June 22, 2006 § Leave a Comment
For Bronx-born Iranian singer/songwriter Haale, the two simultaneous roads on her musical journey — Persian and American — have become successfully merged. The melding of the two styles has been years in the making, but the slow work of perfecting the vision has begun to pay off for the performer.
“We’re in a deep period of exploration,” said Haale. “The last show we did, I said ‘We got it! We finally got it!’ It was two percussionists who were really rocking it and two string players and an electric guitar with a lot of ambient electronica sounds and then a laptop, so we had all the elements. It was kind of Bedouin desert psychedelic rocking with a thread of electronica jam and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Haale’s sound has changed since she began to pursue music seriously, going through all kinds of mutations in order to get the mix of influences just right.
“For awhile, I was just doing the traditional drum kit, electric bass, electric guitar thing,” said Haale, “but then I thought ‘Why am I imposing this standard rock quartet thing on this music?’ It didn’t make any sense.”
Haale decided to accentuate what was unique about the sound, which meant going full on with the percussive quality of the music. It was a far cry from how she started out, with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell as her main influences.
“I started totally in folk music, singing in English,” said Haale, “then I went all the way to the other side and was just doing Persian and got a sitar and learned how to play and then I started bringing in a little English. It’s taken awhile to find my place in the spectrum between the two. I like it 50/50.”
This approach mirrors her childhood experience of growing up in America, yet having strong cultural ties to her parents’ native country of Iran. Her parents were both doctors who came to the United States in 1974, before the revolution, and Haale spent her childhood moving around the East Coast, but the culture of Persia was always traveling with the household.
“Iranians are really involved in poetry, even little kids,” said Haale. “If you go to Iran now, they can recite poems — long poems — it’s really just part of daily life in a lot of families, in my family it was. They hold monthly poetry readings with their friends. I was always hearing the music and the poetry.”
As Haale explains it, these were the sounds coming in one ear, while the other was hearing Jimi Hendrix. It all came together one night in a sixth-grade production of “Cats.”
“I was very excited, I sang ‘Memories,’” said Haale, “and everyone was shocked because I was so tiny and it was like ‘Where is this big voice coming from?’ I was certain at that moment that I wanted to be a singer, there was no question in my mind, but first-generation immigrant parents, they don’t usually want their kids to be singers.”
It wasn’t until college that Haale began to pursue her dream — the birthday gift of a guitar got her started. Initially singing in English, Haale began to incorporate the culture she had grown up in more and more — and as she did, the audiences responded. Finding the common ground between Hendrix and Persian sounds became her central musical goal.
“I like being influenced by these different forms of music that meet in the same realm of intensity,” said Haale, “or their intersection is in their level of fire. I love rock and blues and psychedelic and I think they have so much in common with the Persian tradition of chanting endless trance music, there’s so much there that intersects.”
Haale began to incorporate Persian poetry into her music, particularly that of Rumi, and also found a kindred creative spirit in percussionist Dougie Bowne. Bowne got his start playing for Iggy Pop and was a member of the Lounge Lizards. Together, he and Haale are constantly recording, playing, and perfecting and the audience has taken note, as an encounter at a recent show proves to Haale.
“This woman said ‘Honey, you really aroused us,’” said Haale. “She just wanted to get up and dance and jump around. It was just that feeling of release, catharsis, all this drumming and the trance aspect of the music. It definitely has a positive impact on people and gives people a sense of beauty of that part of the world, of culture in that part of the world.”