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Iranian-American Musician Mixes Music Styles

Austin is the capital of Texas and the self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World." In the 1970s, musicians in Austin fused rock 'n roll and country music. Now, Austin is one of America's fastest growing cities and a place where music from around the world comes together. Iranian-American musician and songwriter Fared Shafinury is developing another sound, combining Persian classical music and American styles.

At home in Austin, Shafinury plays the Persian setar. Iranians love this music, but Shafinury says others are intrigued by it.

"Americans find it exotic, mysterious and interesting, but they can relate to it," he says.

On a hot day in Austin, Shafinury sometimes shares his music with friends on a hillside near a spring-fed pool.

Shawn Bayly plays rock and blues with a local band, but he joined in the Persian jam.

"I like to listen to everything and I like to try to play everything I hear," Bayly says. "I was listening to him and trying to find the chords and accentuate some of the melodies."

Fared Shafinury was born and raised in Texas. His parents immigrated from Iran, and he heard classical Persian music at home and everything from country and rock to Mexican Tejano outside.

"I don't know if I am Iranian, American, Hispanic, Texan," adds Shafinury. "Texan is an identity. Who am I?"

He says he plays music to sort it all out.

Although the melodies are first and foremost Persian, other influences creep in.

He says Persian music leaves ample room for improvisation.

"It's very jazzy, actually. Persian music has these scales and within the parameter of these scales you have different melodic frameworks and within each framework of melody you have some liberty to improvise and create upon," Shafinury explains.

Whether playing solo or with a group of Iranian and American musicians called Tehranosaurus, Shafinury says his goal is to bridge cultures.

"That's my ultimate goal. It is to bring understanding between cultures, between nations, between different people from all walks of life," Shafinury notes.

This month, Fared Shafinury will play a series of concerts with Tehranosaurus in San Francisco before returning to Austin.