From it’s inception the musical project called ‘Ajam’ sought to define and develop an original genre of music that is derived from the native people’s music of Iran. Favouring ‘people’s music’ over traditional art music, Ajam set out to create music that pays homage to forms of rural and urban roots music that are often underrepresented in Iran let alone on an international level.
The term ‘Rag O Risheh’ translates from Persian as ‘Veins and Roots’ (Roots and Veins being the preferred order in English) which expresses the importance of both geography and society in the natural formation of musical identity and heritage. In developing this genre, Ajam seek influence and inspiration from the people of the streets and Bazaars, such as public storytellers or patrons of the ‘Chāy-Khāneh’ (teahouses), the preservers of native beliefs and rituals, like performers of the ‘Tazyieh’ (street passion plays), and the inheritors of organic living heritage, such as the athletes of the ‘Zoorkhāneh’ (traditional gymnasiums). However, the principles of ‘Rag O Risheh’ are not just relevant to Iran and can be applied by any people that aim to promote their roots based identity.
With the ever growing international influence of market-led popular music (and its associated culture) produced by countries of significant economic strength, it is inevitable that the native heritage of many economically developing regions will not survive from one generation to the next. It is within this context that genres, and cultural initiatives, such as ‘Rag O Risheh’ can provide people who may not have the power of the markets behind them with a fighting chance of preserving and promoting their native identity.
Rather than promoting staunch traditionalism, ‘Rag O Risheh’ seeks to identify elements of native musical and cultural heritage that can be used in a contemporary context. ‘Rag O Risheh’ is about practicing traditionalism in preserving the richness and variety of the native music of various regions, whilst exercising flexibility in order to use contemporary production sensibilities so as to forge an overall sound that can comfortably exist within the era in which it is created. These principles can be used to introduce a younger generation to their own native musical heritage, which creates an opportunity for them to develop a richer sound palette for making original music in place of misinformed interpretations of ‘imported music’ or stagnant imitations of ‘traditional music’.
‘Rag O Risheh’ is not a statement against Globalisation but rather a platform for those who believe that that the global community will benefit from the preservation of the rich variety of human culture.