He is the never ending musician, a perfectionist, the quintessential showman and entertainer with perhaps two of the most sought after musical bands in Southern California’s Iranian American community today. Alen Nazarian, popularly known to fans by his stage name of “Alen G.”, burst on the scene in 2007 with his creation of the “Kasha Ensemble Orchestra”, a 12-piece live cover band complete with singers and professionally trained musicians entertaining international weddings. The high quality of sound, wide selection of music and high energy his band brought to local Iranian community weddings and private parties quickly spread like wildfire and by the end of their first year, the Kasha Ensemble Orchestra had played at nearly 50 events. By the end of 2008, his band had performed at nearly 60 private events to rave reviews and a higher demand for more appearances from couples getting. To meet the demands of his clients, shortly thereafter Alen G. formed his second band, “Vibe” a smaller group of musicians and singers offering the same high quality of entertainment.
The 38-year-old self-taught and highly motivated Iranian-Armenian musical director credits his bands success to sticking with his perfect recipe of bringing high quality “live orchestral concert style” music to private events and weddings. While other bands have since attempted to imitate both of Alen G.’s bands with their own groups, none have quite seemed to achieve the huge following, steadfast loyalty, endless praise of married couples and immense success of the Kasha Ensemble Orchestra and the Vibe bands. With their weekend calendars nearly booked for the entire year, Alen G. continues to the raise the bar for entertaining his clients and their guests with each performance of his bands.
In preparation of my latest article regarding new trends in Iranian Jewish weddings, I recently caught up with Alen G. right before one of his band’s performances to learn more about the secret to his bands’ successes. While he is not related to the well-known Iranian Jewish Nazarian family, Alen G. and his bands are well known for giving back by performing for free to a wide array of both Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropic fundraising events. In between rehearsals and prep for the event, Alen G. opened up to me about his work and some of his own interesting insights about what can make or break weddings. The following is a portion of our conversation….
How did you first get involved with music?
I first started playing piano when I was six years old and truly loved it. By the time I was nine years old I played at a wedding and everyone really enjoyed it. From that time on I decided I wanted to work in music for my career. In 1986 I immigrated to France from Iran and shortly thereafter I began working as a keyboardist in concerts for famous Persian artists. In a concert setting there is no room for error because it’s live and there’s an audience setting in front of you.
So what inspired you to start your own bands and what makes your bands so special?
In 2007 I had the idea of creating a concert orchestra for private parties. We didn’t know if it was going to work because there is really no time for stopping for breaks during a wedding or private event. After our first week of performing, we booked nine weddings and by the end of the first year we had done almost 50 events. Then the demand was so high for a specialized wedding orchestra that in March 2008 I started the ten-piece “Vibe” band which has become the alternative to the ‘Kasha Ensemble”. It has a very similar deep orchestra sound that is designed for a concert. The musicians in both bands are professionals in the industry with their own music projects and performing live in concerts worldwide. Many of the musicians in our two bands perform with famous singers like Yani and Andre Bochelli. In both of our bands all of the musicians can read sheet music and we do rehearsals before each event to make sure we are at the top of our game. This is something not a lot of live bands will do before a wedding or private party. I also provide couples with CDs of 150 songs we can play and ask them to pick 40 songs that they must have at their wedding. Then from there, we will handle the rest because we get an idea of what type of music they love. What I tell my clients is when you hire us, ‘just sit down in first class and enjoy the ride!’
Can you share with our readers some tips you typically give couples who are looking for good entertainment for their wedding?
The bride and groom must make a decision whether they want a D.J. or a live band. Budgets determine which they will go with. I tell clients to look for a live band with a vast repertoire of music they perform— like our bands can play more than 160 different songs. I also recommend that couples go hear the band they are planning on hiring to make sure the musicians play each instrument. You should also make sure your band interacts with the crowd on the dance floor well and asks the guests ‘are you have a good time?’ A good band will keep the energy of the party going. Also the bars need to be situated as close to the music as possible, that way there is more energy from the crowd and they have a more fun experience. In addition a good band will make sure there is proper accompaniment of the music they play with the vocals.
Your bands perform at a lot of Iranian American weddings and events. What are some of the more challenging aspects of working with these types of clients?
Persian-American weddings can be challenging because we want both sides of the family to have a good time. Also there are different generations of people, some that want Persian music and some that want top 40 American music. So a good band will balance the type of music well. I think the audience speaks to the band with their reaction to the band and reading a crowd is the single most important thing the band or musical director can do. A good band should know within the first 20 minutes of the event what type of crowd this will be and how to keep their energy level up.
You mentioned many of your clients are Southern California Iranian Jews, why are they so attracted to live musical performances for their events?
L.A.’s Persian Jewish community is very well in tuned with music. You will find that at least two musical instruments are played in their homes and their kids have music classes. So music is a very big part of their culture and lifestyle. This why they demand the best and we have thankfully been successful because our two bands have performed at very high levels to please our clients.
Do you only do private events or do also do live concerts for the public?
We are exclusively a cover band and do private events, but during the year we also perform at some charity fundraising events without any pay such as Hadassah, Etta Israel, HDC or the Park West Nursing Home where we play holiday music for the older people living there. We want to give back to the community that has given us so many weddings and parties to perform at.