When you consider the path she has walked, it is no surprise that the sound coming through Shireen Amini is fiery, soulful, and driven by groove. Woven into Shireen’s music is a longing reach for the ancient, organic, the feeling of village, a reverent nod to classic American soul, rock, and folk, a high five to 90s era r&b and pop, and a full-body embrace of Latin and world sensibilities. This confluence comes through her whether she is playing for an intimate gathering or she is rocking a stage with a full live band. With boldness, tenderness, and playfulness, she summons the joy and power from her listeners in the face of whatever darkness or dysfunction. Each step she has taken to expand the breadth of her musical expression has paralleled a step toward painfully and triumphantly uncovering her own truths. The stories she brings in her writing draw from authentic experiences of life, love, heartache, and awakening. Her intention is always to liberate others as she liberates herself through song. Always relatable even when being confrontational, she pushes for mending our past, restoring our present, and believing in a visionary future. Drawing inspiration from such acclaimed conscious musical artists as Nahko and Medicine for the People, Rising Appalachia, and Michael Franti, she is pioneering her own version of modern fusion sounds with higher consciousness.
"Woven into Shireen’s music is a longing reach for the ancient, organic, the feeling of village, a reverent nod to classic American soul, rock, and folk, a high five to 90s era r&b and pop, and a full-body embrace of Latin and world sensibilities."
As a queer, first-generation Puerto Rican-Iranian-American raised in a suburb of San Francisco, Shireen struggled with low self-esteem, depression, and difficulty with belonging. Little did she know these were symptoms of the generational trauma and cultural wounding that would become her work to heal. Beginning with early piano training then in her teens, self-taught guitar and voice, music became a lifelong tool for resilience. Shireen wrote songs to empower herself where she otherwise had no voice and these songs were her heartfelt companions. Her passion for songwriting and love for the music of her Latin heritage lead her to study Ethnomusicology at UCLA. In her last year of college, a life-changing experience abroad to Perú awakened in her a deep care for humanity as well as a budding awareness of her queer identity. She also came away with the skills to play the Afro-Peruvian cajón, an incredible gift that became a defining part of her musical journey. When she returned to the US it became clear she wanted to live in closer community and closer to nature.
Shireen relocated to Central Oregon in her twenties, where she really began her personal healing work, nature as a a vital resource. During this time, she began performing her music publicly, delved more deeply into her songwriting craft, and began teaching music to youth. She also slowly found safety to fully embody her queerness. The lifting of years of self-repression yielded a notable increase in happiness, authenticity, and sense of self-love which would later inspire themes in her songwriting to help empower others finding their true identity. Out of a desire to better understand the healing power of music, in 2015 Shireen completed a certificate program in Sound, Voice, and Music Healing from CIIS in San Francisco which fortified her belief in music as a tool for transformation and propeller of movements. She created a business in service of community which centered around music as medicine through personal practices and group participation, which she continues to run today.
“Shireen wrote songs to empower herself where she otherwise had no voice and these songs were her heartfelt companions.”
Shireen released her first studio album in 2007, an eclectic soul-rock compilation of original songs entitled Turnaround EP and began performing throughout Central Oregon. Because of her connection to the Sisters Folk Festival community, she had the opportunity to really grow her songwriting craft while absorbing influences of American folk traditions. Shireen became plugged into a national network of incredible singer-songwriters. As a percussionist, she has collaborated with such accomplished performers as Susan Werner, Beth Wood, Taarka, Mosley Wotta, and Tyler Spencer. She has also performed as a singer-songwriter at the Sisters Folk Festival and Bend Summer Festival and has had the great honor of opening for Colin Hay (of Men at Work) and the Pete Escovedo Orchestra featuring Sheila E. Starting in 2012, Shireen splashed onto the scene as the front person for the Latin dance rock band ¡Chiringa! Performing a blend of covers and original music, ¡Chiringa! has gained local and regional success and has had the chance open for two of the band’s greatest influences, Ozomatli and the Gipsy Kings. This project has given Shireen a platform to celebrate Latinx culture and hone her gifts as an entertainer and crowd dance mobilizer. In 2019, Shireen became connected to other artist-activists through the worldwide revival of community singing and, in 2020, had the notable opportunity to be a guest song leader for Maggie Wheeler’s international virtual song gathering, “Together in Song.”
"Since the Donald Trump era, she found her artistic growth, personal recovery, and social justice values culminating into an emboldened new repertoire with a vision for interactive live performance.”
In waking up to her own truths, Shireen has become more awake to the truths of injustice in our country and inspired to put her artistry to work to address it. Since the Donald Trump era, she found her artistic growth, personal recovery, and social justice values culminating into an emboldened new repertoire with a vision for interactive live performance. She felt a call to return to her solo singer-songwriter roots and began conceiving of a new studio album to help bring this repertoire and vision forward. After successfully crowdfunding through the COVID-19 pandemic, Shireen recorded the album in Boston in October 2020.“Break Myself Free,” which is set to release in summer of 2021, is a proud proclamation of her queer identity and an invitation into deeper connection with the Earth. It is filled with energizing grooves, anthemic choruses, and soulful stories of change. Once released, Shireen plans to hit the road for a promotional house concert tour.
acknowledgments & Commitments
First, I want to acknowledge that I have made music for most of my life on this land that was stolen from the First Nation peoples and colonized by Europeans long before I was born. I have been raised by the earth, trees, air, animals, and waters of this land. Still, I am a settler here. And still, First Nation peoples suffer displacement, cruelty, and injustice. On this land, African descendants endured the brutalities of slavery and epochs of oppression in changing forms. I have benefited from and absorbed into my being the incredible music that emerged from these peoples in the contexts of survival, resilience, and societal movements. Still, I am a non-Black person of color. And still, Black Americans endure injustice and inequity from the racism bred into our our psyches and molded into our systems. On this land, a capitalist culture prevails that exploits our natural resources and our humanity for the sake of profit, leading to suffering ecosystems, catastrophic weather events, a devastating wealth gap, and widespread psycho-spiritual illness. Still, I function inside this capitalist system and largely play by its rules.
As a queer, gender non-binary, person of color, I have experienced the insidious effects of a homophobic, gender-phobic, patriarchal shame culture and the unconscious absorption of white supremacy with subsequent internalized self-loathing, othering, and cultural erasure. Still, by some grace, I have been given the resources and relationships to help me accomplish the enormous task of healing and loving myself.
Needless to say, here in America, there is too much to ignore and more than I can ever address in my lifetime. However, as an artist, I believe I hold a responsibility to serve our cultural transformation, for the thriving of all beings and all life. And so, as an artist, this I commit:
• I commit to continuing my own personal soul, healing, and recovery work
• I commit to creating music that is constructive, countercultural, and conscious in messaging
• I commit to utilizing my platform wherever possible to make necessary statements and speak up for the important causes of our time
• I commit to deepening my awareness of and relationship to nature
• I commit to making as many choices as I can in the operation of my business that are environmentally-sustainable
• I commit to balancing the intensity of activism with the medicines of humor and joy
• I commit to honorable exchange when it comes to utilizing the gifts of musical ancestry: acknowledging lineage, original cultural contexts, and original authors
• I commit to maintaining a regular practice of raising awareness and raising funds in support of lands and peoples that need care wherever possible
• I commit to being transparent about my own identities and sharing my story whenever it is safe to do so
• I commit to including community and youth work as an integral part of what I do
• I commit to work, life, and relationship balance that keeps me doing what I love and loving what I do
• I commit to celebrating all that is good wherever possible
• I commit to listening when I can do better
And I commit to all this knowing I am an imperfect human being. Knowing my commitments may evolve with changes in me and the world around me. I ask for kindness and boldness from my community of supporters in holding me accountable. And I invite collaboration in innovating new ways in which I can be an artist in service of the greater good.
With great honor, heart, and joy,
(I currently use she / her / hers pronouns
AND I identify as gender non-binary)