A Conversation with Golnar Shahyar

©  Ina Aydogan

Last Summer I met the great Iranian artist, musician, composer, singer and curator Golnar Shahyar, who is based in Vienna, Austria and sometimes in Berlin. We had a delightful conversation in a cozy café in Vienna. Golnar was so kind to share her thoughts with Jazz'halo.

As it is written on her website "Golnar Shahyar is an Iranian/Canadian vocalist, bandleader, performer, composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Vienna and Berlin. She is considered to be one of the most innovative and creative performers and songwriters of her generation, whose work is redefining the mainstream sonic identities and perceptions of modern and contemporary musical storytelling. Her incredible grace and longing, combined with the expressive frenzy of her singing together with her playful approach to improvisation, are Shahyar s unique musical signatures. A true master vocalist whose ability to combine different music styles and cultures is so natural and effortless that one hardly notices the complexity of her compositions and singing. Her hypnotic performances create an atmosphere where authenticity, vulnerability, and empathy are celebrated as strengths. After getting her bachelor's degree in biology in Toronto, Canada, she moved to Vienna in 2008 to pursue her dream of becoming a musician."

Golnar, you are an incredible artist and I really I appreciate the opportunity to listen to your story.

Golnar Shahyar: Thank you.

You are an Iranian-Canadian vocalist, composer, lyricist and music educator who are specialized in combining your own musical roots with this fascinating world of jazz and improvised music. Before you discovered the great singer and musician you happen to be, you studied and got your diploma as a biologist in Toronto, Canada. No doubt there is something very special and a not very common story behind you as a great artist. How was this transition from biology to the universe of music ?

Golnar Shahyar: Oh, very good question and very long. I have a long answer to that. So what I can say is that when I was living in Iran, I did not have any vision of what it means to be a musician. I always dreamed of becoming a singer or a veterinarian - I loved animals and I always wanted to be with animals! But I also wanted to be a singer because I was so touched by music. However, I did not have any image of what it means (to be a singer) because after the revolution, (especially) women were banned from the music scene, at least officially. Also in my family nobody is a freelancer and nobody actually has dedicated her/his life to the livelihood based on arts and culture. So for me, the whole journey was a process of self-discovery. When I went to Toronto, I was suddenly in a social setting in which I was not being imposed by anything from the outside.

I felt no suppression or expectation of any kind! Although later on I felt the social pressures one have to function under in a capitalistic country. But in the beginning my parents were not really feeling at home since they were between two countries. So, suddenly I faced this void and solitude which then made me conscious about many things about myself as an individual. I started to discover many things but most importantly, I started to make peace with myself. And as soon as I did that, I got in touch with an enormous creative energy that was apparently there the whole time. But I did not have the courage to see it or embrace it.

I was privileged of course to have time for this self-discovery journey through meditation and traveling! I got involved with the alternative subcultures and artists that were existing in Toronto at the time. By the way, I forgot to say that I immigrated to Toronto, Canada (2001) with my parents from Tehran. I was 16 back then. You know, immigration forces you to rediscover yourself, which is a very scary thing, but it's also a very good thing. Actually it's a gift. So I went through that at that time.

That was when I discovered a different way of playing music. I discovered improvisation for the first time!! I was 21 back then! I discovered the courage to sing different things other than what I knew before and started to experiment. I played improvisation with other people for the first time. We were a bunch of kids just jamming but that alone was an amazing new experience for me. I used to play piano in Iran, but only the European classical repertoire. In which I was good at since I am a fast learner! But I didn't really understand it. There (in Canada) I really understood what this exchange of energy (in music) means while playing with others. And at that time I experienced a sense of opening towards myself and also towards the world around me.

Parallel to that, I was taking lessons in classical singing with a teacher in Toronto. Judith Lebane Kane, my dear teacher sent me to this competition for classical singers in which I won the first prize for the amateur singers category. I was amateur indeed but the feeling I had while performing the piece for the audience was indescribable. I though to myself, I could really do this forever! It was then completely clear to me that this is what I wanted to do. So it was not hard to decide to change from biology to music. I felt free through music and simply wanted to share that feeling with others.

© Ina Aydogan

Do you remember the first time you've seen and took the piano for the first time ? How old were you ?

Golnar Shahyar: Well, in the Iran of the 90s, many middle class families sent their children to learn music in after school music classes. My family was no different. They were kind and asked me which instrument I wanted to play and I said, the piano! So, thanks to them, I had a piano. I think I was 10 or 11. I remember my mother driving me to my piano class after work and through so much traffic! I had a really good teacher back then, Mrs. Shahsa.

I was about to quit everything and go back to Canada until I met my teacher, Elfi Aichinger. Very kind and spiritual. She also gave me a sense of what spirituality means. I still have it in me, I think! She also gave me a really good technique! I have to admit I was really lucky with my teachers! The repertoire I was playing back then was European classical repertoire. When you play a classical repertoire or any kind of written music in which you cannot really improvise, the brain and imagination works completely different. I got in touch with that creative storytelling, imaginative way of playing music on the piano and in my voice years later. I remember I always sang though. I was a good imitator, screaming on top of my lungs! - imitating Witney Houston shouting “AND I….” It is very important from what kind of family and culture you come from. If it's acceptable in the family and culture to use the voice in different pitches and volumes, right? In our family, using the voice in very loud volumes was nothing unusual. No wonder when I became a singer years later, I had no problem expressing my feelings though various volume levels. I had years of training for that!

You moved from Iran to Canada, then you decided to move to Europe and you came to Austria. Why did you choose for Austria? What brought you here ?

Golnar Shahyar: The first move was my mother’s decision to bring us to Canada. She said she wanted a better life for us. If she had any other motivation, you should ask her!

The second move from Toronto to Vienna was my decision because of two main reasons. My parents were living in Vienna at that time. Also, I finished my studies in biology in Toronto, and in my third year I decided to become a musician. After graduation, I didn't have any reason to stay in Toronto anymore because my parents were also here in Austria with my sister. But why Austria? Because I had no plans to continue biology and at that time I wanted to do (European) classical music.

Why classical? because in my head that was the only serious kind of music I knew existed. I was just rethinking the mainstream stereotypes about music. I wasn't aware. I wasn't even aware that the kind of musical heritage that I have, the musical mother tongue that I have was even considered to be something serious or of importance. Speaking of after effects of colonialism!! So that's why I came to Austria, because Austria is considered to be the centre of European classical music.

Then it was at the Vienna Conservatory, where you started learning, as you mentioned classical music, then you decided to go back to your own musical roots and you combined them with this amazing world, which is the world of jazz and the improvised music. So how has this magical journey been all these years since you let the singer and musician within you appear in these worlds ?

Golnar Shahyar: It was a process because being a musician is an identity. It's like a life philosophy, right? So you have to learn many more things than music or relearn a lot of things. Even your brain starts to work differently!! When I went to Vienna Conservatory, I had classes with this teacher whose teaching had nothing to do with what I was looking for in music. The classes were more like a competition of “who sings higher and louder”. We were put in situations by the teacher were we found ourselves in unhealthy competitions with other students. He made us feel we are nothing without him! It was an unhealthy power dynamics. Also, the repertoire was beautiful but rigid, in the way you have to interpret them and the way you have to present yourself in them.

It was impossible to be yourself in that musical space! There were also no room for the culture from which I came from! I mean, I left Canada and an exiting carrier in science to become something I was not! No thank you! I was about to quit everything and go back to Canada until I met my teacher, Elfi Aichinger. She’s a great vocalist and improviser, and she also comes from the classical background. So, she knows this kind of breaking through that world and finding your own. And for me, she was the the first woman that I've met - yes a woman! I didn't have that role model in my head, you know. Unconsciously, I never thought that it's possible to do this as a woman! - And, she was doing her own music and had a career with it! That alone showed me "Oh, it's possible".

And then she also encouraged me to do my own stuff, and I was already so ready to do my own stuff because I mean, I just couldn't wait! So I got in Mdw university (in 2009) and at the same time started doing my own projects. I was wild and restless back then. Being young(er) and not yet damaged by the challenges of this profession, made me fearless. I mean, I have finally found a way to communicate my deepest thoughts and feelings with the whole world! So, nothing was going to stop me! I was again lucky to have found other musicians specially Mahan Mirarab - my partner in crime for more than a decade - to do all these experiments with. We started to search for a musical space in which we were connected with our roots but also had freedom to be our individual selves and connected with the world.

Why did you choose jazz ?

Golnar Shahyar: I did not know what jazz was until I came to Vienna! Isn’t this crazy!!! I remember a friend of mine showed me a bebop piece - I don't know who that was - and I remember that I didn't like it! I was like "What the hell is this?" I was around 21 or something, and I couldn't relate to that emotionally!

My dear ex-boyfriend in Vienna, Georg, introduced me to many amazing music out there, like “Weather Report”, “Frank Zappa”, “Keith Gerard”, “Ella Fitzgerald”, “Anouar Brahem”, “Charlie Parker”, “Monk”, “Karim Ziad” Oh, the list is long! And then I met Mahan who was so into jazz back then and of course my teacher Elfi. You see I was very lucky to have met so many amazing people in my life who helped me to get on this journey!

But there is also a personal reason that I found later on which connected me with jazz and improvised music. In jazz you are encouraged to find your own voice and character and improvisation is very valued! I felt free and powerful in that space and I loved it. At the same time, jazz offered so much musical vocabulary for me to play around with! Jazz musicians who really understood the spirit of jazz are always the ones who continue to learn. Their musical vocabulary and approach also always changes and develops! The musicians who understood jazz don't really stay in their comfort zone. It's like we never stop learning!

And yes we also have jazz police! But in my opinion, they have not truly understood the spirit of jazz! Jazz is unfortunately not prone to fixation. People fixate music to own it, to control it, but in reality you can’t control it (music) because you can’t control life and human expression. This goes about any kind of music! But in Jazz, it is important to acknowledge that it originated from black American culture to which I have so much respect. I'm actually very inspired by many Black American advocates who fought and are fighting for equity and justice in their community. And also the black musicians who reflected and still reflect that strength and struggle. They have become a part of my singing and character because I am so inspired by them!

But if one really has understood the spirit of jazz, one has to allow it to grow in all parts of the world and let it to be adapted. In particular because improvisation is also nothing new. Improvisation exists in all cultures, sure not over such harmonic changes, but even the development of jazz owes many of its musical vocabulary to other cultures. So, one simply can’t ignore the ongoing cultural exchanges that happens in music. In fact, this fixation kills the spirit of the very thing one is trying to protect. It would therefore be great if we just allow this (musical) diversity to get into the spaces of jazz.

You are a multi-instrumentalist too, you're not only playing piano, I've seen you play the guitar. I've heard you play the berimbau, I don't know how many instruments you play. How has this happened? How did you arrive to play so many instruments? It's part of your talent, for sure. When did you learn to play each instrument you play in different moments of your music and concerts? How?

Golnar Shahyar: Yes, that was also a journey, to be a singer you somehow are always dependent on the people who are accompanying you. And if you do not know how to play instruments, you can't fully apply your ideas the way you want. And this was definitely one reason that I started to play the guitar because I wanted to have my own musical space.

Also playing an instrument in combination with the voice helps you to understand music in so many different levels! As much as I enjoy playing in bands - and I learn a lot from them - I also appreciate playing solo. Playing solo is a very important practice for me to grow further as a musician and to find out what I want to say. So, I started to play the guitar. And, it was also practical of course! I could carry it around. I was 28 when I started to practice guitar. I remember that I realised I never actually learned how to practice until then. You know, children practice much easier than adults, adults become more aware of the movements, they are overwhelmed with responsibilities and you know, their bodies are not as flexible anymore. The singing ... I never actually practiced it in a typical way.

The practice was always integrated in what I was doing or wanted to play at the time. But the guitar was different, it's not like the voice. I remember it felt like "I'm an angry lion in a cage and I have to learn all these movements. I was getting crazy”. The piano, as I said,
I played in Iran. But the classical repertoire and without this improvised approach.

I never experienced a musical piano practice free from the European classical repertoire. I started playing two years ago again after 18 years of break. And then I started playing my own stuff right away!

Sometime ago I listened to your concert at Porgy and Bess, and the way you were playing the piano was amazing, you were playing the guitar too...

Golnar Shahyar: Thank you! Musicians deal with the language of music, and what is the language of music? The fundaments of this language are intonation, the combination of notes, the way the colouring of those notes is and also the rhythm and ornamentations. If you really understand these fundaments and work on them you can apply them to (different) instruments.

Then what is left is the physical barrier, which hopefully you can overcome gradually by practicing. I cannot play so virtuose, like someone who has been playing all her life. I simply lack all these years of practice! But I managed to make it work musically in my own musical space. It also depends if you want to master a certain style which is not fully yours yet. My goal is to play my own compositions or compositions of others who have a space for my musical character. This approach works very well for me! I also believe that the aim of music making should not be focused on the limitations but rather the story you want to tell with whatever you already have. The more I grow as a person and musician the less I seek perfection in the speed of the notes and the complexity of their combinations. I rather seek perfection in what kind of a musical story I am telling myself and others. Is it sincere? Is it empathic? Is it unifying? Am I making sense emotionally in it? It would be great if one can play so fast and complex but right now that is definitely not my first priority.

© Ina Aydogan

Besides playing these instruments, you have been gifted with your beautiful voice. When you sing, do you have a preference for an instrument ?

Golnar Shahyar: Well, the person behind the instrument is more important for me. And if that person is musical, creative and has a story to tell - and is a professional risk taker on stage. I get inspired by that. But I love all instruments, to be honest.

Which one do you prefer playing yourself? Is it the piano? Is it the guitar you prefer when you are singing ?

Golnar Shahyar: Right now definitely I prefer the piano, but this is something that changes. I still love the guitar. I also love the trumpet, I am thinking to give that one a try at some point. So it's always changing. The interest and what you need always changes and...

Sort of an amazing Chet Baker...

Golnar Shahyar: Yes (laughs).

You're also a composer and mostly you are singing in Persian, which personally, I don't have a clue what you're singing about. Why do you choose to sing in Persian ?

Golnar Shahyar: Hmm. Well, Farsi is my mother tongue! I can express myself more authentically in Farsi. But also in English since I lived in Canada and that is part of my personality. But there's another reason why I sing in Farsi, and that is because in Iran there were not a lot of women in my generation who could produce and perform their work in Farsi. Things are however changing now. But I always thought I have this chance to work here in Europe and produce music and perform it, and it's kind of like paying my dues to my culture. Even though to me it's a strange thing to say "my culture" because I don't live there since 20 years!

What is your music about be it in English or Farsi ?

Golnar Shahyar: Mostly I get a lot of inspiration from nature, from people, from conflicts or traumas and things I have little power to change. I get a lot of inspiration from conflicts which I wish to resolve. And if I can’t do it, I express myself in music. I also get a lot of inspiration from people, relationships, authentic and deep connections. I had moments that I wrote complete songs with lyrics and everything within, like half an hour or an hour because I was so inspired by a particular encounter or event. So, yeah, these are my sources of inspiration.

And what is the message you convey through your fascinating music ?

Golnar Shahyar: I do not play to please. I play to be honest. Sometimes you have to take risks and be brave to be honest and authentic. Because sometimes it's not so easy to accept who we are. Sometimes the society also does not accept who we are. My music is a reflection of these ongoing struggles, resolutions, and conflicts in me and with my surrounding. I try my best to embrace all parts of my emotions, the “wanted” and “unwanted” parts.

To show vulnerability in music and on stage is scary, but I celebrate it as strength. This alone creates trust between me and the audience which is empowering. It reminds us that we are all humans, that perfection does not exist as we have built its image in our heads. That music, like life, is like a river with which you can float. To want to control it is to try to freeze the water which will kill you as well. To me music is a dance with the moments. I play curious and as if I can handle mistakes and can work myself around it - finding my way or a new way in it. This gives me a freedom and at the same time a sense of certainty about what I do on stage. The base of my performances are also like this. That's why I love performing. I try to practice authentic communication with my colleagues and with the audience.

I practice risk taking in the music. And I practice empathy! Empathy is a very, very important aspect of my music.

You are an Iranian, Canadian, Earthian artist, performing artist living in Austria. But also you live in Berlin...

Golnar Shahyar: It was before the pandemic, before Corona. We actually were planning to do that. But then Corona came. So things are a little bit slowing down. But Berlin is always in my mind and I try to be there as much as possible and I am happy that I have some projects there.

You are one of these great artists that come to fulfill spaces, empty spaces there, and bring all this richness of your culture, your ways of seeing life, your songs, etc. to these lands. Based on that Golnar, as a jazz singer, as a jazz musician and improviser, how do you see the Austrian jazz improvising arena at the moment ?

Golnar Shahyar: There's a lot going on here, which is great to see. You said "the spaces", or talked about "empty spaces" that I fill, I would call it differently. I would call the spaces that are already taken and full and that I have to make my own space within them. It took me and also my partner, a long time to be recognized and respected as specialists in our (musical) spaces.

Is your partner Mahan Mirarab ?

Golnar Shahyar: Yes, yes.

I admire his music...

Golnar Shahyar: Mahan is an amazing composer and also an amazing musician in a sense that he brings people together and he doesn't create hierarchies. And he also does not prioritise any music over the other. This is in my opinion a very democratic musical practice. This is also what I share with him. We share the same way of working moral, and also have the same musical approach. In Austria, it took us a long time to be recognised as specialists in our fields. There are really good music institutions in Austria for jazz. However, they train a quite homogeneous generation of musicians. By that, I mean mostly, of course, mainly male, like everywhere in the world, but also very white.

The more specialised you become in anything in Austria, the more homogeneous that community becomes. And that says a lot about the tolerance or the cultural tolerance of a country. In music it's not different. In jazz, improvised music, classical music, popular music, or anything that has a social status (capital) and a market, white people and culture are definitely dominant. So it took us a long time to be recognised as specialists in this white dominated community! Also generally the understanding of what jazz is, is very limited and very American-oriented, which I understand because jazz is originated from there. But as I said before, jazz, if you really understand the philosophy of it, is an approach in music to find new ways of expression and musical vocabulary. Jazz is risk taking, jazz is being curious, jazz is being your true and changing self, jazz is also resisting fixation. Jazz is a spirit. It's an approach to life, it's a philosophy, so you can’t fixate it into one region either! Specially in a globalised world!

But as an institutionalised and marketing concept, jazz has been in the past decades a musical space that has been fixated. This space is being reproduced and also consumed by the white, mostly middle class, intellectuals in Europe. But I hope that in the near future the community but also the understanding of the language of jazz increases. This will also make things more inclusive for people from other cultural backgrounds and as a result diversifies the audience as well.

Also from my perspective, the jazz musicians and the creative musicians in general are very much oriented towards the American culture. Whatever that comes from there has definitely a higher artistic value. Their look is always into that direction and not in all the other directions that could very well be as much inspiring. They even mostly ignore their own folklore music - and I am referring to Austria culture here. Since they have this dark history to deal with. But by running away from what caused those adversities, one can never get rid of the root causes and transform them.


Golnar Shahyar: Yes. So I wish that people, more musicians, start to become interested in music in general and in all parts of the world, not just One direction, which is actually the dominating culture of the world, the American culture.

You are the co-founder of We-shape, which is a platform aiming to advocate and promote fair pay and equity in the music industry and education focused in German speaking countries. Well, it's another realm, here the question: Why did you join this organization? What is the current situation for non-Austrian musicians performing their music in Austria and in Germany ? As you also live and work there, as you mentioned now the Corona stage changes things, but you live and work in Berlin too. What would you say if you haven't already said with what you just mentioned ?

Golnar Shahyar: Yes, we have to realise that music and culture are assets. So with each asset you can have prosperity. Music also has emotional and social capital and brings social recognition as well as a sense of belonging to the community. If you monopolise culture, you are monopolising all those things. So people who have other cultural assets, who do not fit in that defined cultural asset that is now the dominant one are going to have a hard time feeling represented in that community. Besides the fact that they can’t make a living with their specialty. So what I'm trying to do is to create awareness about this.

This exclusion or monopolising happens on all levels in German speaking countries. Education, curating, media and consumption. I've lived longer in Austria, so I can talk more about Austria. Germany, I think has worked on these kinds of issues a bit more than here. So these monopolisation of knowledge of music and exclusion mechanisms, happens first of all in the university and educational level. And that's where the wheel of this social hierarchy and social exclusion turns!

We cannot ignore how powerful these institutions could be. We have the same problem also in curating systems. For example, the definitions and classifications such as jazz, pop, classic, etc. should be reevaluated. They are very much Eurocentric. The curators should start to become aware of the other responsibility they have, because curating is more than finding the best players in the music boxes that they are used to. Curating is about creating spaces in which people feel welcomed, regardless of what religion, gender, race and ethnicity they belong to. We need another separate interview for this since the topic is complex and deep.

But going back to We-shape, I co-created it with two of my dear colleagues, Rojin Sharafi and Yalda Zamani, at the time of pandemic. I reached a point in 2020 that I simply could not work in an industry that has no understanding about these issues anymore. I became more active because of two things: I care about my dignity. I want to be treated with dignity and respect and as a specialist in my field and not merely as a faceless exotic object. And at the same time, I believe in the power of community empowerment. If I only think about myself, you know, in the long run I become weak myself, but if I empower my community, I will also be empowered. So it comes from these two beliefs that I have. That's why I started being more verbal about these issues. In a way I see these social engagements as part of my profession and social responsibility.

© Ina Aydogan

Very deep. What is your experience as an artist, as a musician, as a curator, as a composer living this ubiquitous dystopian stage we all go through, the Corona. Do you have something to say ?

Golnar Shahyar: For me personally, I'm talking from a personal level. Me and my partner Mahan, were chronically overwhelmed with work before the pandemic. So, when the pandemic came we had no choice but to rest, which was great (laughs). The fact that we had the luxury of choice to rest instead of keep on working shows our privileged position which I am fully aware of!

So it was positive in a way.

Golnar Shahyar: It was positive for us. I had time to sit down and reflect on our lives and career. There are many issues that need to be discussed in our profession so the pandemic gave me also time to network with like-minded people who are also looking to improve things.

In their normal setting, freelance performing artists simply cannot afford to spend time on anything except surviving in their fields. The career uncertainties, instabilities, as well as unfair und unsustainable payment systems and working conditions in the industry are functioning in a way to keep the artist barely surviving. Of course we can’t have time to invest on improving our working conditions since such advocacies are full time jobs. But in fact we should! We all need to educate ourselves on the social, political and economical aspects of our profession. We should be the ones to push for a more sustainable system. Otherwise, we keep on suffering! Again another topic for another interview hopefully. But, yeah, it (lockdown) was positive for us in this way.

In the realm of creation. Has this Corona time inspired you to compose new music ?

Golnar Shahyar: Sure! I mean, music does not knock regularly but it also never stops. Every time I learn something new, I usually compose something new. And I learned some new topics which gave me new musical ideas.

So there's music coming later on...

Golnar Shahyar: I'm recording my solo CD in December. And I find it very hard to decide which songs to have in the in the CD, because I I've been playing solo now for three or four years. I haven't recorded anything, so I have all these songs that I have to choose from.

In regards to those new projects, you are mentioning recordings, tours for the remaining part of this still mysterious 2021 and more mysterious 2022. Hard to say, I understand, but concretely do you have something on the pipeline ?

Golnar Shahyar: Well, as far as playing shows with my trios, no not really. This was a disadvantage for the Golnar & Mahan Trio. We were building up in Germany and we did a WOMEX show case in 2020. But everything stopped and our efforts were wasted. I hope we can pick up things again. This is definitely the negative aspect of pandemic for us and everyone else in the industry.

You have performed and recorded with so many projects and one that is really coming at the present and top level is the Trio you have with Mahan. Please, tell us a little bit about this project...

Golnar Shahyar: Yes. This band is very special to me - It's like a school for me. Why? Because in this band, we continue developing our vision, sound and even instruments. This kind of flexibility and adaptability is hard to find in musical collaborations. We all prioritise growth as musicians in this band and therefore our music improves and changes every year.

Changing is not something everyone prioritise. Some are fixated, usually in what they can do and in the vision they have of their music. This has also positive aspect since you become extremely specialised in that defined space you wish to perform at. But in this band we continue to grow constantly. I've been playing with Mahan since 10 years. We played with many different formations and now we are playing with Amir since 5 year, which is great!

Does Amir come from Iran ?

Golnar Shahyar: From Austria. He's Austrian, Egyptian-Austrian. Yes, he's a great player. Simply great! Also a great person. So we keep on growing together musically and also personally on stage and off stage. And also whenever I play with them, I'm sure I'm safe (musically). It's not only that we have our spaces in the band that each one respect, but also we support each other a lot to find that space. This combination is usually hard to find! Because some people are only sidemen or are only soloists, you know? But we are investing in this together! To have this combination in one musical ensemble is a gift! Since many years, we grow musically and personally besides each other, but as individuals.

So it's like, a dynamic relationship...

Golnar Shahyar: Yeah, it's like our relationship. We're also in a partnership relationship together. So it's a reflection of who we are as partners.

It's a challenge. And at the same time...

Golnar Shahyar: It's not easy at all. Sometimes we had really tough times. Nevertheless, we are still loving and playing music together. I think the fact that we trust each other as individuals that each wants the best for the other is essential in our partnership. We respect each other a lot also musically and give each other space to grow separately and support each other whenever necessary. In a way, Mahan's empowerment empowers me and vice versa.

Two creative minds together...

Golnar Shahyar: Yes (laughs).

Fantastic! What would you say as your message, your vision for jazz lovers and especially people like me who don't really understand what is writing a song, music, etc... ? And you teaching, sharing your knowledge, your passion for music or jazz improvisation, what would be your message for jazz students, musicians ?

Golnar Shahyar: Ok, learning never ends and learning does not happen in one space, in one time. So keep yourself open to learning. As musicians, we are first of all human beings. And if you are in touch with who you are and what you want to say, even if you have a limited musical vocabulary, you can transfer your message. So learning is not just the mechanical and the logical, but also the emotional, the social and the spiritual.

We have lots of sources of inspiration in our body. So get in contact with your body and with your voice and with all your emotions and never forget to practice with empathy and towards unity, because this is what makes us grow together. In fact, cherish music as a powerful tool to practice and amplify trust, solidarity and empathy in your community. Social recognition and prosperity (money) will then be the result of that practice. You want your musical practice to be sustainable. So you have to make sure you as a person remain healthy in the mind, body and heart and you have to make sure your community receives the same chances. I believe, this is the only way we could be truly happy as humans!

And, what is better than celebrating life through this amazing gift we have, the music!

© Rene Löffler

When is your solo album coming out, when will it be launched ?

Golnar Shahyar: Well, hopefully in Spring! Because I'm recording in the beginning of December. And until I gather everything together, I think it's going to take like three, four months. It will be a self release and I am planning to gather a competent team for its promotion, booking, etc. So, if anybody is interested, please drop me a line. It will be an adventure to which I am very much looking forward.

Thanks for talking to me...

Golnar Shahyar: It was a plaesure. Thank you so much.

Text © Federico Garcia (Jueves de Jazz)  -  photos © Ina Aydogan / Rene Löffler


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Silvère Mansis
(10.9.1944 - 22.4.2018)
foto © Dirck Brysse

Rik Bevernage
(19.4.1954 - 6.3.2018)
foto © Stefe Jiroflée

Philippe Schoonbrood
foto © Dominique Houcmant

Claude Loxhay
(18/02/1947 – 02/11/2023)
foto © Marie Gilon

Special thanks to our photographers:

Petra Beckers
Ron Beenen
Annie Boedt
Klaas Boelen
Henning Bolte

Serge Braem
Cedric Craps
Christian Deblanc
Philippe De Cleen
Paul De Cloedt
Cindy De Kuyper

Koen Deleu
Ferdinand Dupuis-Panther
Anne Fishburn
Federico Garcia
Robert Hansenne
Serge Heimlich
Dominique Houcmant
Stefe Jiroflée
Herman Klaassen
Philippe Klein

Jos L. Knaepen
Tom Leentjes
Hugo Lefèvre

Jacky Lepage
Olivier Lestoquoit
Eric Malfait
Simas Martinonis
Nina Contini Melis
Anne Panther
Jean-Jacques Pussiau
Arnold Reyngoudt
Jean Schoubs
Willy Schuyten

Frank Tafuri
Jean-Pierre Tillaert
Tom Vanbesien
Jef Vandebroek
Geert Vandepoele
Guy Van de Poel
Cees van de Ven
Donata van de Ven
Harry van Kesteren
Geert Vanoverschelde
Roger Vantilt
Patrick Van Vlerken
Marie-Anne Ver Eecke
Karine Vergauwen
Frank Verlinden

Jan Vernieuwe
Anders Vranken
Didier Wagner

and to our writers:

Mischa Andriessen
Robin Arends
Marleen Arnouts
Werner Barth
José Bedeur
Henning Bolte
Erik Carrette
Danny De Bock
Denis Desassis
Pierre Dulieu
Ferdinand Dupuis-Panther
Federico Garcia
Paul Godderis
Stephen Godsall
Jean-Pierre Goffin
Claudy Jalet
Bernard Lefèvre
Mathilde Löffler
Claude Loxhay
Ieva Pakalniškytė
Anne Panther
Etienne Payen
Jacques Prouvost
Yves « JB » Tassin
Herman te Loo
Eric Therer
Georges Tonla Briquet
Henri Vandenberghe
Iwein Van Malderen
Jan Van Stichel
Olivier Verhelst