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Baba Kazah: Iranian Jewish musicians with new vibrant reggae sound

by Karmel Melamed

August 14, 2007 | 8:08 pm

They don’t have joints sticking out of their mouths nor do they have long braided Rastafarian hair—they’re just two good Iranian Jewish boys playing Reggae music. Their band’s name has nothing to do with the popular Middle Eastern eggplant dish… nor anything from that part of the world, it’s just a random funky name “Baba Kazah”. The funky name goes well with their unique sound that mixes various musical styles created by two Iranian Jews who have shattered all the rules of what most people expect from Reggae music. About nine years ago Robert Kavian and Sam Dagighighian, the two young aspiring musicians living in Los Angeles, began creating the music that has given birth to their cutting edge band Baba Kazah. While most young Jews in the Iranian community have taken on careers focused on financial gain, Kavian and Dagighighian have broken the mold and decided to pursue their creative dream of sharing their music with the world.

Since 1998 the band has gone through several changes but the current line-up has been together since 2001. Other Baba Kazah band members include saxophonist Al Kirk who has played with legendary Reggae artist Sugar Minott and acclaimed Reggae guitarist Lesterfari, from the world famous “Boom Shaka” Reggae band. More recently, the band has received acclaim from critics and knocked the socks off audiences at clubs through out Southern California. They have their own independent label and have been performing at local popular venues including The Roxy, The Whiskey, The Temple Bar and The Mint.

I met Kavian by luck at a local Iranian Jewish gathering two years ago. During the course of our conversation I discovered his love for music lead him to compose the music and lyrics for his own band. “When Baba Kazah performs, we put all of our heart and soul into it” said Kavian. “The goal is to make rhythm propel that feeling and leave everybody with that excitement”. The band is a part-time labor of love for Kavian who heads a successful property development and management company and for Dagighighian who runs a public contracting company. Yet the music of Baba Kazah is not strictly Reggae but rather a hybrid Rock/Reggae sound that has been influenced by such bands as The Police, Bob Marley and the English Beat.

Careers in the entertainment industry have been and are still to an extent frowned upon in the Iranian Jewish community as many people do not think the industry offers job security. Nevertheless, Kavian and Dagighighian have looked to other contemporary Jewish musicians for their musical inspiration. “While it’s true that some Persians may look down on young musicians pursing an entertainment career, we have both always recognized our Jewish background of fine world musicians—including Vlamidar Horowitz, George Gershwin, Yehodi Menhuin, and Bob Dylan,” said Kavian.

Interestingly enough, Iranian Jews for centuries kept the folk music of Iran alive in their country when playing for royalty and other affluent members of society. This was the case because the country’s Muslim majority was religiously prohibited from playing music.

Those who are curious to hear what funky Rock/Reggae music coming from Iranian Jews sounds like, can catch Baba Kazah playing at the Backstage Cafe in Beverly Hills on September 6th at 10:00 pm. For more information call: (310)777-0252.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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