As a western-trained classical musician who grew up in a musical household filled with traditional Persian music, I have a special place in my heart for any artist who draws upon their own heritage while creating a relevant voice in our increasingly complex and plural world. Iranian-born composer Sahba Aminikia is just that kind of artist.
In the middle of rehearsals for the 10 works that Aminikia composed, arranged and presented at last month’s annual Kronos Festival, airports across the country were rocked by chaos and protests in response to President Trump’s travel ban against refugees and visa- and green card-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries — including Aminikia’s own home country of Iran. Aminikia, a refugee himself, came to the United States in 2006 to study music, a pursuit inconceivable in Iran given his Baha’i faith. (One of Iran’s religious minority groups, the Baha’i face serious discrimination and are deprived of basic human rights, including the right to education.).