I find it appalling that we in the West are willing to tar an entire culture with the brush of recent history, and in the process cut ourselves off from hundreds, if not more, years of beauty and intelligence. This is especially appalling when even the most casual perusal of history would tell us the size of the gulf separating our misinformed view from reality. The religious fascism practised in Iran and preached by their right wing allies these days is not only repulsive for the hatred it engenders, but for the corrupt and narrow view of Islam they present to the world. It's bad enough they inflict this on those who come under their sway and force as many as they are able to abide by their perversions, but even worse is how they have succeeded in convincing so many that theirs is the true face of Islam.
The culture that brought us the sublime beauty of Sufi poet Rumi, the wonder of Shaherazade's Tales Of 1001 Nights and scientific minds subtle enough to introduce to the world the concept of zero bears only a passing resemblance to the mind numbing totalitarianism being passed off as a religion in certain parts of the world today. However, as images and reporting of the latter are what dominate our media, other views have fallen by the wayside. While one can walk through reminders of the glories of the Ottoman Empire in Spain and Northern Africa (and revel to the assembled musicians in the market places of Algeria and Morocco), in North America opportunities for the non-Muslim to appreciate this side of Islam are almost non-existent.
Thankfully that situation is starting to change. While we may not be seeing examples of all the arts, the past few years have seen an increase in the number of CDs being released by Islamic musicians living in North America. With the fundamentalists claiming music is forbidden by their religion recording and performing music still isn't something being widely done by Muslim musicians, which makes those discs available all the more valuable. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian is one of the most active members of a small but thriving group of ex-patriot Iranian musicians living in North America. As a member of the bands Niyaz and Axiom Of Choice as well as a collaborator on his wife Azim Ali's solo recordings, he has shown his virtuosity on a multitude of traditional and newly created stringed instruments. Plucked, strummed, or bowed--it doesn't seem to matter as each instrument comes alive in his hands to generate sounds and textures unlike any you've probably heard before.