Isolated musicians take to the rooftops

Ebrahim Noroozi

TEHRAN (AP) – On the rooftop terrace of her Tehran apartment building, 28-year-old Mojgan Hos-seini’s fingers pluck the strings of her qanun, an ancient stringed instrument, bringing life to an Iranian capital stilled by the coronavirus.

With performance halls closed and many isolated in their homes as a result of the Mideast’s worst virus outbreak, Hosseini and other Iranian musicians now find performance spaces where they can. That includes rooftops dotted with water tanks and littered with debris, empty front porches and opened apartment windows. Their music floats down on others stuck in their homes, fearful of the COVID-19 illness the virus brings.

Their impromptu concerts draw applause and offer hope to their listeners, even as public performances still draw scrutiny in the country. “We’re not frontline medical workers, hospital custo-dians, or grocery workers, but I think many musicians – myself inc-luded – have felt an obligation to offer our services of comfort and entertainment in these trying times,” said Arif Mirbaghi, who played the double bass in his front yard.

Iran has been hard-hit by the virus with more than 76,000 confirmed cases, including more than 4,700 fatalities.

Musicians long have been a mainstay in Iranian life, dating back to the ancient Persian empires. Legend has it that King Jamshid, the fourth king of the Pishdadian Dynasty, known as the “king of the world”, created music with a four-stringed lyra. Over time, Western influence brought with it the symphonies of Europe. Initially, pop and Western-influenced music all but disappeared. Classical music slowly re-emerged in the 1990s and has become increasingly popular.

Among those taking to the rooftops are female musicians like 36-year-old composer and tar player Midya Farajnejad. (A tar is a long-necked stringed instrument).

“It is not easy for me to stay at home and not be on stage or in studio during quarantine, so I… play tar on the roof, to share my emotions with the neighbours,” Farajnejad said during a lull in one recent session.

A musician plays accordion on the roof of his home in Tehran. PHOTOS: AP
A woman plays Qanun on the roof of her home during mandatory isolation in Tehran