the universal music of shahin & sepehr
BY: ZOE RASTEGAR
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” – Lao Tzu
Shahin & Sepehr’s successful career is the product of their family background, their longtime friendship, and of course, their own artistic talents and perseverance.
The two friends are paradigms of strong amity and a multicultural loving spirit. The rhythmic movements and tempos of their music reverberate through cultures, crosses all borders echoing human emotional connection and the closeness of our experiences for feeling pain and pleasure through rich melodic quality. Their music captures our attention with its mesmerizing, whimsical beats taking us far beyond the familiar musical cadences.
Shahin Shahida and Sepehr Haddad are an Iranian-American guitarist duo based in Washington DC. Their contemporary music is mainly composed of Spanish guitar melodies fused with soft rock, flamenco, jazz, new age, and influences of traditional Persian music.
They attended the same high school, IranZamin, (Tehran International School), and became friends despite their age difference. It was the love of music that really brought them together.
Back in Iran, like all teenagers, their favorite pastime was parties and popular music entertaining their friends and classmates on weekends.
After he left Iran, Sepehr studied International Agricultural Development and received his master’s degree from the University of California at Davis, and worked for the Environmental Protection Agency with a passion for environmental
When Shahin came to the U.S., he studied Finance at American University in Washington, DC. He then formed a band in college by the name of Amsterdam. “That was when I became somewhat obsessed with making music my career,” Shahin says.
Soon the two friends found each other again and started their musical band as Shahin & Sepehr. The band has three other bandmates, Moon Jewad from Ethiopia on bass guitar, Michael Bard on classical guitar, and Wes Crawford on drums
Sepehr notes, “At first, Shahin and I just got together and had jam sessions (Shahin would play guitar and I would play keyboards) but then when we recorded a demo tape and
started receiving interest from several music record labels for our first work, which ultimately went to #6 on Billboard charts, music became our profession.”
The Shahin & Sepehr band have toured throughout the US in many famed venues, such as Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco, Wilshire Ebell Theatre Los Angeles, Birchmere,
VA, Lincoln Theatre in DC, Patriot Center, VA, Sheldon Hall, St. Louis.
Shahin and Sepehr both have been inspired by artistically minded relatives for their love of music. Sepehr remembers his first guitar given to him by his cousin when he was in the 10th grade, which instilled a passion for the instrument. His two maternal uncles of the Minbashian family were skilled songwriters and accomplished musicians who played the piano and violin. “They were the impetus for me to take an interest in music and songwriting,” Sepehr says.
Shahin’s inspiration was his first acoustic guitar, given to him by his uncle when he was in 6th grade. “I have not stopped playing since.”, he also gives credit to his classmates at the Tehran International School, where students from
all over the world were attending, and quite a few of them were musically inclined. They formed various bands and performed at concerts in Tehran, including the German
Club. Shahin adds, “what I heard on the American Armed Forces Radio, and the records that were handed down to me were very influential to my interest in music as well. My Father, an Attorney at the NIOC, was also proficient with the violin and was quite supportive of my musical interests.”
According to Shahin and Sepehr, they were both influenced mostly by western music since their childhood in Iran and later in the West, such as Cat Stevens. “Shahin & I even recorded his famous “Wild World” hit on our World Café and Best of Shahin & Sepehr CDs with one of our most popular songs,” Sepehr adds.
Shahin gives credit to Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana for his musical style and James Taylor as his most significant influence from the songwriting standpoint.
When asked what inspires them to create a song and what is the mental or emotional process, they both said in unison, “We usually start the writing process together and write for the joy of writing music. The only song we wrote professionally for a purpose was “Fields of Change,” which we wrote for Obama’s election in 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOpWXJ2iNCc Shahin adds, “For me, it is always about the melody line. If I come up with a melody, finding a rhythm is much easier.
The melody comes from a feeling of the moment, and by having an instrument close by, I find that it is easy to play a series of notes that capture that feeling. That feeling is also quite fleeting and does not linger for too long, which is why most composers try to capture the moment by transcribing or recording the melody line as quick as possible. Once that initial burst of creativity is captured, the hard work begins to develop that idea into a song. It is very similar to designing and building a new price of architecture. Having worked on the craft makes that process much easier.” Shahin and Sepehr style is contemporary instrumental music or “Worldbeat” with soft rock, Jazz, and Persian music in Shahin’s intricate melodies on the guitar. “Sepehr and I have had guest musicians from Iran on some of our recordings, which planted the seed for more exploration. As such, I have traveled to Iran and collaborated with numerous classical Persian musicians.” Shahin also has studied various styles of playing guitar, jazz, blues, rock, and Flamenco. Shahin also plays the keyboards on some of his production work. Sepehr mostly plays the keyboards and, on a couple of songs, plays the Spanish guitar. The two friends’ collaboration took a hiatus since Sepehr was offered the opportunity to author his first historical novel, “A Hundred Sweet Promises,” to be published in March of this year, coinciding with the celebration of the Persian New year, “Norooz.” “We will be getting back in the studio to record music together, and if the COVID worries
are over, hoping to have some concerts by the end of 2021 or early next year,” Sepehr says.
When Sepehr had mentioned to Shahin he wanted to write a book, Shahin never thought it would take his friend six years to finish it, but he is happy that they will be finally getting back to writing music together soon. On the other
hand, during the hiatus, Shahin worked on many solo projects, such as his latest solo album featuring the single “Windy Nights” and producing albums for many different artists, one such being the guitarist Lawson Rollins.
“I am also working on remixing some of the Shahin and Sepehr repertoire with some Persian Instrumentation. I am also working with Actress Dietlinde and Turban Maazel on the music and poetry of Rumi. We have performed with Dietlinde and
a jazz quintet (Video of “An Hour of Rumi” on Shahinmusic.com), Shahin mentions.
They are excited to continue their musical ventures with new albums that will indeed delight their audiences in the United States and Europe and in their homeland Iran as they did before.
Shahin and Sepehr albums are available on all online music stores, and you can hear their music streamed on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Their websites are: Shahinmusic.com and SepehrHaddad. com And the S&S music website
is Facebook https://www. facebook.com/ShahinandSepehr Also, their music of Shahin & Sepehr is streamed on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Fpjv1zFT8BPPb94XTi38r?fbclid=IwAR0bYZKIfpcBtWToBRATybPP_TlyIDBRGjTxUIwGj2Z9yKLnDJYgGHcun2s
Studio Albums: One Thousand & One Nights (1994), e (1995), Aria (1996), World Cafe (1998), East/West Highway:
The Best of Shahin & Sepehr (2000), Nostalgia (2002), Singles: Fields of Change (2008), Casablanca – Dance Mix (2009).
Shahin and Sepehr’s musical talents and abilities complement each other. They work in perfect harmony not only for their approach to music but in their artistic vision creating melodies for the world by touching different notes that pulsate diverse human experiences.
When asked for their message to young musicians, they both expressed the following: “Our message would be to follow your dreams no matter the difficulty in attaining your goal. It just makes success that much sweeter when it happens.
When we sent our demo to multiple interested record companies, we received many rejections, and one actually said their marketing department determined there was no viable market for our music. Just 6 months later, our album One Thousand & One Nights was # 6 on the Billboard charts worldwide, and each subsequent album has charted on the Billboard top 20. At the time, we were even ahead of Yanni and Enya on the charts. So, the message is to listen to your own heart and do not get discouraged by what may seem lack of interest if you in your heart know you have a good product to offer.”
We at Redux Extra wish them great success both for their joint collaborations and our congratulations to Sepehr for his upcoming debut historical fiction novel, “A Hundred Sweet Promises,” based on a real family story.