Ariana Delawari is a multi-media artist. She a musician, director and actress. A graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts, she just finished directing “We Came Home”, a documentary about her journeys to Afghanistan since 9/11, the making of her album “Lion of Panjshir”, and her family story. The film won the jury prize for Best International Documentary at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, won best feature documentary at the Mexico International Film Festival, was nominated for the jury prize at Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, and had its LA and DC premieres at AFI FEST and AFI DOCS.
More than just a debut album from a gifted young storyteller, Ariana Delawari’s “Lion of Panjshir” is a psychedelic folk journey with a very interesting story behind it. Recorded in both Kabul and Los Angeles, Delawari’s own guitar, piano, and vocal melodies are soaked in classical Afghan rhythms and echoes of Laurel Canyon rock & roll. Delawari delivers a fresh and impassioned sound that exudes a universal spirit.
Delawari’s choice to record “Lion of Panjshir” in Afghanistan came with a phone call in February 2007: “It was my mother from Kabul telling me that the Taliban was starting to gain power again,” she says. As part of a reconstruction effort, Delawari’s parents had returned to Afghanistan in 2002; she herself had been going back and forth since then, diligently documenting her travels in photographs and film. The call though, signaled what might be a last opportunity for her: “At this particular moment I had a feeling that things were shifting- that I may never have the chance to record there again.” Three months later she and her bandmates Max Guirand and Paloma Udovic found themselves at her parents house in Kabul. Under the protection of two guards (AK 47s), they recorded the album right in the Delawari household. They collaborated with three Afghan Ustads: a tabla player, a rabab, player, and an 88-year-old dilruba player, the last living master of his instrument. Under previous Taliban rule these talented musicians had once dismantled and hid their instruments due to a ban on music. Delawari and her band spent several days rehearsing and recording with them. The album was then finished in Los Angeles, featuring additional guest musicians and mixed by David Lynch. The album also includes one song “Suspend Me” produced by Lynch himself. The name “Lion of Panjshir” is an homage to the Afghan revolutionary Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Delawari recently became the first female of Afghan descent to perform rock music live in Afghanistan in over 30 years. Her additional recordings include the song “Crazy for You”, part of a Madonna tribute released by Manimal Vinyl, as well as “Ziggy Stardust” part of Manimal’s David Bowie album. Delawari is also a member of the LA Ladies Choir, whose first album was released on Teenage Teardrops. Delawari both sings and plays guitar on the album. She was recently a speaker and performer at the inaugural TEDx Kabul. Delawari is currently putting the finishing touches on her second solo album.