Best Artist Award Winner
Zan (Glitterbeat Records)
Liraz Charhi made her album Zan under clandestine conditions. When she was interviewed by Jane Cornwell for the cover feature of the Jan/Feb 2021 issue, a story emerged of ‘hidden identities. Encrypted files. Midnight trysts between Tel Aviv and Tehran, no questions asked, no faces shown.’ Operating from her home in Israel, where her Jewish-Iranian family have been based since the 70s, she was in covert correspondence with Iranian musicians whose recordings were then smuggled out of the country and to which were added sharp electro beats and Liraz’s own vocals in Farsi, for this set of songs paying tribute to the women of Iran, from child brides to freedom fighters. Zan is Persian for ‘women.’
Her secret collaborators – many of them women – included Iranian percussionists, string players and wind instrumentalists. All of them had to remain anonymous. “These musicians are my brothers and sisters, but our countries are enemies. If they were caught, they would be jailed,” she explained. Some took fright and dropped out, fearing they might be unmasked. Those who were brave enough to stay on board helped Liraz to create a wonderfully audacious album full of passion, urgency and a real sense of danger. (Read the full article)
Born in 1978, Liraz first found fame in Israel as an actress. By 2010 she had made it all the way to Hollywood, starring in films with the likes of Sean Penn and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was in Los Angeles that she rediscovered her Iranian roots, hanging out with the large ex-pat Iranian population in the city’s immigrant neighbourhood known as ‘Tehrangeles’ or ‘Little Persia’. She immersed herself in Iranian music and culture and on returning to Israel decided that she would in future sing only in Farsi.
She started writing songs inspired by Iranian music of the pre-revolutionary era, fusing ethnic instruments with Western rock and pop and contemporary electronic styles. The journey began on the 2018 album Naz and two years later she delved even deeper into the rich heritage of Persian music on Zan (a Top of the World review in the December 2020 issue, #163), with its expansive repertoire ranging from musical settings of Rumi poems and traditional lullabies to banging dance floor fillers. And it is all the more potent thanks to the secret input of her unnamed Iranian collaborators. Nigel Williamson