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'Tehran' actress says she feared for fellow muscians' lives

Israeli singer to release album of secret collaboration with Iranian artists

Liraz Charhi worked with willing musicians via encrypted messaging apps to fulfill a long-held dream of recording with those living in her parents’ home country

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of Israeli singer Liraz Charhi. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Israeli singer Liraz Charhi. (YouTube)

An Israeli singer of Persian heritage will next month release an album she put together by secretly collaborating with Iranian artists, the UK Guardian newspaper reported Thursday.

Liraz Charhi said in an interview that she had feared for the lives of those who worked with her in Iran, a bitter foe of her native country that passed a law earlier this year making it illegal to cooperate with the Jewish state.

“Technically, it was very difficult,” Charhi, 42, said. “But emotionally, it was much more difficult. I felt night after night that I was doing a bad thing and these people could be arrested.”

Charhi, whose parents were from Iran, explained that for a long time she’d wanted to work with Iranians on a music project.

She contacted Iranian artists online, seeking out singers, composers, and those who could play the traditional bağlama stringed instrument.

Many were eager to work with her, though some insisted that their real names not be used. Others who at first agreed later dropped out of the project, even changing their social media identities, she said.

An Iranian composer who gave only his professional name told the Guardian he was aware of the risks he took in working on the album, for which he wrote and sang songs.

“I know it is dangerous to work on this project,” Raman Loveworld said. “But we are just normal people.”

Loveworld recalled his surprise when he first found Charhi’s videos on Instagram.

“It shocked me, a girl from Israel with Persian roots,” he said. “A lot of emotions, energy from her voice and eyes.”

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Raman Loveworld‎‏ ב- יום רביעי, 27 באוגוסט 2014

The musicians used encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram to communicate and money for the project was wired through other countries such as the UK and Turkey.

The result, her second Persian-language album, “Zan” (Women), will be released by Glitterbeat Records on November 13, the report said. It includes electro-dance themes and remixes of 1970s Iranian pop.

A music video of the song “Liraz — Injah,” which is included in the upcoming album, was posted to Charhi’s official YouTube channel complete with English, Hebrew, and Persian lyrics.

Charhi’s parents emigrated to Israel in 1970 at time when the country enjoyed strong relations with Iran. A decade later that changed with the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Today, the two countries are engaged in a military confrontation in which Israel is using force to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria or the supply of advanced weapons to its regional proxies.

“My parents kinda struggled to be Israeli while they put their roots behind them,” Charhi said. “They kept acting Iranian. For me, it put a big hole in my heart – a big question mark. Who am I? Where did I come from?”

Charhi grew up speaking Persian at home and gained some taste of Iran from songs and stories her parents taught her, but later discovered much more after moving to Los Angeles, where she connected with the American-Iranian community and learned about Iranian culture in the 1970s.

“I recognized something different in the women singers’ voices. Full of courage, much more feisty,” she said.

Her first album, “Naz,” was a minor hit in Iran and she said she discovered Iranian women posting social media videos of themselves dancing to her songs.

Aside from her music, Charhi’s Persian heritage has already played a major role in her career. She plays a Mossad spy in the Israeli thriller series “Tehran.”

Tehran Official Apple TV+ Trailer

So excited to share this show with more audiences! Watch #TehranTV September 25 on the Apple TV app with an Apple TV+ subscription.

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Liraz‎‏ ב- יום רביעי, 2 בספטמבר 2020

Though Charhi has never been to Iran, she met with some of the artists in Europe.

“Wow, that was crazy,” she recalled.

“My biggest dream was to write Iranian music with Iranians,” she said. “Mission accomplished.”

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