Faranak Shahroozi was born on 22 January 1966 in Abadan, Iran. She’s an Iranian-American composer and pianist known for her lyrical, romantic and captivating melodies reminiscent of composers like Francis Lai (Love Story) and Nino Rota (God Father). Faranak’s passion for music started at the age of five.
When she was seven or eight her father started working with a Greek shipping company and as a result, they often traveled to Greece. She fell in love and became obsessed with Greek music, especially Demis Roussos. His lyrical and emotional style of singing taught her how to play the piano with such emotion. She became even more exposed to Greek culture and music when her sister married a Greek man. She’s a huge fan of many Greek singers.
In 1984, she moved to the United States, where she pursued her passion for music and received her B.A. in Classical Music from San Jose State University. The dramatic changes in her life directly affected her musical abilities and emotional connections, which led to a series of musical compositions and ultimately captured the attention of famed producer Preston Glass. By the late ‘90s, Faranak became the face of music in Napa Valley, where she lived and performed for many years.
You were born in Iran. How difficult was it for a child to grow up under the Iranian regime of that time and what made you leave for the States?
I was born in Abadan, in the south of Iran. A city with the largest oil refinery built in the late 1900s by the British. We had a very luxurious lifestyle as my father worked in the shipping of oil. Everything was fantastic until the revolution and the regime changed to the Islamic Republic when Ayatollah Khomeini took over the country. One year after that, the war between Iran and Iraq started. Our home in the south of Iran was right by the border of Iraq. As the result, we fled our home and left for Tehran, the capital of Iran. Life was never the same for me. Not only we lost everything we had, but then I had to wear a scarf and learned the Islamic rules that the regime forced on us. It was a difficult time. As a girl, I couldn’t speak to a boy on the street. You couldn’t laugh and be playful. At school, every day we were harassed for having a little makeup or having our eyebrows plucked, wearing nail polish, and so on. It got to the point that I hated school and stopped going to school. I was a playful musician and no one could mould me to conform. My parents decided to send me to America to live with my aunt in California. In 1984, I came to California and finished high school here.
When did you first feel the need to express yourself through music?
I was around two or three years old when I saw a grand piano at the country club we were members of. I remember vividly trying to reach those keys. As I pressed each key and heard the tone, it felt extraordinary to me. When I was four, my older sister bought me a small keyboard. I played everything I heard on the piano. Later my parents bought me a piano and hired me a piano teacher.
What is music for you?
Let me tell you - as humans, we have five senses. Music is the 6th sense to me.
Seriously when I was born, my mom placed a small radio in my crib playing classical music. I live and breathe music. Music is even in the background of my thoughts. I can’t get rid of it until I fall asleep. I can’t live without it. If I hear great music, I must make sure I play it. I figure it out on the piano.
Apart from being a pianist, you’re a composer too. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
For me moving to America was a different challenge. Then, I was away from my parents and sisters. I had to learn English and learn so many new rules and regulations which still was not easy. But, I quickly adapted. I went to University and studied classical piano music. I excelled in it and got my Bachelor of Arts. During those times, I had my heart broken in an emotional breakup with my boyfriend and also when I lost my 16-year-old nephew in a car accident a year later. All the trauma that I had endured growing up, revolution, war, migration heartbreak and death, led me to start composing beautiful and highly emotional melodies for the piano.
Is there a specific kind of music you enjoy playing and listening to?
Well, I love all music in any genre and from all cultures, if it’s done tastefully. For example, from Greece, the late Demis Roussos is who I listen to. I listen to piano music by Yanni (Yiannis Chryssomallis). Also, I love some of Anna Vissi’s songs too. I love the oldies, French chansons, Italian oldies, Abba, Bee Gees, Julio Iglesias. I love the Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram. I love good piano music by Helen Jane Long and soft orchestral music like Secret Garden.
What were some of the collaborations that would always be remembered?
I have musically collaborated with many great well-known artists, but my biggest one was having the late Syreeta Wright, Stevie Wonder’s wife sing one of my songs. The song is called “From My Heart To Yours”. I haven’t published it yet.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to build a career as a musician?
I would advise him or her to be passionate, consistent and extremely persistent. Not to get disappointed if he/she gets rejections. For every 100 doors you knock on, only one opens. So keep knocking.
I know that there will be a lot of great moments to come in your music. Can you disclose some of your future plans?
My future plans are to record and publish more songs. I’d love to do more covers. I just released Elvis Presley’s “Falling in Love With You”. On December 23rd my version of Olivia Newton John’s “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was released on all platforms.
I’m also syncing more music to films. I have a few projects lined up. The most important one is a movie called 165 Days. It’s the story of Asad Qureshi, the British filmmaker who was kidnapped by Asian Tigers in 2010, while he and his crew were filming a documentary at the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’ll be doing some music for that.