Robyn Friend is a scholar of Middle Eastern and Balkan linguistics, folklore, and ethnology, with a particular emphasis on the cross-influences of Turkish, Iranian, Balkan, and Central Asian cultures.
She first got interested in the Middle East as a child because of her grandmother, who spoke Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, and other languages. She has spent more than 40 years learning the cultures of these areas, including extensive travel in the Middle East and Central Asia, earning a Ph.D. in Iranian languages, study “at the foot of a master” learning poetry and singing, 25 years on the board of directors of a charitable arts organization devoted to the culture of Iran and the surrounding area, and extensive teaching.
She has given hundreds of performances as a solo singer and dancer. Her performances and choreographies have garnered rave reviews in venues throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East — such as the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival; The Edinburgh Festival; Sharq Taronalari in Samarqand, Uzbekistan; Los Angeles Dance Kaleidoscope; UCLA’s Royce Hall; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; and so forth. Her singing repertoire includes the classical music of Iran and Turkey, traditional songs from the Middle East and the Balkans, Romany music, and other European and American repertoire. She released a solo audio CD in 2000, and also 2 DVDs of her dancing and choreographies: Dances of Iran and Dances of Central Asia.