The Iranian singer-songwriter Nelia Safaie is making her debut this autumn with the album “Songs from Lands of Silence”.This album is a testimony to hope and light against a dark background.Nelia has written most of the songs herself. Her lyrics are about expectations of a new morning with pure rivers, fertile fields and waves of light, and about the yearning that always fills us all.

Nelia Safaie is a student of the famous artist Mahsa Vahdat. Nelia presented two songs in the project “Songs in the Mist” in 2016, where also many other students of Mahsa Vahdat took part, among them Ooldouz Pouri whose debut album was released last year. The two students take part in building a longlasting educational and pedagogical platform of Persian vocal arts that Mahsa has established during more than 20 years as a teacher and mentor. The later years the record company Kirkelig Kulturverksted has supported this work in several ways. The albums of Nelia Safaie and Ooldouz Pouri are results of this work, and they represent important steps for the artists.

On her cover Nelia Safaie offers this preface:

I caress your dark hair

Mildly with patience, untie the knots

You are in my arms, hardened by the tears on your cheek, sleeping sorrowful

And am preparing a feast to make you happy

This is all I can do

Invite the world one day to gaze into your beauty

My land!

The album title and the preface lead one’s thoughts immediately to the situation of female singers in Iran, where they are prohibited from singing solo in public. But Nelia reaches further than that. This album can also be about marginalization and neglect in a more existential perspective, experiences that many people have in our time, where violent and dramatic changes in people’s everyday lives may leave them silent and impotent.

Here is an excerpt from one of Nelia’s lyrics in Norwegian and English translations:

I come from an old land

Lips full of silence and heart full of words

from silent and sad roads, from that precious mountain.

Stay an old, patient land

My Iran, show your face to the world. Morning is coming, beautiful!

Remember, from that far distance I come back for you to smile.

One of the songs is a tribute to the legendary female musician Nakisa who lived in the pre-Islamic Persia:

I paint on canvas my own Nakisa in red,

my hair in black

Then I request love passionately

When the sunset light is bound to my canvas, I become quiet

Then I create my own Nakisa

Nelia Safaie has written most of the songs on the album. Three of them are folk songs from north of Iran, from the area by the Caspian Sea. Nelia sings and plays the string instruments setar, tar and baghlama on her debut album. Contributors include the Norwegians Gjermund Silset on bass and Kenneth Ekornes on percussion, and the Turk Emre Sınanmış on duduk. Erik Hillestad  has recorded and mixed the album in Maridalen Church. Nelia’s mentor, Mahsa Vahdat, has produced the record together with Erik Hillestad. The album is released by KKV.

About Nelia Safaie: Nelia was born in 1977 in Gorgan in Iran, where her parents still live.  Her father was a postmaster, her mother a PE teacher. Her father taught her to play santoor and violin. At the age of 15 she started learning to play the tar, and ever since has worked with music, for more than 20 years. She moved to Tehran ten years ago because her hometown was conservative when it came to performing music. In 2009 she started the vocal studies with Mahsa Vahdat and later also with Hamidreza Noorbarj. She also attended classes given by Hossein Alizadeh (tar and composition), Keyvan Saket, Fariborz Azizi and Zeidollah Toloei (tar). She is self-taught on the setar and baghlama, which are both Persian string instruments in the same family as the tar.

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