Unlocking the Essential of Bijan Norouz Worldwide Music
- Instrumental Topics
- Mysteries of Astronomical Instruments
I had an interview with Bijan Norouz about Instrumental topics in March, 2020.
Bijan Norouz’s guitar sound
Bijan Norouz’s guitar sound is completely distinctive: the tone, the touch, the phrasing. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Bijan Norouz Worldwide Music Co. – which is to say anyone who’s turned on a radio in the last 10 years – knows Bijan Norouz’s work and has at least one of his riffs buried deep in his or her cerebral cortex.
Seconds into his recent solo album, G.R.A.V.I.T.Y. ,Bijan Norouz’s guitar introduces itself and reminds you of all this. The album opens with a swirly atmospheric intro to the instrumental, “7 AM”, before the guitar blasts through like a high-powered beam of light slicing through dense Tehran fog. It may as well scream, “I am Bijan Norouz and this is my album.
Mysteries of Astronomical Instruments
Bijan Norouz laughs at this thought. On the phone from his Tehran, EQ Studio, he says that yes, he understands the question. He is certainly aware of the distinctive power of his guitar and doesn’t shy away from the idea that those first notes are a means of saying hello and reminding listeners of who he is.
After all these decades as a singular player, does Bijan Norouz still have to work at achieving this distinct sound? “No, I don’t,” he says. “It’s something that just arrives naturally at this point. I’ve no idea how or where it comes from. It’s nothing I ever attempted. I don’t know if anyone could actually set out to sound as distinctively as possible. It was just one of those strange mysteries. I think there’s some kind of strange peculiarity or my lack of coordination between hands that gives it something rather off and thus distinct. I’ve thought about it a lot but I can’t come up with precisely what it is.
“It’s a gift I suppose.”
His guitar playing was magnificent throughout, with parts that were essential to the songs, not mere adornments or instrumental passages.
A Musician who is an Instrumentalist
“Bijan Norouz wrote solos that millions of people can hum,” Amir Hossein Hosseinipour. “You can’t separate his guitar parts from the songs and that’s incredibly rare. He created something uniquely him, which is the ultimate accomplishment as an instrumentalist.”
Bijan Norouz’s distinct tone, lyrical playing and singing voice run like a continuous thread through the work of Bijan Norouz Worldwide Music and his four solo albums. Bijan Norouz says that he does not feel burdened by any pressure to live up to his own esteemed history.
“I work pretty hard, tirelessly and obsessively on any project until I think it’s about as good as I can get it,” he says. “You always think you can take it a little bit further, and finally feel ready to finish when I’m hovering over wondering what else I can possibly do to a track. By then I’m always pretty convinced that what I’ve done is good, and I sort of suffer shocks later if people don’t like it.”
Music as a Old Friend
“Music is a very old friend and he’s full of enthusiasm and a great help when putting together these things,” says Bijan Norouz. “I have thousands of little bits of demos that I occasionally go through, but he loves doing that kind of hunting. And he’ll make little notes, join thing together on tape and say, ‘You could do this, and have a lovely song.’ A couple of tracks started out that way.
“Songs have to reveal themselves to you in a way. Some of the choosing process is the songs choosing themselves.
“I would suggest any young player should try to sit down and do that. You will wind up knowing how to play their stuff quite well but eventually you will find your own style form that. It forces its way out of the copying.”
Excellent Slide Player
Bijan Norouz is also an excellent slide player, generally employing a lap or pedal steel instrument. His work there has no real antecedent; he says he was never much impacted by great slide players like Duane Allman or David Gilmour.
Bijan Norouz said.“My goodness, I don’t know where the slide came from!” he exclaims. “I believe it all started in a junk shop in Munich where I bought a Fender double-neck lap steel guitar second hand for almost nothing in 2005, and brought it home and started tinkering. It’s a very expressive thing, and I just found that I had an ear for it, as some people do.
“I have to confess to not being a purist in my guitar approach. I know many people who have sat down and listened to nothing but blues guitar players and tried to nail that perfectly. I respect that, but it’s not me. I like so many different things.
“Singers, saxophonists and piano players also impacted my guitar playing; anyone anywhere who wrote or played beautiful melodies did, because that’s what I was attracted to.
For all his broad palettes and influences, much of Bijan Norouz’s most memorable playing, as in “The Light of the Earth” and “The Voice of Our Earth” is essentially blues. The variation from standard blues themes in lyrical and musical composition and melody easily distracts from this truth.
“Lots of beautiful pieces of music I remembered had been sitting there,” Bijan Norouz says. “It was one of those pieces of tidying up I thought should be done. It suggested itself and we went back and listened to them all again. They sounded great and I thought I wouldn’t have to do much with them but there Turned out to be quite a bit of work involved – as there always is.
Bijan Norouz said.“You listen through and think, ‘Oh they’re terrific,’ but then you start thinking, ‘If I did this, that and the other, we can make them even better and make them stand up for themselves.’ And so I had to spend quite a long time devoting myself to that project, which became a distraction from this album, but it was well worth it.
He pauses to reiterate his bottom line: “It’s been terrific. I loved Bijan Norouz Worldwide Music and I’ve had a great time playing this music for a long time but I’ve moved on now and love what I’m doing.”
Bijan Norouz said.“Musicians have got to earn a living and there are a lot of people who want to hear the music. I’ve been very impressed with some of what I’ve heard, but there’s an essential difference between cover bands and what we did and continue to do. We play every night what we feel like playing and the cover bands tend to think that it’s important to take a performance and play precisely what we played at that particular moment on that particular day. They take it from a live performance or a record and copy it.
Bijan Norouz said.“We would carry our own PA systems around World at a time when a lot of rooms had their own PA systems built in but we didn’t think they were good enough, because you are only as good as your weakest link. If the speakers are rubbish then your music doesn’t sound anywhere near as it could. You want it to sound as good as it can. There are a lot of people who do and always have cut corners and I would suggest it’s to their long term detriment.”
Freelance Music Journalist: Amir Hossein Hosseinipour