Mosque at night, Isfahan, Iran

By Elizabeth Doyle

Rastak —   This is a group of Iranians who’ve come together from all corners of their country to revive old Persian music, with the goal of putting it out there in a brand new way. They have some extremely experienced musicians among them, deeply educated in their craft, and they did a lot of research to uncover all of these old songs.  Their hope is that they can play them in a way that will earn a global audience, and help people from all over the world appreciate this magical, musical tradition.  It certainly worked on me! Interesting to note: musical instruments have been found in modern-day Iran, dating back to nearly 1000 BC.  Alexander the Great is said to have been mesmerized by the sounds of Persia.

An impala in south Africa

Miriam Makeba – She was a refugee from South Africa, and soon became known worldwide as Mother Africa. She grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. Shortly after she began to sing, an Apartheid law was passed, forbidding people with her complexion to sing in any urban public hall. Fortunately, she was discovered by a foreigner who was visiting her country. She starred in a movie for him, and then went worldwide on a tour. As punishment, the South African government forbade her to return for her mother’s funeral.  In fact, she wasn’t allowed to come home until Apartheid fell.  That took decades! But in the meantime, she became an international sensation, and was the first African woman to win a Grammy.  As well as singing some songs for fun, she also sang about the horrors of life back home. And later in life, she sang healing and divination songs she’d learned from her mother as a child.  Miriam Makeba only recently passed away. Here she was:

 

View from Koli Mountain National Park, Finland

Varttina — What’s Finnish folk music? I didn’t know, either.  In fact, I don’t think very many people knew. Which may be part of why this band was formed. For many people, this is their first glimpse into the native music of Finland – the songs these Scandinavian villages have been singing for centuries. (It appears that humans have been living in Finland since at least 8500 BC, and probably longer.) The song topics span everything from young men who are thought to be poor village hunters finally proving everyone wrong, to women mourning that they weren’t born more physically handsome, but knowing that a spirit on the other side will love them for who they are.  The songs show an interesting glimpse into the concerns and lifestyle of these old villages. You can really imagine what life was like for generations and generations of people who called these pale-skied lands their home. Some of the songs contain the group’s original lyrics placed on top of the traditional tunes, while others do the exact opposite, etc. But in this song, both the lyrics and the tune are ancient: Click here.

Photos: 

Top photo: Jackmalipan / Dreamstime.com / A mosque at night, Isfahan, Iran

Second photo: Istinia Photography / Dreamstime.com / An impala in south Africa

Third photos: Stocksnapper / Dreamstime.com / View from Koli Mountain National Park Finland