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Meet the Iranian musician topping U.S. charts with classic Persian poetry

He draws inspiration for his chart-topping work from 13th Century Persian poet and philosopher Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Meet Hafez Nazeri, an Iranian classical composer who is taking the American charts by storm with a new album featuring 38 Grammy Award-winning musicians.

What’s the twist? Nazeri, who moved to New York when he was 19, draws inspiration for his chart-topping work from 13th Century Persian poet and philosopher Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

Nazeri’s debut album, “Untold: The Rumi Symphony Project,” made it to number one twice on the Billboard’s Classical chart since its release in March.

In an interview with CNN, Nazer said “I want to create a revolution with music, with love rather than hate, or chaos and bloodshed.

“I came to New York with the hopes of integrating two cultures, and creating a new product that is no longer Eastern or Western,” he added.

He then won the UCLA creativity award for most distinguished young composer and the Irvine City Hall Award of Distinction in Kurdish music.

Nazeri was raised in Iran and partly credits his success to his upbringing. “I had the opportunity to grow up in a house which was sort of the center for all the great musicians, poets and philosophers, and musical instruments were my toys,” he told CNN.

He names his father Shahram Nazeri, who features on his album, as one of his teachers as “he broke a lot of Persian classical singing rules and he created his own style by incorporating Rumi’s poetry in Persian classical music for the first time 40 years ago.”

Much of Rumi’s poetry focuses on love, especially love for the Divine. This is a sentiment shared by Hafez; “I think music is the sound of God, the sound of the universe for me. Music also has the power to go inside the heart. If you really hear music, no matter what it is, if it touches you, you will love it, no matter what background you are from, or what religion you practice.

“One of my ultimate goals is to make sure that one day Rumi is as popular as Shakespeare.”