Liraz is influenced by Iran’s female musical icons of the 1970s – like Googoosh and Ramesh – and her debut album Naz is as fiery and defiant. She sings in Farsi, on an album dominated lyrically by the role of women in society and musically by the bounce of hip-hop and electronica. It is produced by Rejoicer (Yuvi Havkin), an Israeli beats, jazz and electronica artist who released an album on Stones Throw in August.
Liraz is driven by the diverse assemblage of stories which make up her heritage and her music has mobilised a campaign around women’s rights. Raised in Tel Aviv in Israel, her parents are from Iran yet political circumstances have meant that she’s never been able to visit, following the 1979 revolution. She is also a successful actor in both Israel and Hollywood, acting with the likes of Philip Seymour-Hoffman (A Late Quartet) and Naomi Watts (Fair Game). It was in LA that Liraz heard music she could relate to and express herself through.
“Persians have these nice, polite manners of being like an Iranian woman,” she says. “You have to be good to your husband, good to your family, very polite… this is the only way I knew.” By way of illustrating her point, Liraz refers to the career of legendary pop singer Googoosh. It was in her music that she first saw a public image of a female Iranian swaggering with confidence, opening her eyes to this dusted-over lineage of public female figures in Iran. “But after the revolution, Googoosh was forced to stop singing, eventually leaving Iran so that she could keep singing outside her homeland,” Liraz says. “It’s a reflection of the newly-restricted role for female musicians in the revolution’s aftermath – and for female singers in particular, who are prohibited from performing solo for male audiences.”
The role of women in society is ever present in her lyrics. In Nozi Nozi she presents the idea of an Iranian archetype of a sweetly-smiling wife, subtly trying to wrestle what she wants out of her husband. Several of the tracks are covers of Iranian artists, like Hala Bavar, a version of one of Googoosh’s songs, pondering inner turmoil and how it relates to daily reality.
Collaborating with producer Rejoicer, also based in Tel Aviv, has created a fusion of Iran’s gamut of traditional instruments and a chemistry of hypnotic songs and heavy-weight beats.
Naz by Liraz is out now on Dead Sea Recordings.