Sahba Aminikia Tells Timeless Stories Through Music

Lou Fancher on April 25, 2021



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.

Bearing the imprint of his classical music training and vastly diverse source material — Persian poetry and traditional music, European and Western classical music, jazz, the music of Pink Floyd, Beatles, Queen, and many other contemporary and world music ensembles — overall the San Francisco-based musician’s work serves up a baseline elixir infused with multiple flavors. Lately, his compositional output includes works featuring crowd-sourced human voices obtained through social media. These works transform the sound of young voices reproducing bird calls or the (forbidden) singing of Iranian women or the chanting of the name of a political prisoner into nearly overwhelming tsunamis of pain and wave-like declarations of liberation and beauty.

Aminikia’s music has been widely performed and he has had a long and productive relationship with the Kronos Quartet. During a conversation about composing, the talk turns to the Flying Carpet Children Music Festival of which he is founder/director. In a comment that might surprise his followers, he says, “I can see myself giving up music one day, but I can’t see myself giving up the children I work with. My life energy is inspired by the energy of those children. It keeps me going. It’s such powerful emotion and force that children carry.”


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