Israeli singer and actress Liraz Charhi’s latest album has come at an unusually high cost – countless sleepless nights, concern about reprisals and the constant fear she was risking her collaborators’ lives.
To make Zan (“Woman”) Charhi defied the fundamentalist regime in Iran to work in secret with a group of Persian artists, many of whom were so terrified they chose to remain anonymous.
“I had this big dream to record an album with Iranian artists,” says Charhi. “I was very naive because it wasn’t easy. I posted to Instagram in late 2019 that I was looking for Iranian artists to co-operate with for my new album, I got overwhelmed with messages.”
Since 1979, artistic collaboration and visiting from Israel has been a punishable offence in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In May Iran criminalised many more types of co-operation with Israel, including using Israeli software. Authorities have also censored art and music forms of cultural expression, but the laws only vaguely define what “acts against morality” means.
About 20 artists from Tehran collaborated on Zan, sending contributions via the encripted message service, Telegram.
“I don’t even know how some of these artists look because they didn’t want their faces identified,” Charhi says. “I was afraid for a bit. My parents told me I should be afraid. I had sleepless nights for more than a year, and anxiety. I was asking the producer of the album, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’”
Charhi’s parents are from Iran and she identifies strongly with the nation her parents left in the ’70s, before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when she was still a child. She has already released two Hebrew-language albums and this is her second in Farsi.
“For the last 42 years, since the revolution, women are not allowed to sing,” says Charhi, 42. “I felt this oppression in my home, as well. Girls are meant to be good, to be nice, to obey with their nice, Iranian manners. To explore myself as an artist, I had to break my own walls, speak up, and not apologise about the fact I’m Iranian and Israeli.”
Charhi is familiar to international audiences for her role on the hit Israeli television series on Apple TV+, Tehran, in which she plays Iranian-born Mossad spy, Yael Kadosh. Tehran was filmed in Athens in February, right before lockdown.
“It was natural for me to get inside this role, the fact that Yael’s trying to prove herself in a very masculine, tough world and to remain perfectionist and professional even though she’s scared,” says Charhi.
For Charhi, the question posed both by her musical projects and her role in Tehran is, can you be both an Israeli and Iranian woman, and how?
“Growing up, in my home I felt Iranian. My culture, my education, the food, the language of my parents. Outside, in school, I felt Israeli. I was looking for my identity for so long. My parents painted a beautiful Iran when I asked about it as a child, but what I see is extreme Islamic regime and people fighting for their freedom.”
Charhi’s first role was the movie Turn Left At The End Of The World, which took her to Los Angeles in 2006. She lived between Israel and Los Angeles for the next three years.
“People approached me and spoke Farsi,” she says. “I understood that I was living in Tehrangeles, not Los Angeles. There’s so many Iranian people there. I love the people, I had to explore more into my heritage and pull back from being a Hollywood actress.”
Charhi says the electro-pop sound of Zan is inspired by ’70s Persian artists, “I understood lots of musicians left Iran to learn music in Europe then they got back to Iran and wrote this music with a really underground vibe. I didn’t want it to sound polished.”
Charhi’s album is as much for the Iranian women of today as for her grandmother, who wanted to be a singer but married at 13 and obeyed the expectations of being a wife and mother.
“Our art can be the bridge,” says Charhi. “We cannot visit Iran and Iran cannot visit Israel, so this is the only thing we can do.”
Source » presstv