By Iman Sadri
Maryam Mirbagheri is a composer, songwriter, mult-instrumentalist and singer, also known by her stage name, Maryama. Mirbagheri was born in Iran and studied Jazz voice and composition at American River College in Sacramento and obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Fine Arts in Music Composition and Film Music from California Institute of the Arts. Maryam has performed at several prestigious jazz festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival. She composed the music for the award winning film, Always Azizam. Her single, ‘Where the Mermaids Are‘ has gained raved reviews, as has many of her work in an extensive discography. Maryam has performed in front of vast audiences and notable venues, including The Troubadour in L.A. Her musical style is very unique, incorporating smooth jazz, pop and soul.
To gain further insight into her career we caught up with this prolific talent.
May 25, 2023
The Persian Observer : Please describe your early life and education.
Maryam Mirbagheri : I was born and raised in Iran, I actually grew up performing in the underground rock scene in Tehran until I moved to the states and attended music school. I have a BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.
The Persian Observer : What were the earliest influences that got you involved in music ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : My earlier influences were rock and metal bands at the time such as Metallica, Avril Lavinge etc. The more I learned music the more I was inspired by jazz and soul artists such as Sade and Norah Jones and as a composer the likes of Thomas Newman and Gustavo Santaolalla. When I was in Iran I didn’t see how incredible value and important the traditional music scene was. After I moved to the U.S. I started searching for my roots more and more and I was obsessed with Mr Alizadeh and Nazeri.
What are the musical instruments that you play and
which is your favorite ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : I play the guitar, piano and I sing and I also play a little bit of setar. Guitar was the first instrument I picked up and the main instrument I use for everything. It has a very special place in my heart.
The Persian Observer : Who are some of your favorite musicians and or bands ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : Sade, Lianne LaHavas, Feist, Thomas Newman, Rhyuchi Sakamoto, Gustavo Santaolalla.
The Persian Observer : You also do dancing / describe your affinity for dance and how your prepare / practice for dance sets ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : I am completely fascinated by different cultural dances and also absolutely hate the gym so dancing has been my main physical activity since childhood. As Iranians dance is such a huge part of our culture and gatherings so when I started college and was surrounded by other cultures, I couldn’t wait to learn and participate. I mainly focus on Salsa dancing and I also used be in a West African dance ensemble. I obviously do a bit of warm up before preparing for sets but specially because the cultural dances carry such an important cultural value and story, I like to study a bit about the history of their dances.
The Persian Observer : How have you been able to monetize your music / via streaming / live events / or otherwise ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : One of my favorite sources of income is writing music for films and media, there is an aspect of storytelling and being part of a bigger team that is really amazing. I also monetize through all streaming platforms and licensing music for different uses.
The Persian Observer : Describe some of your career highlights / albums / musical work ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : I have had a lot of releases and projects over the years but a recent project of mine ‘Forbidden to Scream‘ directed by Farbod Ardebili, hits a very personal note with me. The movie follows an Iranian female rock musician and her journey through the underground music scene and what she experiences in life in Iran in general. I’m proud to have done the music for this project which is hopefully turning into a feature film soon. It was also shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2021.
The Persian Observer : What are some of your musical career goals ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : I think when it comes to all of us artists our final goal is really to make a living doing what we love and inspire our audience. I’d love to continue my work as a film composer as well as my singer-songwriter projects. I’d love to eventually do a double sided album that features both my American music influences as well contain songs in Farsi.
The Persian Observer : If you could collaborate with any musician no longer alive, who would you work with and why ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : Forough and Feryedoun Farokhzad hold a really special place in my heart and honestly just to hang out with such legends, learn from them and their mentality on life would be priceless.
The Persian Observer : How did you learn your musical instrumentation ? Instructors / lessons / etc ?
Maryam Mirbagheri : Growing up I was lucky to find and take lessons with Tehran’s rock stars such as Ardavan Anzabipour and Homayoun Majdzadeh and after moving to the states, I had the amazing opportunity of studied with jazz and composition legends such as Joe Gilman and Ulrich Krieger.
The Persian Observer : What future projects do you have coming up?
Maryam Mirbagheri : I’m currently signed to a distribution deal with AWAL Sony, a favorite record label of mine. I’m re-releasing a lot of songs that I had kept private to myself and also working on new music with them. I’m also continuing my film scoring and film soundtrack gigs, latest being a short film called ‘Always Azizam‘ directed by the incredible Shayan Ebrahim which focuses on the Iranian LGBTQ community and challenges that come with stigma.
Follow Maryam Mirbagheri on social media @maryamamusic_official