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Iranian musician makes his Music Week debut in Truro


Mohammad Sahraei and Kim Barlow offered a medley of Atlantic folk songs – with some Persian instrumentals thrown in

TRURO, N.S. —

The gentle sounds of a Persian setar filled the hall for the first time ever at Nova Scotia Music Week.

Enter Mohammad Sahraei, a musician from Iran who teamed up with folk singers Kim Barlow and Meagan Osburn, fusing together Nova Scotian and Iranian sounds. Their Nov. 9 show in Truro was Sahraei’s first-ever NSMW performance.

“Now I’m excited for the next show,” said Sahraei, who now lives in Halifax. “They really love it, I can see it in their eyes and hearts.”

Sahraei used a stringed tar and setar for his NSMW show, playing an instrumental solo before Barlow and Osburn joined him onstage. He then switched to the tombak, a goblet drum played by hand, smaller but somewhat similar to the African djembe. His fourth instrument was the daf, a large frame drum used as a percussion instrument.

As Sahraei switched between instruments, Barlow played a banjo and sang together with Osburn. The trio performed traditional Nova Scotian and original songs as Sahraei backed them up.

“Mohammad is very adaptable – he has to dial it back a bit because the music I use has seven modes, whereas with Persian music there are 52,” said Barlow.

It was almost by accident that Sahraei and Barlow found each other. They met at a kitchen party-themed show run by Barlow in Canning over the summer.

Barlow was intrigued by Sahraei’s performance of Iranian folk music.

As it turned out, they had both studied ethnomusicology, music in its social and cultural context, on opposite sides of the world.

“We’re music nerds,” joked Barlow to laughs from her audience.

Sahraei wants to take his knowledge to the next level by opening Canada’s first-ever music museum in Nova Scotia. Having visited 26 countries, he wants to display instruments from India, China and elsewhere.

Both Barlow and Sahraei hope music can be a way to build bridges between Iranian and Canadian people, even as western governments remain at odds with Iran.

For Sahraei, music is an “international language,” to express emotions and thoughts, a point echoed by Barlow.

“If you’re able to think outside the box, you can find ways to make sounds together,” said Barlow. “People are just people and we can find ways to communicate.”

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