Raz blends Middle Eastern, North African, Latin music

You never know what you might hear at a Raz concert, notes Bobak Salehi, guitarist and violinist.

Raz — the moniker derived from a Persian word for “secret” — combines Middle Eastern, North African and Latin music. However, the group is not afraid to dabble in the top of the pops as well.

“Occasionally you’ll hear stuff that sounds like pop tunes from the ‘80s,” Salehi says. “We’ve identified certain songs that lend themselves to this fusion format.”

For example, the musical outfit might pull out “Careless Whisper,” a hit for English pop singer and former Wham! member George Michael in 1984.

“At times people come up and say, ‘What is that song? I remember the music video, but I haven’t heard it like that,’” Salehi CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Bobak Salehi, right, and Masud Tahmassbi will perform a free show at Mt. Hood Community College as Raz at noon Thursday, June 5.

That’s because Raz, a rotating cast of musicians numbering as many as 13, deliberately crosses boundaries, not to trespass them but to honor what’s on each side, Salehi says.

“We haven’t wanted any one tradition to be subordinate to the another,” he says. “We went and found the common ground where they are both able to be present without one encroaching on the other.”

Raz will perform as a duo at Mt. Hood Community College, 26000 S.E. Stark St., from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 5, in the Student Union. Admission is free.

Salehi will be joined for this show by Masud Tahmassbi, a guitarist and vocalist born in Lima, Peru. A songwriter, Masud ventured into the realm of world music, and has reconnected with his family’s Persian heritage by learning the popular music of Iran.

Salehi himself was born in Tehran, Iran. Under the direction of his father, Hossein Salehi, he learned all kinds of music and studied violin with Davood Ganjei. After completing his classical violin studies with Eileen Dies and Anita Jones, he expanded his studies into world music, in particular the folk music of Latin America and southern Spain. In 1999 the Oregon Historical Society recognized him as master artist. He has studied kamancheh, a Persian bowed string instrument, with crossover recording artist Kayhan Kalhor of Yoyo Ma’s Silk Road Project.

Salehi has performed regularly in the Portland Iranian Festival, the World Beat Festival, Northwest Folklife Music Festival and the Olympia Sacred Music Festival.

In 2006, he was featured on the soundtrack of the award-winning film “Cathedral Park.” Most recently, he collaborated with San Francisco-based Translation Project in the creation of original soundtracks for the world premieres of the multimedia theater piece “ICARUS/RISE,” followed by another original soundtrack for the newly released DVD “Persian Rite of Spring.”

Salehi says he and Tahmassbi will sound much bigger than your average duo when they weave their musical magic at Mt. Hood.

“It will sound like a lot more because we use a lot of electronic tools like effects loopers,” he says. “At any given point you can walk in, and it will sound like a lot more than two guys.”

For information, call the Office of Community Engagement at 503-491-7204 or visit

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