Flamenco whirling

Can you imagine andalusian rhytms connected with oriental melody? Do you like reading about unique people? I am bringing an interesting interview with iranian composer, guitarist and singer, Shahab Tolouie. Shahab Tolouie created bands Persepolis, Pena Flamenca, Arionas, etc., plays in clubs and teached at AMU (the Academy of Music of Prague). He studied in Spain, plays for international audience at concerts and festivals. For now, he is living in the Czech Republic. You could have seen him at Flamenko Festivali on 27th September 2010 in Ankara, Turkey (www.flamenkofest.com). Next year hopefully we can enjoy his music again in Turkey, as he has great response from Turks all over the world and is in search for suitable venues in Istanbul, Izmir and other cities.

Shahab Tolouie, belongs to the group of musicians who derive inspiration from the traditional music of their native lands. His unique musical style, which is classified as world fusion, and called by him ‘EthnoFlamenco’ or ‘Persian/Flamenco fusion’, combines traditional Persian music with traditional Spanish flamenco and elements of jazz. All the lyrics are based on the original words of the greatest mystical poets of all time, from ‘The Book of Kings’ of Ferdousi, unique Ghazals of Hafez, and sage Moulana Rumi.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

                                                         Lao Tzu

Changing things you know for places and culture you do not know and still being relaxed…is it kind of „inner dervish“ attitude towards difficulties?

When you are living in and parallel to what you love, you’re living for it and you enjoy it. Then the difficulties to you are just some stages to reach your goal. I like your word „inner Dervish“… it is a good metaphor. I believe it exists inside each of us and calls us to live free like a bird and not to be bound in the circle of daily repetitions. We are alive and the only thing that remains for us when we look back to our life, is whether we have done what we liked or not. No matter how much you make, what you do, or where you live… I am doing what I have always loved since I was a child. Maybe this could be the reason I look relaxed to people.

What is your favourite poem by Rumi? If it is not translatable, pleas, tell us the meaning.

My favorites are each single of his poems, it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite when we talk about life and philosophy and improvements. These are the things you find in each word of this great master of peotry , but because I am to answer, then there’s one poem which I sang on my album „Tango Perso“ (2009) in compas of a „Soleares“ flamenco and because of this I named it „Solea por poeta Persa“. It is really hard to translate because the meaning of Mawlana’s poems in my opinion are greater than words, but it probably has to be translated as this:

If you see me madly drunk,

Unlike you, it’s not the wine.

It’s not for my fame or my shame,

It’s not for joy, scent, or colours.

I am not one of you

I am protected from

These slings and aroows by God…

You are beautiful,

Your soul cage is made

Of a strong wood,

And my tongue is fire.


What have you learned about Czech audience so far? We definitively consume music at concerts in different way…But I mean, is there anyone coming to you second, third time… and not feeling open enough to cry or to aplaud immediatelly? Do you consider Czechs as warm harted?

I don’t believe there is any cold hearted nation out there, the only matter is the way of comunication and it varies from place to place. I myself never have faced a single problem, neither in Czech nor all other places i’ve lived in. Probably that’s because before I get to a new place, I try to study their behaviour, habbits,  rights and wrongs. And most of all their language. Because that’s the most important tool for comunication. It’s very important to respect and adapt yourself to the system you live in. About Czech culture something has attracted me so much and that‘s a sort of a „Black humour“ which is very specifically Czech, and this type of humor and to say better, this „Franz Kafka“ is very close to me. Perhaps that’s the reason why I feel comfortable in this sytem and maybe that’s the reason I can go to any pub and easily chat with the people I see for the first time.

About your other question, Czech audience are intelligent and they like good music and what fascinates me is the young generation which is amazingly interested in finding new genres and new non-commercial music. That’s why there are many people coming to my concerts since my very first years in Czech. Some of them even have bought books of Hafez Shiraz, Mawlana Rumi or Ferdousi. They come often to discuss about them and their poems after my concerts. Some even have learned some Persian words and salut me in Persian or ask about my health. I receive kind words by email from all over the world from Japan, Russia,  India,  Turkey,  United States,  Chile… etc anywhere on our small round planet. Sometimes it makes me wonder how music is able to connect people.

Decribe us, please, favourite places in your homecountry. What kind of emotions do you have by imaging iranian sun and sky colours?

I was born in north of Iran by the Caspian sea, I grew up on the seaside. No other imagination can give me more pleasure than the sun and salty water, fishermen and markets full of caviar and fish with those lovely people. I fly through those markets when I play or write music.

When I am saying: „Persian culture“, what does it mean for you personnaly?

There are somethings that are so close to us that we don’t think about them.. I must confess after reading your question I started to think, what Persian culture mean to me personally? And I answered: to me it means anything that goes around my heart and body into my blood. The Caspian sea, my city Shahsavar, Persian Gulf, Isfahan, taghe bostan, Hafez, haft sin, Persepolis, Shiraz, Tabriz, Ziggurat, Nouruz, Ferdousi, Damavand… this list is really long to write all.

Was it hard to reach „Nivel Alto“ (flamenco degree)?

When love is the goal. Nothing is difficult…

Sure you are trying to reach „next levels“? What are they like?

One of the greatest challenges is to introduce the beauty and richness of Persian culture as any other culture to the world. Obviousely people of Iran have been kept away for some decades from presenting the reality of their art and feeling to others. It was the time to show the Iranian music and unite it to the world by making a fusion of Persian and European music. This became one of my main goals and what I am doing now. My fusion has luckily gained a very good reaction by the audience and the media, and this has encouraged me to start to realize my new projects with more certainty.

These days I am working on various projects with my friends. One of them (as I call) the „Persian Opera“ is based on the „Book of Kings“ of Ferdousi. It is about life and battles of ancient Persian kings. The project is based on my Guitar and Setar compositions and my Quartet band which is accompained by orchestra. There I‘ll sing the original words of Ferdousi in Persian while an opera singer sings the translations of the poems. I have kept my guitar lines and the singing very expressive and dynamic as their life was. Orchestrations will be done by my very good friend „Dr. Farzad Goodarzi“.

There’s also a bit more chamber like album to be recorded, based on my solo Guitar and Setar inspired by Lullabies from different regions of Iran. because I believe that lullabies are some of the oldest melodies still remaining and obviousely slowly going to be forgotten. I try to revive atleast some of them and present it in a new form to the audience.

Also  the other album is with my Quartet and will be recorded and hopefully released by the first half of 2011.

Who is your favourite writer and painter?

As I do not bound myself into a frame in music, and listen to and enjoy the music without border. The same about poetry and painting or cinema or whatever else… I listen to, I watch and I read any form of art that inspires me. Anything that makes me calm and sounds good. I am not into any specific genre or style. My favorites are all artists that gave me a piece of themselves. What matters to me is the thought behind the art and not the physical thing. It can be a single tone or an unknown painter with a single red line, or can be Michelangelo and his famous masterpieces.

When the music does not need any language, why do we not understand each other as human beings? Is it some kind of hell inside of each of us? I feel you do a lot about this, you are touching hearts and changing „people´s aura colour“…

Thanks for your kind words. It is an undescribable pleasure and honor for me. Even if my music could change people’s aura colour, I myself wouldn’t know about it. It’s been my dream to be able to write a music that is close to people’s heart. How much I’ve succeed? People are the judge…


Thank you very much and wish you following your „world fusion“ path with happiness.

I also wish you and everyone health and new inspirations in life.

Text: Hana Moualla

Photos: Shahab Tolouie

Shahab´s Official Web Site: http://www.shahab-tolouie.com/main.html


Authorised, free, printed, Lale magazine, winter edition, 2010, page 68-69.


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