Recently I was invited to a women only concert taking place in Tehran. Women can only perform to a mixed audience if they are integrated in an orquestra or as part of a choir. Otherwise the only way they are allowed to perform is to an exclusively female audience.
So here I was, facing Vahdat Hall, the most famous concert hall in Tehran and looking at the longest queue ever. There was a mix of excitement and anticipation from the women already waiting to enter. Mothers, daughters, friends all talking at the same time. I was with a friend and we were commenting how colorful the line looked. Scarfs and manteaux from every possible colour, there was hardly any black in sight.
Slowly we managed to get in and then instead of a cloakroom for coats, you have one for smartphones and any other recording device as it is strictly forbidden to take any photos or videos that may end up in social media. Finally we could find our seats and take in the lively atmosphere.
The concert hall was packed and there were still women arriving. After a few minutes wait, the concert started and the hall burst into applause. For the next two and a half hours we were in awe. The band played a fusion of Iranian music with a mix of traditional Iranian musical instruments and more modern ones. There was for example the Kamansheh, the Lute and Daf along with modern ones like the drums, keyboards or flute.
The singers were great, beautiful and knew how to pull the audience who seemed to be able to sing every lyric by heart. There were great female dancers on stage too, something again only allowed for the eyes of women. Looking at the female audience, seeing them sing, move, laughing and relaxed made my day.
For a photographer like me though, I wish I had been allowed to portrait the talent and the beauty of these female performers.
Leaving the concert hall, I had mixed feelings. As a European, not having a mixed audience is something hard to understand. Culture is something that we believe should be shared by all.
But there was another cultural event across town and we rushed to arrive in time for the live music performance. It was the opening of a graphic exhibition called appropriately Woman+Man.
When we arrived, it was packed with people admiring the art works.
This was one of my favorites.
But of course there is much more to see if you take the time to visit the exhibition.
Then the lights were dimmed and it was time for the music to shine. I knew the pianist, Siavash Lotfi who is also the choir master of the Austrian Iranian Choir in Tehran and the singers.