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Niyaz pairs Persian music with ancient Sufi poetry in Rohnert Park show

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If You Go

What: “The Fourth Light,” performed by Niyaz

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Admission: Tickets starts at $25.

Information: 707- 664-4246, gmc.sonoma.edu

Some bands simply blend music from different parts of the world, but Niyaz is multicultural by definition.

Founders Azam Ali and her husband, Loga Ramin Torkian, were born in Iran. She grew up in India, while he came to live in Oregon as a teenager.

Formed in 2005 and now based in Los Angeles, the band pairs Persian, Indian and Mediterrean folk sounds, played with electronic and classical instrumentation, with ancient Sufi poetry from the mystical tradition of Islam. Torkian plays a stringed instrument with a bow he invented himself.

“It comes from the desire to reconcile our cultural roots with all of the influences of the culture we’re living in,” Torkian said of the performance.

The result is a nine-song, multimedia touring show titled “The Fourth Light,” created in 2016 and coming to the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Feb. 20. It features a dancer and five musicians onstage, including Ali as volcalist, with their live performance augmented by interactive technologies, projection and body-mapping techniques that respond to sound and movement in real time.

“This is our first multimedia show,” Torkian said. “We are living in a very visual world, and we need to create an experience that is multisensory. But this is not just a bunch of visuals put together to entertain. This piece really has a story that we tell.”

The inspiration for “The Fourth Light” comes from the first female Sufi mystic and poet, Rabia Al Basri, who was born in Basra, Iraq in the eighth century. The fourth daughter in a poor family, her name means “light.”

“She’s one of the most important people in Eastern history, but she’s left out of the history books because she’s a woman,” Ali said. “We decided to bring her story to light.”

The entire ensemble, which includes both a keyboardist and a member who plays the Indian tabla, contributes to the performance, Ali said.

“It’s a very equal collaboration between us and the musicians,” she said. “Loga and I are risk takers, but we are very democratic.”

The Niyaz tour includes a performance at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art next month. Ali credits that opportunity to the years her group has spent working its way up to win spots in the kind of concert series that plays the best venues.

“It was hard work,” she said, “but that is a relatively small world and people are beginning to notice.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: “The Fourth Light,” performed by Niyaz

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Admission: Tickets starts at $25.

Information: 707- 664-4246, gmc.sonoma.edu

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