Haale, Blissfully Bridging East & West
Persian music is usually presented in formal places like the Kennedy Center, filled with well-dressed patrons resting in comfortable seats. That's why it was great to hear the music of Iranian American singer-guitarist Haale Wednesday at the Black Cat's frills-free backstage, because her raw sound owes as much to '60s psychedelic rock as it does to the ancient Middle East.
The 33-year-old Haale is just beginning to make her mark nationally, but she's a star on the rise. She has played guitar since 1996 but started incorporating Persian lyrics and music into her folk-rock repertoire only at the turn of the millennium. Her first recordings came out in January, and the two five-song EPs show her split musical personality to wonderful effect. The "Morning" EP is sung mostly in Persian and features the words of mystic poets Rumi and Bahar, while the more drone-folky "Paratrooper" is primarily in English.
In concert, the Eastern side of Haale's musical personality came through strongest, even on English-language songs such as "Floating Down" (which was inspired by Jimi Hendrix's desire to make his guitar sound like a helicopter) and "Before the Skies."
With an electric guitarist to her right and a percussionist to her left, Haale switched between guitar and setar (a four-string Persian lute). Or sometimes she just sang, swaying in her black dress and swinging her long curly hair to the electric drones and rumbling drums.
While Haale never let loose with a full-on Sufi-dance twirl, she's anything but shy or reserved. "I believe in bliss," she said. "I believe in pleasure. Can you hear that in some of the songs?"
-- Christopher Porter