Ebrahim Hamedi, known to Persian music lovers as Ebi, Mr. Voice of the World, hopes to one day fulfill a lifelong dream: to give a concert in his native Iran.
But it’s easier said than done: Since 1977, Hamedi – who plays at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday – has been dividing his time between Los Angeles and Marbella, Spain, living in exile after the 1979 Islamic Revolution Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and each liberal cultural policy existed at that time.
The current authoritarian regime has banned music and made Ebi and other popular Iranian stars like Faegheh “Googoosh” Atashin, Andranik “Andy” Madadian, Aref Arefkia, Dariush Eghbali, Faramarz Aslani, Leila Forouhar and Shahram Shabpareh outcasts.
“It’s one of my greatest wishes, but unfortunately it’s not possible,” said Hamedi last Friday via Zoom from LA. “But we have some concerts where people come from Iran, for example come to Turkey, other countries around Iran is very good and makes me so happy”
At 72, Hamedi is optimistic.
“I’m still thinking that before I quit, I’ll do a concert in Iran,” said the Iranian icon. “Maybe the next six months, maybe a year, maybe 10 years: I just hope and I think it will happen.”
Born in Khorramabad, Hamedi began his career as a teenager by forming the band The Sun Boys.
“We did gigs and private parties and then after a few years I went to a club called Cuccini which was a very, very famous club in Tehran at the time. Then I started working with the band called Black Cats. Then I broke up and started singing solo.”
Ebrahim Hamedi, better known by his stage name Ebi, is an Iranian pop singer who first started his career in Tehran, rose to fame as part of a boy band and later began his solo career that has spanned over 50 years, and today he is known as one of the most famous and popular Iranian singers to be a singer in the world. Ebi moved to Los Angeles two years before the 1979 revolution in Iran and continued his career in exile. Over the years, Ebi has released nearly 200 singles and over 30 albums and is also known for his philanthropic endeavors.
In 1977, Hamedi performed at a New York club and was invited to perform at an LA cabaret for a few months.
“That’s when the revolution started,” he said. “There were demonstrations in the cities and I decided to stay a little longer and see what would happen in Iran. The revolution happened and there was no place for me in Iran, so I stayed here in Los Angeles.”
In the years that followed, Hamedi, who sings exclusively in Farsi, has continued to record songs and albums, spreading much of his music to the worldwide Persian communities via cassette while filling arenas around the world.
Songs like “Sabad Sabad,” “Goriz,” and “Ghorbat” have kept Hamedi abreast, and while some of them are about love, others are protest songs, criticizing the current regime’s policies and its numerous human rights abuses.
One thing is certain: Iran is never far from Ebi.
“Every day I think of my country, every day,” Hamedi said. “A lot of things happen that are ugly, it’s brutal. And over the past 40 years, I’ve sung many, many songs about my country, about people, and I still have a connection with the people of Iran.
“We have a rich country. We have resources like oil and many, many things and people are poor. You have nothing to eat. Most of them rummage through the garbage in search of food. That makes me very, very sad.”
Hamedi is aware that his music sheds a light on political frustrations, but believes he could make a stronger contribution.
“I do it, but it’s not enough,” he said. “I think I need to do more. But I’m just an artist. I am not a political representative. I am a channel of positivity.”
A positive effect of his current The Love Project tour is his support for the With You Foundation – a charity founded by Ebi’s wife Mahshid Hamedi Boromand – which grants wishes to Farsi and Iranian-speaking children in life-threatening situations. Money from every concert ticket sold goes to a good cause.
“Wherever I go, I try to spread positivity, which is the whole purpose of With You Foundation: to bring joy and a positive impact to the lives of some Farsi-speaking children,” Hamedi said. “That’s the inspiration behind the tour.”
The last time Ebi performed in Toronto it was four shows at what is now Meridian Hall. This time in the more cavernous Scotiabank Arena. Hamedi said one of his biggest challenges is choosing the songs he wants to perform.
“I have about 250 songs and my band, my son and my wife help me choose the songs. It’s hard for me to decide what I’m going to sing because I love all my songs.”
He also admitted that technological advances frustrate him because there came a point in his career where he could tweak the setlist to his whim if he felt like playing something different. Now that there’s a video accompaniment, the song choices are pretty much settled.
But he’s looking forward to performing here.
“Toronto is one of the best cities with amazing people,” said Hamedi. “They are very friendly and I can say that they are one of the best audiences I have ever had at my concerts.
“I can call this city ‘Little Iran’ because everything is there. Anything you want is in Toronto.”
Easier to say – and further proof that Simon Cowell’s tentacles reach every corner of the earth – Ebi served as a judge on 2020’s Persia’s Got Talent, which was filmed in…Sweden.
Hamedi is not enthusiastic about this, but it is clear to him that a domestic talent show cannot exist in Iran at the moment.
“I wish we could have this show somewhere other than Sweden,” said Hamedi. “If we go to Turkey, we could have a lot of talent from Iran. The talent we had on this show came from Europe, Germany, Holland and everywhere. So the range of talent we had was limited, but I had a lot of fun.”
But there is another problem: if Iranian citizens leave the country to participate, what happens to them when they return?
“I have sympathy for my people in Iran,” Hamedi said. “As I said, they are really suffering and the situation has reached a boiling point. Every day something can happen because people come to demonstrations to get their salary and they arrest them, they beat them, they kill them. The government doesn’t want to do anything for the people. The government takes care of itself.
“Hopefully my people can do something about it. They need to be together and hopefully have a brighter future. It’s in their hands.”
And he looks forward to continuing to fill their hearts with hope with his uplifting songs.
Hamedi refuses to call those who attend his shows fans.
“They are not my fans; They are my friends: I feel that they are very close to me. That’s why I can’t quit my job. I love to sing because I love this job.”
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