Haale: Sufi Rock

Photos by Mete Ozeren

In Spring 2008, I have come together with an amiable musician in New York City. We have made a pleasant interview with Haale (bio here, MySpace) in a sunny day at Union Square Park. The day was brilliant, she was great and everything was almost perfect–except for the little kids playing at the sand pool behind us, who were screaming their asses off with enjoyment.

And in another day we have made a photo shoot with Mete Ozeren, which was at an old church in Harlem that was turned into a collective gathering place and a yoga-pilates house by a French real estate agent and owner of the place.

Old Church

Haale is an influential musician in a music world, which is constantly making everything sound and look the same. She quotes from Rumi, Omar Khayyám and such great poets in her songs; moreover she utilizes Oriental instruments and melodies in her music. That’s why I call it Sufi Rock. I have first heard her sing at Drom, an international venue on Avenue A, where she sang songs from her new album (new by then).

Here are some photos of that shoot and the interview that we have done for Arena Magazine.

Mete Ozeren and Haale

I know that you have a Persian background. Can you tell me a little about your family?

My family is a hundred percent Iranian. My parents came to the US in 1972, before the revolution. They were students at Tehran Medical School by that time, so they cam here with the intention to get more training. Once they got here my sister and I was born, then the revolution happened and they didn’t want to go back. So, they stayed and the first time they went back was 7 years ago. They lived long years here missing their land and people; it was difficult for them here. They are both doctors and very busy all the time, which, I think, helped them to avoid homesickness that they have inside. My family is interested in various art forms such as poetry, where I got my interest in Rumi and Hafez, painting, literature, music and so on, but they wanted me to be a doctor like them, despite their interest in art.

How would you define your music in the light of all these multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary influence in your life?

I think my music is expressing my internal journey, my aesthetic preferences—I am putting myself out there, my lyrics are a lot about my perception of the change that I am going through, my internal landscape. Basically, I play with a hand percussionist; I love percussions because—especially the instruments that we use, dumbek, def and such—they have a much earthy sound. So, this part of my music is very affective for me, which gets the listeners and me into a sort of trance. Then, there is a cellist in my band, who handles a variety of string instruments and there is me: I am singing and playing guitar. I am singing in English and Persian, representing what I am and the bridges within me between culture and another culture. I think I had this in me all the time, looking for something these two different cultures within me can exist harmoniously with each other, that’s how I see music: my playground of expressing that harmony.


What are the reactions from your audience and listeners, as you are also building a bridge to them through music?

There is a lot of excitement. As I have mentioned, there is a trance element in music, which hypnotizes and invites them into it. And they enjoy being in that stage, which is not always happy but also not so sad: an Eastern feeling.

Is being Oriental and sophisticated, as most of the music and lyrics in mainstream music do not deal with very sophisticated feelings, a challenge for you to be successful in the music world?

If I was doing something pop, something dealing with simpler things, maybe I could have been played more on the radio. Also, when they do play my records, they cannot say my name correctly—that’s actually why I will get a band name soon—and I don’t blame them, my name is quite foreign for them. On the other hand, this music industry is not what it used to be 30-40 years ago, when something new, innovative, creative bold and courageous was what people listened to and what sold. There is nobody coming out like Jimmy Hendrix, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and musicians like them, who were pioneers. And the music industry was looking for those pioneers. Now, if something sells, then everything else becomes similar to what sells. It’s an imitation; a derivative replica. Each day, the music becomes more dull and inauthentic, they aren’t searching for anymore, they are bending what they have into whatever shape that it sells. For me, it’s about making the music that I want to make, as long as I am happy and believe in myself to be an honest artist, I don’t really care about being in a good position in the music industry. I will not compromise my art for that.


You have quotations from Rumi, Hafez and Kurt Vonnegut in your lyrics. Do these intellectual lyrics appeal to a mainstream music consumer?

There are people, who enjoy music as art not as a consumer good to entertain you for sometime.

Who are your musical influences?

I love Nina Simone. Her voice is so colorful, such as a painter coloring emotions and feelings.


What do you think of the elections? Will Obama win and if he does, will he really change things?

H: I think Obama will win; I really like him a lot. He is kind and sincere and when he talks he is so natural. I look at him and think to myself: he is a human being, not a cold machine like others. I think he will win and he will change things. I don’t’ know how much he will change, because we all know that it’s not the president, who controls the whole power, there are other factors like corporations, lobbies and such. So, we will see.

(lifeproof‘s note: We are seeing now.)

I see things that are not there--yet.

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