" The music of Iranian-American composer Sahba Aminikia is analogous to water. Variably complex or simple, it flows in gentle, naturally syncopated rhythms and structures reminiscent of light rain falling amid sunshine on a rooftop in one work, while another piece’s metronomic regularity is like a steadily dripping faucet. A third piece arrives fully orchestrated with the torrential swoosh of a downpour."
- SF Classical Voice
“an artist singularly equipped to provide a soundtrack to these unsettling times”
- San Francisco Chronicle
Born in post-revolutionary wartime in Iran, Aminikia was raised during a newly configured democracy that evolved from mass-executions, war, and violence into a society that—through the use of internet and technology—challenges the current political and social infrastructure. Highly influenced by the poetry of Hafiz, Rumi, and Saadi, as well as traditional, classical and jazz music and the albums of Pink Floyd, Beatles, and Queen, Aminikia cites music to be an immersive, transcendent, yet visceral human experience. He is curious about the duality in existence, and musically explores subjects that confront the pursuit of enlightenment amid the darkness. A conscientious soul, due to his upbringing, he attempts at finding a common understanding of communication and dialogue through music. And, as a result, throughout his career, he has composed pieces that express the inevitability and triumph of hope.
Today, Aminikia collaborates with other artists to create and compose meaningful work. He has been trained in musical composition under Iranian pianists Nikan Milani, Safa Shahidi, and perhaps most influenced by work with his first classical teacher, Mehran Rouhani, a post-graduate of Rthe oyal Academy of Music and a former student of Sir Michael Tippett. He later relocated to Russia, where he studied at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory under Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko—a post-graduate student of Dimitri Shostakovich. He received his Bachelor of Music and his Master of Music with honors from San Francisco Conservatory of Music under David Garner and David Conte where he was the proud recipient of Phyllis Wattis Foundation scholarship. He has also received individual life and music lessons from David Harrington, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Conrad Susa, Luciano Chessa, John Corigliano, and Oswaldo Golijov.
Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle's has referred to Aminikia as “an artist singularly equipped to provide a soundtrack to these unsettling times.” His musical pieces have been widely performed in Uthe nited States, Canada, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Italy, Poland, China, Greece, Turkey ,and Israel and at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Le Poisson Rouge, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF Exploratorium, SFJAZZ ,and Saint Anne's Warehouse. Aminikia’s compositions have been commissioned by theatre troops, contemporary classical ensembles, film scores, Persian traditional music groups as well as jazz bands including Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Symphony Parnassus, San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Mobius Trio, Delphi Trio, and Living Earth Show. His third string quartet
"A Threnody for Those Who Remain" (2010) ,commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Kronos Performing Arts Association, was described by Financial Times as “An experience not to be easily forgotten”. And similarly, his widely known “Tar o Pood” (Warp and Weft)—commissioned by Nasrin Marzban for Kronos Quartet—was the second place recipient of the American Prize 2015 in composition, a professional chamber music category. Aminikia has recently been the artist-in-residence at Kronos Festival 2017, an annual festival held by lthe egendary Kronos Quartet at San Francisco SFJAZZ throughout which ten of his works including four new pieces were performed. His most recent piece for the same festival was a collaboration between the Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Girls Chorus, and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music which resulted in a 20-minute choral piece named "Music of Spheres". Aminikia recently wrote the music for "Sea Prayer", a VR experience by Guardian based on a story by acclaimed author, Khalid Hosseini , which was performed by Kronos Quartet and British multi-instrumentalist, David Coulter
Sahba is the founder and the artistic director of the Flying Carpet Children Festival which occurs yearly in the city of Mardin, Turkey, near the border of Syria, serving more than 5000 children suffering from the trauma of the war of Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish, and Turkish origin. To learn more about Flying Carpet Children Music Festival please click below:
Listen to Sahba On PRI.org:
from my own mouth:
The dichotomy between light and dark, to me, is clear; yet, through music, I aim to find the moment where the former emerges. Growing in a newly born democracy amid war and in the aftermath of a revolution, I, along with many in my generation, experienced a tumultuous childhood. We witnessed the evolution of a grassroots movement: from mass-executions, war, and violence into a society where internet and social media continues to alter the political and social infrastructure. I was born and raised in Tehran, where the traditions of the past and the most progressive influences of the region are constantly in a state of struggle. Living in such a conflict, I needed to define my own identity, dismissing a wide variety of the choices that were already made for me and my peers.
In the Iran of 1980s, music was completely banned from media and live events. It was only permissible in public in the format of revolutionary chants and Quran recitations. Later on, in the late 1980s, Persian traditional music and western classical music were added to this list. Moreover. women have always been banned from singing in public, starting with the Islamic revolution and with the downfall of the Shah in 1979. Later, from the very early days that I started living outside of Iran, I realized that being brought up in such circumstances had given me a hopeful outlook.
Life in Tehran taught me to appreciate hardship and beauty at the same time, and this is something that, due to heavy media propaganda, is mainly obscured in Western minds. I was brought up with the poetry of Hafiz, Rumi, and Saadi, and with Persian classical music, but was also largely exposed to the music of Pink Floyd, Beatles, Queen, and various jazz musicians. This conflict between the morals of a theocracy and Western cultural imports also exists in my mind, and I see it as a life process towards finding a common ground for communication and dialogue in my music.
I respect music as a medium of communication, enabling me to share my experiences with audiences of different backgrounds. Recognizing hope and beauty in the most horrific human experiences, I often aim to include people of different backgrounds in a process that sympathetically understands what our fellow humans endure. The result has the potential to further develop a particular sensitivity in human beings which enables us to immerse in our fellow humans’ griefs and joys, considering them our own. Saadi Shirazi, the 13th-century Persian poet, depicts this mind-set marvelously:
"Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain.”