous vocal techniques from all over the world along with her deeply felt spiritual identity with ancient Persian poet-philosophers have yielded one of the historically great female voices from the Middle-East region. “The human voice is truly one of the most astounding instruments, when you listen to the wide range of vocal registers in which global vocal music is performed,” says Deyhim. “There is no doubt that vocal production is a science, and a meticulous one. It is sculpting a tone in the cavity of one’s upper body resonator (which is of course connected to the lower and the earth underneath it) where also most of our emotional and spiritual points are situated.”
“City of Leaves is code for an uninhibited sonic journey, to where the music can take you. It derives from my love for many brilliant vocal traditions of the East and the West, from the old to the new, from young to not so, from intuitive to deeply pensive, for the monk and the punk.” – From Sussan Deyhim’s Liner Notes
More about Sussan Deyhim
Sussan Deyhim is an Iranian composer, vocalist and performance artist. She is internationally known for creating a unique sonic and vocal language imbued with a sense of ritual and the unknown. She was part of the national ballet company in Iran from the age of thirteen and she traveled all across Iran studying with master folk musicians and dancers.
In 1976 she joined The Bejart Ballet in Europe after receiving a scholarship to attend Bejart’s performance art school Mudra where she was trained in many of the great world, dance, music and theater traditions as well as in classical ballet. “Love of tradition and traditionalism are two very different schools of thought,” says Deyhim. “I am keenly aware of this due to my last 3 decades of life in the Western world and have experienced many surprising realizations in both the Eastern and Western musical scenes.”
Her music remains true to the spirit of her ancient heritage while pointing to the future with a very personal and poetic dramatic sensibility. In 1980 she moved to New York embarking on a multifaceted career encompassing music, theater, dance, media and film.
Her recorded composition Windfall/Beshno Az Ney was recently used by U2 throughout the US and Europe in “U2s 360 Tour,” one of the largest scale rock tours to this day. Beshno Az Ney is an intro to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in a solidarity number with Iran’s Green movement.
Currently, Sussan is working on “The House Is Black,” a media opera based on works and life of the literary icon of Iranian contemporary poetry Forough Farrokhzad. In this project Deyhim collaborates with award winning director David Schweizer and long time collaborator co-composer Richard Horowitz.
She is also researching materials for a project based on Golden Iranian popular songs of the 40’s through the 70’s. This project will introduce the vintage popular Torch Songs of Iran with contemporary arrangements to the international community.
And she will compose music and sound design for an exquisite installation by Lita Albuquerque, recipient of the esteemed National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program Grant, alongside famed film director Werner Herzog with his project “Encounters at the End of the World.”
“There are rigid vocal techniques and schools in both the West and the East,” says Deyhim. “I had to find progressive teachers who, while training your instrument, do not impose one logic on my instrument; teachers who respect and encourage vocal improvisation and experimentation as a healthy, vital, and valuable way of freeing up the vocal instrument.
This has especially allowed me to fearlessly fall in love with the some of the most unknown and unfamiliar vocal traditions of the globe and study them by deconstructing these unfamiliar techniques. Techniques sometimes even deemed to be detrimental to the vocal cords. It has been a truly inspirational journey and I always look forward to share what I have learned from this great adventure. I have developed ways to explain how to produce tones and textures technically, authentically and emotionally – even tones that at first are not familiar to our ears and nervous system.”
“City of Leaves” is available in digital format at Amazon.com, and physical CD through her label website: www.sussandeyhim.com