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Santa Fe New Mexican

Violinist Hopes His Music Might Lead to Peace

By RICHARD BENKE | The Associated Press 11/30/2002

Expatriate Iranian violinist and composer Farzad Khozein plays his violin in his Albuquerque, N.M., home. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)
A LBUQUERQUE - When expatriate Iranian violinist and composer Farzad Khozein moved to New Mexico, it felt a little too much like home.

"I thought, 'Oh, God, this is what a village is in Iran - adobe homes,' " said Farzad, who uses just his first name professionally.

Farzad, a member of the Bahá'í faith whose family left Iran amid religious persecution, wanted to see America's skyscrapers. There aren't any in New Mexico, where adobe is a badge of cultural diversity, historic preservation and sought-after style.

Now Farzad, whose new CD, Mirror of Emotions, mixes classical, Latin, jazz and Iranian folk music, is immersed in cultural diversity. And his album is No. 1 in New Age Voice magazine's Top 100 chart.

"For my next project, I would like to incorporate Native American music," he said in an interview at his Albuquerque home. He has been talking to a Lakota Sioux hoop dancer who plays native flute, and he'd like to find an Andean bass flute used by South American Indians.

Farzad hopes his musical diversity, demonstrating the "oneness of humanity," will help illuminate a path to peace. New Mexico, like his music, is a good example of "unity and diversity," he said.

"It's a mingling of cultures and traditions," he said. "I don't agree with the term that we have to be tolerant about it, polite about it. It's not enough to be tolerant about these differences. We have to let those differences enrich our lives," he said.

He and his family have seen firsthand the harsh face of intolerance. His uncle, Tarazullah Khozein, was executed in 1981 by Islamic extremists governing Iran - one of 217 Bahá'ís put to death there in the past 25 years for refusing to renounce their faith, said Kit Bigelow, a Bahá'í spokeswoman in Washington, D.C.

The persecuted Bahá'í minority once approached 400,000, or nearly 1 percent of Iran's primarily Shi'ite Muslim population of 40 million before the Islamic revolution. However, afterward, Iran's population grew to about 70 million, and the Bahá'í population dwindled to less than half a percent.

Of an estimated 50,000 Bahá'í faithful who fled Iran, more than 10,000 settled in the United States, Bigelow said. There are 5 million Bahá'í members worldwide in more than 180 countries.

Farzad Khozein, a teenager carrying a violin when he left Iran, took a roundabout route getting here. An anomaly - an Iranian whose Bahá'í faith endorsed the divinity of the origins of Christianity, Farzad was trained in Western classical music first by his uncle, violinist Rahmatollah Badiyi, starting at age 6, and later at the Conservatory of Classical Music in Tehran.

He came to the United States for college in 1973 before the Islamic revolution, earning a degree in music at Indiana University. But by the time he was finished there, it was no longer safe for him to go home. And with Khomeini seizing power and denouncing America as "the Great Satan," resident visas for Iranians wanting into the United States were scarce.

The Khozein family moved to Ecuador. Farzad became principal violinist of the National Symphony Orchestra there.

On a subsequent visit to the United States, in 1982, Farzad was granted asylum. He went back to school, earning a master's degree at North Texas State University in Denton, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He has lived in New Mexico since 1990.

Mirror of Emotions, released by Santa Fe-based Amity Records, features the acoustic guitar of Louie Shelton of Nashville, who also produced the album and wrote two of its 10 songs. Eight were written by Farzad, including La Dadiva, incorporating Latin rhythms, and Come Be With Me, adapting a Persian folk melody.

Many of his fellow Indiana music students - all wrapped up in Bach, Beethoven or Brahms - gave him a hard time about his musical choices.

"When they came to my house, they always would hear different types of music. I would listen to jazz. I would listen to Latin, Persian, you name it, country songs," he said. "I would listen to everything, and they would look at me like, 'Why are you doing this?' "

Music is "just like food," he said. "Doesn't matter how much you like the food, if you eat it too much every day, you get used to it, but you are depriving yourself of all these different things."

©Copyright 2002, Santa Fe New Mexican

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