guitar is turning out to be one of the most vital music art forms
of the new millennium. Hugely popular for centuries, the time honored
guitar tradition is finding a wealth of new and gifted guitarists
to carry the sound into the future and you can count guitarist Mehran
among the new ones to keep an eye on. Of Persian descent, Mehran Jalili
is based in Chicago and, after years of playing rock and blues guitar,
he steps into the artist spotlight with his 2010 CD, Angels Of
Persepolis. The world was watching the tragic events in Iran in
2009 and despite a near victory by the people there, the brutal dictator
continues to maintain his stranglehold on the Iranian people while
doing a pretty good job at scaring the rest of us. Mehran knows this
full well and as he clearly states on the CD packaging, this CD is
dedicated to those people who fought against these oppressive leaders.
After hearing the depth and heartfelt emotions running throughout
Mehrans instrumental masterpiece you get the feeling that theres
so much more going on in Iran then what meets the ear. Although Mehrans
CD is primarily acoustic guitar-based instrumental Flamenco flavored
music, theres a number of other genres in play here including
New Age, World Beat inspired jazz fusion, instrumental rock and even
neoclassical, making it a very well rounded guitar based release.
A number of players assist Mehran on a variety of instruments including
piano, cello, electronic drums as well as several instruments from
his native Iran. As you can see from several interviews with Mehran,
while growing up he was greatly influenced by rock giants like Page,
Vai, Satriani and Gilmour, yet as you can hear from his CD, Mehrans
love of flamenco guitar transcends rock and jazz, proving just how
the guitar recognizes no borders and speaks the international language
of music. www.AngelsOfPersepolis.com
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have been playing guitar for over 30 years. I started when I was 14
years old. But my love affair with music started around 8 or 9 years
of age. I really liked the piano and keyboards. There was always one
sitting around all my relatives houses. I had a friend who was
taking formal lessons and I would go to his house observing the lessons
sometimes and then when the teacher would leave we sit around playing
funny Persian music. I had such affinity for playing that I ear trained
myself and would play stuff I would make up and then fit them into
actual songs. I had a couple of cousins in Tehran that were actually
being formally trained on classical piano and I would listen to them
and then I would play what they played. This was so entertaining to
In the same time I had an uncle who was a professional guitarist in
Iran and since I was 6 years old I was always intrigued by all the
equipment he had in my grand mothers house. I was always hovering
around his room and when he wasnt home I would play with all
the equipment in there. This was his band rehearsal room. The drums
were always covered by a sheet. One time I left the sheets off and
he found out that I was hanging around his stuff. This with the fact
that I would always watch and listen when he practiced his guitar,
made him realize that I wanted to play an instrument and was interested
in music. So, he would sometimes take me to clubs where he performed.
I remember once in a while he would play something that sounded very
Spanish. I always wanted to be able to play like that. So Flamenco
was always in the back of my mind as I was growing up. He moved to
the states when I was 10 and then I was sent here to live with him
at age 14. As soon as I came here I saw Jimmy Page play and that was
the first time I was seeing Led Zeppelin. I remember just watching
and barely breathing. I couldnt believe how much soul he put
into his playing. Every note he would play matched the impression
on his face. It felt like he didnt care too much about being
perfect but what he cared about was to be playful and take chances
and express and express and express. I had found my instrument. At
that moment I thought the guitar was the coolest thing in the world.
So that is where it all started. I started to study the guitar with
my uncle. I wanted to play rock and roll but he was set on teaching
me to read music and play from sheet music. That went on for a while
mean while in high school I had already become interested in Pink
Floyd, AC/DC, The Who and all kind of rock bands. By the time I was
18 I moved out on my own and went to college and that is when I started
to play the guitar the way I wanted, rock and roll. However, every
so often the Flamenco thing would wake up and I would try to learn
it on my own which is impossible. Flamenco is so different. Someone
has to teach you the technique and they are so different from regular
guitar playing. In 1980 I came across the album Nights in San Francisco
with Al DiMeola, John Mc Laughlin and Paco De Lucia. That really placed
the seed of doubt in my head that I was playing the wrong music. At
that time I was in and out of several rock bands and finally found
my home in a band called No Romeo. It was a great band and a very
serious band. All members were pros and there were big dreams and
hard work. We got showcased by Elektra records in LA in 92 and
when we came back with no solid offer or contract that is when I decided
that I am going to quit everything and go to law school (of all things).
I quit the band and got admitted to one of the schools in Chicago
but still had a lot of doubt, I just didnt feel right not perusing
my musical and guitar dreams. Well one night, just before I start
my first year Law School, I saw a Flamenco guitarist playing a show.
My jaw just dropped with all the sounds he was getting out of a simple
nylon stringed guitar. I was trying to tap my foot to his rhythm and
I could not understand the timing. I just knew it was something I
had never seen before. This was a moment of truth for me. I went home
that night and I could not sleep. All I was thinking was that if someday
I become an attorney and see another guy play like this guy, I will
become bitter, resentful and jealous. So, in the following morning
I called the school and asked them to give my seat away. In a few
weeks I packed up and went to Spain. This is when I started to study
Flamenco extensively. For the next 10 years I kept going back to Spain
once or twice a year for a month or two to study with different maestros
in Madrid and Sevilla. It was one thing to study in a private class
setting, but it is of a different level when you spend a lot of time
with them even when they are playing amongst themselves till 6 am.
That is when you should pay attention and learn. That is when you
pick up the Aire. All the secret little things they do
but they dont teach.
it was very difficult. Teachers in Spain dont let you get away
with anything. They make you practice so much and the next day if
you dont have something they were showing you down, they wont
teach you anything new. You keep repeating until you get it. I found
myself practicing 12 hour days often. Since my beginning with Flamenco
I was so interested on the modern aspect of Flamenco but without learning
the traditional style you would not have a good solid base. For a
long time I was studying both. There was an incredible amount of stuff
to learn. Little by little I even gave up my social life and would
stay home practicing for years. My inspiration at the time and even
now was a guitarist out of Cordoba, Vicente Amigo. He plays with so
much heart and what they call aire, it means soul. To
me guitarists that come out of Cordoba have a different edge to their
playing. Players like Jose Antonio Rodriguez and Manuel Silverio are
also from Cordoba and I have developed an affinity for their sound.
Even though most of the people I studied with were from Madrid and
Sevilla, I really never did find my way down to Cordoba.
I gotta say, Flamenco is like a drug, once you start liking it and
taking it seriously, you are deep in it and stuck for the rest of
your life. It just grabs you from the back collar. As far as guitar
playing I have always been a astute student of the guitar. I was always
into the technicality of it and was always studying it at a very deep
level. Using the right technique and having an immense general knowledge
of it for me was a must even when I was playing metal and rock. Once
I got into Flamenco I realized how much I lacked and how awful I was
technically. The main goal was to train my right hand. I practiced
so much until I developed severe carpal tunnel in the right hand and
required surgery. It went well luckily and I have no deficits from
surgery itself but I am dealing with so many other issues in my hands.
I can say in the past 30 years of playing I have never missed a day
of practicing unless I was on vacation.
of the CD is Angels Of Persepolis. It took a year to record
and it was recorded at JGM studio in Chicago which is run by engineer
friend of mine, Lito Manlucu. He nagged me for several years to record
a CD and I would tell him I am not ready yet. Finally in January of
09 I felt it was time. At first I wanted to start recording
some material I had been writing for a while but had never finished.
So, I started with that and my plan was to give it a light concept
such as something cultural or maybe romantic or nostalgic. But then
the election in Iran occurred and people there started to demonstrate.
Naturally I found myself gravitating to these events and I would spend
hours glued to you tube or the news to find out what was happening.
What I saw was amazing in the same time depressing. It was amazing
because the people were so united and they would demonstrate peacefully
with one voice. But in the same time it was disheartening to see what
the Islamic republic was doing to its own people. They would shoot
at people sometimes at point blank range. They would send their hooligan
thug Basij forces on motorcycles to hit people with chains and axes.
Although all media there including the internet and telephone were
shut down or heavily controlled, people would document these crimes
on their cell phones and digital cameras and upload them to different
sites for the rest of the world to see because all foreign journalists
were prohibited to record or publish anything outside of Iran. The
few months that this went on really affected what I was writing for
the CD. The music that was coming out had this dark side to it and
I knew where it was coming from. I was affected! This is when the
album concept started to gel. I thought to myself that as an artist
I have to dedicate my work to this cause. These people are my people
and I was literally feeling their pain. I felt ashamed of myself being
here with all the conveniences we all have and watching the struggle
of millions of people. By now I had recorded half the album and the
rest just came so easily.
to create an all instrumental Flamenco/jazz CD with an Eastern and
Persian tinge to it that featured the guitar. I would best describe
my playing here as personal music under the influence of Flamenco.
Personal music because it was music I was writing and I did not want
to completely follow the format of a typical Flamenco album. It was
important for it to be mostly Flamenco but I wanted to give myself
the freedom to stray off. I used Flamenco technique on all the guitar
tracks, therefore a pick was not used and all of the playing you hear
is done by fingers. I have to stress that I have a very deep respect
for Flamenco and I never have the intention of insulting this beautiful
art form by saying that my whole CD is purely Flamenco. There are
lots of guitarists here in the states that cut an album and call it
Flamenco whereas they have nothing to do with Flamenco. My intention
was to lighten up the Flamenco a bit and make it a little more understanding
to the untrained ear. After all we are here in the US and not in Spain.
Because I wanted to create a different feel for each song I used many
different talents. For Pasargad I wanted a heavy and uplifting
percussion. I brought in a very talented Syrian Doumbek player that
makes you feel the skin he is beating on. Then I brought in my dear
friend and old band mate from No Romeo days, drummer Jamey Hannon.
They should call him Jamey Cannon. I needed that good heavy rocky
rhythm on this song and for that there is no one around better than
Jamey. He is now part of my group and we have reunited which is sentimentally
very valuable for me. For piano I brought in my cousin Aram Jalili.
We are very close and can play together very comfortably. I like his
instinct and determination to learn. Rocky Yera on flute textured
Korean soup perfectly and exactly how I had envisioned
it. I hope to be working with him again soon. Victor Garcia on the
trumpet was a gem to work with, well versed in jazz and just a downright
nice guy. He can really play the horn as you can hear his solo on
Pasargad. Manoela Wunder on violin and Alyson Berger on
the cello really made the album for me. Manoela has an incredible
imagination and I learned that by working with her through endless
rehearsals to perfect the pieces. The feeling she put in Yare
Dabestani during the recording is hard to match.
Alyson Berger was the first person I started to work with in preparation
of this CD. Once I heard what came out on the title track and the
Silent Garden I was so encouraged to complete the CD.
What I heard from her was priceless. She wrote her accompaniment parts
herself. Juliano Milo on the accordion is a legend in Chicago and
it was so easy to work with him. You can hear the conversation between
the guitar and accordion on the little song of hope. Louie
Marini on upright and electric bass was involved on a few of the songs.
Lou is a prominent bass player in the Chicago jazz scene and a member
of my group now. Greg Wyser Pratt has an impeccable rhythm and he
brought the jazz out in Korean Soup. No wonder he moved
to San Francisco to play with some of the jazz greats there. Time
Lozano on the Cajon and hand claps is another legend in the world
of Flamenco. He is actually famous as a dancer in that circuit. Kassandra
Kokoshis on doumbak, jimbe and Cajon, was great to work with. I have
worked with her on live performances on many occasions and she is
another good friend. Arturo Martinez is a very close friend with a
vast knowledge of Flamenco and a great guitarist. He helped me with
most of the hand claps. Maya Tatiana is one of my best friends and
actually one who really introduced me to Flamenco in Spain. She is
a fantastic dancer whom I have worked with for the past 13 years and
I owe a lot of my learning's to her. She too helped me with the hand
claps. I will say this, without the talents of the above individuals,
and I mean each and every one of them, Angels Of Persepolis would
not sound like the way it does. I spent so much time hand picking
the right person for the right instrument to collaborate on this album.
Effects Used On Angels
do have something else I would like to share and that is the explanation
of all the sound effects used and the meaning behind them...
I wanted to make an album that tells you of something going on somewhere
that we dont all know about. Something horrible like how the
Islamic government of Iran is treating its people. But I also
wanted to portray the people as the kind of people who are not going
to be easily defeated and suppressed. Even though not all songs are
named to represent the movement in Iran. All and all I wanted to create
a dark and uncomfortable scenario. So the listener could hear me.
Being it an instrumental album, I had to use sound effects, some excerpts
and footages from the actual demonstrations in Iran and all the writings
in the text of the Cd cover.
Pasargad- A dark drone underneath Churchill uplifting
speech to rally people.
The Silent Garden Of Divinity - Heartbeat, drone, sounds
pretty dark and uneasy, suddenly you are in a garden with birds chirping,
this is the double standard of the regime of Iran.
Korean Soup - Clocks ticking means it is time for change,
your time is up. The inhale and loud exhale represents impatience
and disappointment of the people.
Angels of Persepolis - Angelic sounds in the beginning
with 3 strikes of the bell. 3 points to the 3 common and encouraged
practices declared by Zoroastrian religion. Good deeds, good speak
and good thoughts. Zoroastrian religion is an old Persian religion
that is still in practice today in Iran. That is the religion Persians
had before the Persian empire was attacked by Islam about a 1000 years
Ahriman - A scary sounding whirlwind leads into the song.
Ahriman is evil in Zoroastrian religion.
Minds eye - There are innocent children laughing
with an evil sounding beast laughing with them. More symbolic of good
people trustingly in the hands of evil.
The Oblong Box - Motorcycle sounds and people running
with drumbeat in the background. During the demonstrations in Iran
the hired hooligans drove motorcycles into the crowd swirling chains
and axes at the demonstrations.
The Little Song Of Hope - No sound effects. This could
be a radio song so I added no sound effects. The meaning is apparent
Yare Dabestani - Actual footage from students demonstrating
in a University in Iran, singing Yare Dabestani which
is a protest song.
Rooftop Poem - Telephone operators telling of down system
and then typing sounds and the words uploading. During
the recent movement in Iran the internet, telephone, newspaper and
the media was either shut down or heavily monitored.
People were scared into going in their homes and not come out for
any protest so they decided to demonstrate on the roof of their houses.
In Iran the roofs are flat and you can go up by stairs and sometimes
if the weather is good Iranians like to bring mattresses up there
and sleep in open air. Very old practice. This lady was on the roof
of her house and came up with a short poetic expression. When I first
heard it I found it a necessity to make the world hear her.
favorite electric guitar that I have had since my youth is a cherry
sunburst 1979 Gibson Les Paul double cutaway. I played this guitar
everyday when I was into rock. It has a great tone and is easy to
play high chords on due to it being double cutaway. I also have a
Strat body Jackson guitar and a Charvel with Seymour Duncan pickups.
Back in the day I would run rack mounted effect processors into a
double stacked Marshall amps which were modified with extra tubes.
I had a great sound but was never happy with it so I was always struggling
to get the perfect sound.
Nowadays that I play Flamenco I have two handmade guitars from Spain.
On Angels Of Persepolis I only used one of them. It was a 1997
Jose Romero. He has a shop in Madrid and I bought it on that year.
It has been my main guitar since. It has a spruce top and is made
of cypress. It is a Negra, meaning the body is dark hence
a deeper and more classical sounding as opposed to a rubio
that is more bright and very typical of Flamenco. Professional Flamenco
guitarists always use handmade guitars by luthiers mostly in Spain.
Jose Romero has a great name in Spain and his guitars are used by
greats like Paco DeLucia and Tomatito. I have another Flamenco guitar
made by Juan Lopez Aguilarte. This was made in Granada, Spain and
it is completely rubio and hence it has a very bright
sound. Because I wanted the mood of the album to be dark I used the
Romero guitar. This guitar is very dear to me because I have played
it every day and my hands are so used to it now. The only problem
is that it was built in a rainy season in Madrid and Chicago weather
is causing it to crack every so often regardless of how much humidity
I expose it to.
The great thing about being a Flamenco guitarist is that you dont
really need a complicated sound system. I usually put a mic in front
of the guitar or one long neck mic inside the sound hole and go into
a PA. All I require is perhaps a moderate amount of reverb. The natural
sound of a good Flamenco guitar should not get processed and you would
not want to turn it electric. I use DAddario strings and the
gauge I use is hard or extra hard tension which is suitable for flamenco
due to its tightness and brightness.
always been a fan of instrumental guitar albums. I remember paying
lots of attention to guitarists like Tony McAlpine, Steve Vai, Joe
Satriani, Gary Moore, Eric Johnson, Santana (his instrumental ballads)
and learning to play my favorite songs and learning to express like
them. You would know somewhere on the album he is going to make that
guitar really cry. I guess it was the crying that I liked because
those were the songs I would learn first. Well, with the crying comes
the feelings and emotions and that is what they were delivering, their
emotion. That to me is very important, to be able to touch your soul
with a little bend of a string in the right spot. Again, what they
In general I am influenced by anybody that plays the guitar and plays
it well. I dont care if it is Flamenco, jazz or Hawaiian music.
As long as it evokes an emotion in me I am influenced by that. You
can learn from watching or listening to anybody. There is always something
to be learned from another player, even if he or she is not that good.
There is something hidden there that you have to take note of.
I like a guitarist, I buy all his music, even stuff he has done with
others. I do that to observe his progression. I start comparing his
first album to the next and see what he did different and why. I start
learning his licks and see if there is anything that is natural for
me. I really have to feel the progression of a player that I like.
In a way I am a total neurotic. I did that with Jimmy Page and David
Gilmour, and later with Vai and Satriani. Now that I have been playing
Flamenco I am always doing that with Vicente Amigo and Paco De Lucia.
Vicente is one player who has influenced me so immensely. Again, it
is all about inspiration. If music inspires you as a musician you
would want to find out all the technicalities behind it. There was
a time that I wanted to know every chord and every guitar passage
that he played. I have seen him at many shows and I have always sat
directly in front of him at full attention. He has an amazing technique
yet he too breaks a lot of the rules. When I watch him play I dont
see any normal G or A chords. They are all suspended and augmented,
jazzed up spreading over 5 or 6 frets. Another fantastic Flamenco
guitarist today is Chiquelo. He has a very correct and
traditional technique but plays super modern, yet keeping the integrity
of the origin which is Flamenco together.
As far as most influential album, I have to mention The Wall
by Pink Floyd. It really absorbed me. The production and material
were phenomenal. Another one would be Vicente Amigo - De mi Corazon
al aire. That is his first album and to me his best. You can tell
the material had simmered for a while. It was not put together or
written in a hurry. 17 years has past I am still listening to it.
It still sounds fresh and has so much feel in it. Passion And Warfare
by Steve Vai was my bible for a long time. I learned a lot from that
album. All 4 Led Zeppelin I-IV were more heavy influence.
Angels Of Persepolis I have done other session works in studio
and even recorded another new song. This was done for a short film
created by a friend of mine in New York, Soheil Tavakoli
on Iran and its current socio political status. The song is a remake
of another Persian song with heavy political innuendoes. It is called
Saramad Zemestan, it means the winter is over. This film
has been sent in to participate in Tiberon Film Festival in San Francisco
by Soheil. Other than this I have been busy writing new material for
my next CD. I dont have a timeline set for this yet and I am
going at my own pace. I am also trying to develop the concept for
this which is still in the works. Meanwhile I have been busy rehearsing
new material with my group and will pilot some shows in Chicago to
see how it goes.