Ali Soltani, of Edmond, Oklahoma is a seasoned performer on violin, viola, and oud. Having a diverse musical background, Soltani has already performed on stage with various artists and orchestras. Using his unique talents and understanding of the oud, he has combined eastern and western music into an exciting and unusual blend in various settings, classical and non-classical.
“There are not many prominant Muslims in the classical art world, especially in Oklahoma,” says Ali Soltani “To be able to make the connections and have the opportunities I have had over the years, has been a blessing. I make it an obligation to communicate to others through my art form that the message of Islam is peace, and there is a common desire amongst individuals of all walks of life to gravitate towards peace.”
When did you first begin playing the oud?
I first started playing oud when I was 16 years old, my sophomore year in high school. I was introduced to the oud when I met Callen Clarke (find out more about Callen here), an Edmond area composer and performer of the oud. Mr. Clarke performed along with our high school orchestra and intrigued my interest. After the concert I talked with Clarke and he offered to give me lessons and I took him up on the offer.
Is your music primarily traditional, or do you write original material as well?
Half of what I play is traditional, the other half are original compositions by Callen Clarke that he has composed to blend traditional middle eastern music with western style music.
In what ways does your identity as an Oklahoma Muslim influence you musically?
It opens up a view point that many other Oklahomans do not have. Through different connections being Persian and/or Muslim, cross-culturally and cross-religiously. Music is a tool that allows me to communicate a better understanding of culture and spirituality. Playing the oud has opened up the doors of communications to help break down stereotypes of middle-easterners and muslims. Music also helps people get past the labels of politics and media and experience the beauty of Muslim and Middle Eastern culture. My experiences playing the oud have also allowed me to connect personally with many individuals I otherwise never would have had the pleasure to interact with.
Do you have any musical influences people might find unexpected?
The most influential have been local artists such as Kyle Dillingham (find out more about Kyle here) and Callen Clarke.Its one thing to hear the music, its another thing to get to know an artist, professionally and artistically. The one thing I have realized is it is not just about the talent, but also about communicating a story, a thought, a feeling, or an idea through their art form. This is something that unfortunately is lacking in a lot of classical circles.
What message do you hope to convey through your music?
With each individual piece I perform, there are of course messages that may go along with the piece. On a larger scale, I hope to break the negative labels that make exist of certain cultures, and to engage individuals to experience something new and interesting.My music has the power to engage individuals emotionally and help them forget about the problems in the world and focus on coming together to celebrate life.
What does it mean to you to be an Oklahoma Muslim artist?
It is something very important to me and not something I take lightly. There are not many prominant Muslims in the classical art world, especially in Oklahoma. To be able to make the connections and have the opportunities I have had over the years, has been a blessing. I make it an obligation to communicate to others that the message of Islam is peace, and there is a common desire amongst individuals of all walks of life towards peace.
Ali Soltani is a featured artist for CAIR Oklahoma’s 2012 Art in the Heartland showcase. Find out more about Ali at www.alimusic.net