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Tabestoon Festival showcases Iranian arts and culture

By Liv Ingram, July 24, 2014 —

Tabestoon Festival, the first contemporary Iranian arts and culture festival in Calgary, is making its debut this weekend. Tabestoon, which is Farsi for summer, aims to promote contemporary Iranian arts and culture in Calgary.

“A lot of people are familiar with what Iran used to be because of its 2,500 year history, but nobody is really familiar with present day Iran,” says Emad Keshmiri, marketing consultant for the festival. “Despite what we might see in politics or in media, there really isn’t much else out there to show us what contemporary Iranian culture is about. The aim of the festival is to show a little bit of roots, but bridge that with modern day Iran.”

Organized by the Persian Gulf Foundation (PGF) — a registered non-profit that started as the U of C Persian Gulf Club — the festival is the first of its kind in Western Canada. The festival will feature a mix of traditional and contemporary Iranian culture, from rug weaving to rock music.

Keshmiri says he realizes rock music is not what people typically associate with Iranian music.

“That’s something that is a little bit unheard of in Iranian culture, which is all about classic and traditional art,” says Keshmiri. “The fusion bands [such as performers Ali Azimi and Ajam Band] really show what the new generation is about and what’s happening in the arts scene in Iran today.”

In addition to live music, there will be performance art and fine art exhibitions. The main draw for people, Keshmiri says, is the hands-on workshops where festival goers can try their hand at traditional carpet weaving and play traditional Iranian instruments.

“The idea was to be engaging as opposed to just being demonstrative or just an exhibit. I think that is really key for someone who is not familiar with the language or with the culture,” says Keshmiri. “They will be able to get their hands dirty.”

The original plan was for Tabestoon to be a bi-annual festival, but due to the overwhelming support of the local and international Iranian community, Keshmiri says the PGF hopes to expand the festival into a multi-day annual festival. Details for the next festival have not been finalized.

Putting together a festival can be a daunting task, but Tabestoon came together in just five months.

“Tabestoon festival started off as a very big vision,” says Keshmiri. “But we hope Tabestoon will be one of many institutions [that] promotes Calgary as a cultural hub and an attractive place to visit.”

The festival happens on Saturday, July 26, at Olympic Plaza, with free events from 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tickets for Ali Azimi and Ajam Band start at $35 and are available at ticketbud.com, Atlas Specialty Supermarket, House of Kabob, Arch Persian Lounge, Shaheen grocery story and at the U of C from the Iranian Graduate Students Association.

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