It’s hard to have faith in rock ‘n’ roll in 2018. The old titans are dropping like flies and (at the risk of sounding like a rose-tinted-glasses-clad rock dad) the young upstarts taking their place are often tepid at best.
And yet, once in a while you come across something that brings you to your knees in praise of the Gods of Rock ‘n’ Roll, thankful that they see fit to imbue a few young’uns with the psychedelic sorceries of old. I’m only exaggerating a little in describing my reaction to hearing Habibi for the first time—seriously these ladies rule. In case you’re like me and have somehow been oblivious to the incredible sounds of these Brooklyn-based bad girls, Habibi have been playing around BK since 2013, gradually perfecting their style that combines the pop harmonies of classic girl groups like The Chantels and The Shangri-Las with the unique intonations of Middle Eastern psych rockers like Erkin Koray and Moğollar. The result is truly something special, a blending of east and west that is sorely under-represented in today’s pop/rock scene.
Grab tickets to their show at the Moroccan Lounge Monday, January 29th here.
We caught up with Habibi front-woman Rahill Jamalifard to talk about her family’s roots in Iran and her favorite spots to visit there. Her answers were nothing short of fascinating, so we had to share the entire thing with you. Here it is, uncut. And make sure you check out their new EP Cardamom Garden when it drops on March 2nd!
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Hamameh Vakil – An old bathhouse turned into a restaurant right next to Vakil Bazaar. It feels like being transported to a different time/civilization, and there is live traditional Iranian music playing as you walk thru the restaurants ornate domes and columns. And of course I would order jujueh kabob and mast o misor (chicken kabob and garlic yogurt).
Favorite bar and why?
No bars in Iran, it’s illegal. (CC: Right!)
Favorite place to grab a cup of coffee?
Teahouse on the outdoor bridge, si-o-se-pol, in Isfahan. It’s a beautiful sight at night with glowing rooms on an ancient incredible bridge above the water, with open air. The bridge was built in 1599 and is a testament to the cultivation of Iran’s architectural/historical richness.
What are some underrated buildings or landmarks you love?
Wow, I dunno about ‘underrated’ but at least to the western world, there are plenty. Shah Cheragh: a glittering mosque in Shiraz, it looks like a disco ball exploded into ornate mosaics all around you. The site leaves you astounded, truly. Haifizeh: The tomb of Hafiz in his home town Shiraz, it is the holiest experience I have had, some spiritual realness sleeps there for sure. Nagsheh-jahan (Imam Square): A beautiful square enclosed by a bazaar and a mosque. So many sights and sounds, and horse carriages, so much to eat, smell and explore. Again, these historical sites are well known, but maybe not as much to the western (lets be real, AMERICAN) ear.
Where would you recommend visitors stay?
My grandmother’s house in Shiraz so that she can feed you the best food you’ll ever have in your lifetime. And so my cousin and uncles can make you laugh till your stomach hurts.
Favorite place to catch live music?
At my family’s baghs (private parks) and in their living rooms, when my uncles and father’s cousins sing and play music amongst themselves.
Best karaoke in town?
Not sure if that’s a thing in Iran.
Where is the best shopping in town?
Vakil bazaar in Shiraz and The Grand Baazar in Esfahan. They are ancient treasures and full of wonder.
What’s the most inspiring outdoor space you like to visit?
Persepolis, honestly, just read about it.
If someone only had 24 hours in your city, what would you recommend they see and do?
So much to see and do, hard to say, I myself would like to go to Mount Damavand, the Tomb of Cyrus, Chehel Sutoon, Pasargadae, Nasir ol Molk Mosque. There’s so many.
What does your city have that you can’t find anywhere else?
It isn’t that there is an occupation of one ’thing,’ it’s more about the essence of an ethereal atmosphere with roots in a very ancient but omnipresent culture and society. You can feel it there, it’s kind of unexplainable, it’s more of a spiritual experience.
Do you draw inspiration from your city and if so, how does it inform your music?
Yes, it all goes back to Iran. It is a fabric of my being, for better or for worse. Whether it’s lyrically, melodically, or the physical art, it’s influenced.