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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Arab Spring Inspires Composer Jamshied Sharifi

Composer Jamshied Sharifi (left) with Yungchen Lhamo and Simone Haggiag in Fes, Morocco. (Courtesy Jamshied Sharifi)

The self-immolation of a man in Tunisia a little over a year ago inspired what is now called the Arab Spring.

And the ongoing wave of protests and demonstrations by tens of thousands of people in the Arab World has also inspired music, from “Rayes Le Bled” by the Tunisian rapper El General, to “Watani Ana” by the Syrian composer Malek Jandali.

Now a western composer has tried his hand at turning this ongoing piece of history into music.

Born to an Iranian father and an American mother, Jamshied Sharifi makes a living producing records and writing film scores.

Assignment From MIT

Last year Sharifi received a very different assignment: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked him to write an original work that would reflect the struggles for freedom across the Middle East.

He told Here & Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer that he started by reading about the Arab Spring and listening to Arabic music.

“I wanted to get as much of it in my head as possible,” he said. “I started looking for in both the stories and the music, places where I could connect the two.”

Capturing Uncertainty In Music

Sharifi said he tried to capture the uncertainty of the revolutions, particularly in his composition’s final movement.

“We don’t know how it’s going to end up, and the third movement ends with a resolution that’s not quite a resolution,” he said.

“There is a certain amount of triumph and satisfaction but there’s also a feeling in the music that we’re not done.”

His piece, “The Awakening,” will debut at MIT on March 17.

Hear all three movements of “The Awakening,” played in a practice session by the MIT Wind Ensemble:


  • Jamshied Sharifi, composer

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