SUNDAY, MARCH 19TH, 2017
National Sawdust | 80 N. 6th Street Williamsburg, Brooklyn www.nationalsawdust.org/persianartsfestival
10am + 12pm – Family Program
“Zahhak, The Legend of the Serpent King”, by Hamid Rahmanian
A Persian folk tale brought to life through live music, narration and shadow puppetry by Hamid Rahmanian, the creator of the critically acclaimed “Feathers of Fire“. Taken from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh or Book of Kings, this shadow play tells the story of a misguided prince who becomes the villainous Serpent King. Performance will be followed by a shadow puppet-making workshop.
3pm: Doors | 4pm: Panel
Banned: Iranian Diaspora Arts as a Force for Rapprochement
Panel will feature scholar Kathryn Spellman Poots, whose work has focused on the Iranian Diaspora and transnational migration networks, Mahyad Tousi, Co-founder of BoomGen Studios whose work includes Reza Aslan’s recently premiered television show, “Believer”, Persian tar virtuoso, Sahba Motallebi, and Siamak Ghahremani, founder of West Coast’s Noor Iranian Film Festival. Moderated by Carla P. Cota.
5pm: Film + Dinner
Screenings curated by Los Angeles’s Noor Iranian Film Festival featuring “No Land’s Song” by Ayat Najafi and “The Role of Each Fret” by Maryam Farahzadi.
Persian-Fusion Cuisine created by acclaimed chef Patrick Connolly from Rider Restaurant will be on the menu for purchase and served to your seat during the film festival. Join the Brooklyn trend and dine while enjoying the films!
7:45pm: Music by Sahba Motallebi
Our evening presentation will conclude with a music performance by Persian tar virtuoso Sahba Motallebi accompanied by percussionist Nagmeh Farmhand.
Sponsors include The American Institute of Iranian Studies and Noor Film Festival
The Persian Arts Festival celebrates 11 years of showcasing the work of hundreds of Iranian American artists from around the world at the prestigious new Brooklyn venue, National Sawdust. The 11th Annual Persian Arts Festival will feature multiple art forms including short films curated by west coast’s Noor Iranian Film Festival, family-friendly performances of Fictionville Studio’s shadow puppet masterpiece, “Zahhak, The Legend of the Serpent King”, a panel discussion featuring Iranian American artists and scholars, Persian fusion cuisine by Rider restaurant’s critically acclaimed chef, Patric Connelly, and music by Persian tar virtuoso Sahba Motallebi accompanied by Nagmeh Farahmand. This program will transport an audience of all ages into Spring as it connects elements from thousands of years of ritual and history to the magnificent art being made by today’s Iranian American artists.
Sponsors include The American Institute of Iranian Studies and Noor Film Festival.
— 10AM & 12PM – FAMILY PROGRAMMING —
“ZAHHAK, THE LEGEND OF THE SERPENT KING”, by Hamid Rahmanian
Family Friendly show: $15 adults, $5 children
A Persian folk tale brought to life through live music, narration and shadow puppetry by Hamid Rahmanian, the creator of the critically acclaimed “Feathers of Fire”. Taken from the Shahnameh or Book of Kings—an epic narrative penned in the 10th century by Persian poet Ferdowsi—this shadow play tells the story of a misguided prince who becomes the villainous Serpent King.
Storyteller: Leila Ghaznavi
Puppeters: Jon Riddleberger, Ian Sweetman, Hamid Rahmanian
Musicians: Hedayat Shafaee, Yahya Alkhansa
Directed and designed by Hamid Rahmanian
This 15min exquisite performance will be followed by a shadow puppet-making workshop for kids.
More About Fictionville Studio: Husband and wife team Hamid Rahmanian and Melissa Hibbard are dedicated to producing artistic projects that positively affect the way people look at the world around them. They have produced award‐winning documentary and fiction film, graphic design, photography and literature for over two decades. Their films have received international awards and screened worldwide at festivals, theaters and on television. Their latest project, the Shahnameh Project includes a 600 page illustrated edition of the 1000-year-old Persian epic poem, Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings which was published in 2013. It has been well received by readers and critics around the world and has made multiple bestseller lists. In 2016 they premiered the stage production of Feathers of Fire, based on a tale from the Shahnameh. This cinematic live production premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and is currently touring around the world. http://
3:00PM (doors) – 9PM – MUSIC, PANEL, FILM + DINNER
$40 advanced guarantees seat, $45 at the door. Dinner and Drinks sold separately.
TICKETS for Family Program and the Festival available at www.nationalsawdust.org/
— MUSIC By Persian Tar Virtuoso, SAHBA MOTALLEBI, Accompanied by NAGMEH FARAHMAND on Percussion —
SAHBA MOTALLEBI is a modern virtuoso of the tar and setar, an innovator in teaching Persian Music and has been recognized as the Best Tar Player at the Iranian Music Festival four years running (1995-1998) and “The Best Tar Player” at the Toronto Conservatory of Iran (1993 – 1996). She is recognized internationally as a master of tar and setar, lute-like stringed instruments central to one of the world’s great musical traditions. She began studying music as a young girl in Sari, a small seaside city in the north of Iran. In 1993, at the age of 14, her talent garnered her an invitation to begin studies at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. She flourished there, and was recognized as Best Tar Player at the Iranian Music Festival four years running (1995-1998). After graduating from Conservatory in 1997, she helped found the groundbreaking women’s music ensemble Chakaveh, and in 1999 she was invited to join the Iranian National Orchestra, thus beginning her career as an international performer. For the past decade, Sahba Motallebi has lived near Los Angeles, She continues to perform worldwide, and has released a series of noted books and recordings, the latest of which is 2014’s A Tear at the Crossroad of Time. Sahba is also recognized as an innovator in the teaching of Persian music; her pioneering efforts to put instructional materials on the internet and to teach students online have inspired something of a renaissance in the transmission of this ancient art form, and reflect her abiding commitment to bring the gift of music to her community and the world.
NAGHMEH FARAHMAND, daughter of one of Iran’s leading percussionists, Mahmoud Farahmand, grew up surrounded by music in a full house of drums. She started playing the tonbak when she was six under the supervision of her father, and was encouraged to learn a melodic instrument to gain insight into the melodic aspect of music as this would make her a better accompanist. So she started playing the santur under the guidance of Faramarz Payvar and Pashang Kamkar. Besides learning traditional music, Naghmeh found the daf to be very powerful and spiritual and began learning Sufi and Kurdish rhythms from Bijan Kamkar and Masoud Habibi. She has performed in many well-known traditional ensembles in Iran and at festivals around the world, and was honored to perform with ney master Hassan Nahid and famed vocalist Hengameh Akhavan. In 2010, she moved to Canada and started working with musicians in world music and jazz. She is the founder of the Sharghi percussion ensemble.
— PANEL DISCUSSION — The festival will begin with a discussion featuring scholar Kathryn Spellman Poots, whose work has focused on the Iranian Diaspora and transnational migration networks, Mahyad Tousi, Co-founder of BoomGen Studios and producer on Reza Aslan’s recently premiered television show, “Believer”, Persian tar virtuoso, Sahba Motallebi, who will grace us with her presence again later in the evening, and Siamak Ghahremani, founder of Noor Iranian Film Festival. This panel will be moderated by Carla P. Cota, a PhD candidate at University of Arizona with a main research interest in the connection among culture, identity and education, especially as it relates to the education of second generation children in the US.
Panelists will discuss where Iranian American arts stand today, especially in light of the current administration’s ban of certain travelers from Iran and now 5 other Muslim-majority countries. Additionally, we will explore how artistic expression may help shift public sentiment toward a more just and equitable world, or society.
— PERSIAN FUSION CUISINE – By Chef Patrick Connolly of Rider Restaurant —
Critically acclaimed chef, Patrick Connolly, of Rider restaurant at National Sawdust, will be offering a Persian-inspired, fusion menu available for purchase during the festival’s dinner break. Be ready for an American twist on Persian cuisine filled with familiar saffron and turmeric hughes to reel you in.
— FILMS – Curated by Noor Iranian Film Festival —
Enjoy your Persian-inspired cuisine over Noor Iranian Film Festival’s award-winning selections to ring in the New Year:
No Land’s Song, by Ayat Najafi (93 minutes)
The Islamic revolution of 1979 banned female singers from appearing in public in Iran. They are no longer allowed to perform solo, unless to an exclusively female audience. Recordings of former female icons can only be bought on the black market. But Sara Najafi is determined to refresh the cultural memory by roaming Tehran in the footsteps of famous singers of the 1920s and 1960s. She is about to revive the female voices in the present as she courageously plans an evening of Iranian and French female soloists to rebuild shattered cultural bridges—a concert that is not allowed to take place. For two-and-a-half years, director Ayat Najafi follows the preparations between Tehran and Paris that are always touch and go. What’s still possible? What goes too far? Sara’s regular meetings with the Ministry of Culture shed light on the system’s logic and arbitrariness, though officials there can only be heard and not seen. Can intercultural solidarity and the revolutionary power of music triumph? A political thriller and a musical journey, No Land’s Song never loses sight of its real center – the female voice. See trailer here.
The Role of Each Fret, by Maryam Farahzadi (9 minutes)
The union of a couple in love, by getting assistance from a joint effort of music and nature performed in Persian miniatures, from ancient land of Iran.
Friday, March 18th, 8:30PM – 1AM
at National Sawdust, 80 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
The Persian Arts Festival celebrates 10 years of showcasing the work of hundreds of Iranian American artists from around the world at the prestigious new Brooklyn venue, National Sawdust. The 10th Annual Persian Arts Festival will feature multiple art forms including short films by Iranian Americans, performances by established Persian poets, hosted and curated by Zahra Saed and Sara Goudarzi, the NYC premier of vocalist and daft player, Aida Shahghasemi, who fuses her exquisite Persian classical vocal training with indie-rock tendencies, and Mitra Sumara, a big-band of NYC-based musicians dedicated to Pop/funk music from Pre-Revolutionary Iran.
Space is limited, so we ask that you purchase tickets in advance: http://
It is an honor to bring the Persian Arts Festival to NYC’s iconic National Sawdust, an unparalleled, artist-led venue, hailed by the New York Times as a game-changer in the way new music is presented. www.nationalsawdust.org
MUSIC PERFORMANCE by Aida Shahghasemi
Aida, initially a Daf player, studied with Amir Samadi in Tehran, Iran. She moved from Tehran to Minneapolis in summer of 2000. One unsuspecting summer day back in Tehran, she was pushed to sing on stage by Samadi, and she fell in love with it ever since. Her passion for Persian classical music stems from the cultural identity she craved after immigrating, and the women she met during her years of study. Her senior project at University of Minnesota’s Anthropology department centered around restrictions on the voices of female classical vocalists in Iran, through which she met, interviewed, and studied with Parissa for a short period of 3 months. While residing in NYC, Aida worked with a few non-profit organizations as a teaching artist promoting the arts as a tool for social justice. She created and taught a class called Iran’s Arts Activism centered around the effects of society on art and vise versa, at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. http://
MUSIC PERFORMANCE by MITRA SUMARA
Mitra Sumara is New York City’s only Farsi Funk group. This international party band gets down with the vibrant pop and funk music of 60s/70s Iran, an infectious pre-Revolutionary sound which combined the beats of Fela Kuti, salsa, and disco with Middle Eastern melodies and flowery poetry.
Interpreting hits by Iran’s beloved singers Googoosh, Pooran, Aghassi, Leila Forouhar, Nooshafarin, and Zia Atabi’s intoxicating Bandari beat tunes, Mitra Sumara’s repertoire also includes American hits of the era translated into Farsi. East meets West meets East while delighted audiences sing along.
Mitra Sumara’s musicians are among New York City’s top players in the avant-garde, jazz, indie-rock, and Broadway scenes. They include Yvette Perez (vocals), Julian Maile (guitar), Sam Kulik (bass), Michael Evans (drums/congas), Brian Geltner (drums/percussion), Bill Ruyle (hammer dulcimer), Jim Duffy (keyboard), and Peter Zummo (trombone).
Mitra Sumara is the creation of Brooklyn-based half-Iranian lead singer Yvette Perez. Adopted and raised by American parents, Yvette founded the group after studying Farsi and re-uniting with her Iranian birth father just four years ago. This cross-cultural music project is inspired by her family story.
Mitra Sumara has played the John F. Kennedy Center Millenium Stage as well as New York City venues including Le Poisson Rouge, Brooklyn Bowl, WestBeth, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center and Café Nadery, and the Tropicalia Club in Washington, DC.
Curated by Zohra Saed and Sara Goudarzi, this segment of the program will bring poets, authors, scholars of both Iranian and non-Iranian descent together in celebration of Spring, renewal, and rebirth.
In 2010 Fayre Makeig received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for a selection of Hushang Ebtehaj’s free verse. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two children, two and under, and supports family as a line editor of banal bureaucratese and academic claptrap. She loves spring.
Angelo Verga has been widely published, translated, and anthologized. A former owner of, also longtime literary curator at The Cornelia Street Cafe, Verga has helped to promote poetry as a popular and much-needed art form. His seventh book of poems is Long & Short, including The Street in Your Head (2016) and is available on Amazon.
Sahar Muradi is a writer and performer born in Afghanistan and raised in the U.S. / is co-editor, with Zohra Saed, of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature / is co-founder of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association / has published in Drunken Boat, dOCUMENTA, phati’tude, Green Mountains Review, elsewhere literary magazine, Bone Bouquet, and The Poetry Project Newsletter / is a Kundiman Poetry Fellow, an AAWW Open City Fellow, and twice recipient of the Himan Brown Creative Writing Award in Poetry / has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MPA in international development from NYU, and a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College / directs the poetry programs at City Lore / and believes in the bottom of the rice pot.
Ravi Shankar is an award-winning poet, editor, translator and professor of writing who founded the international online journal of the arts Drunken Boat, and has published or edited 10 books and chapbooks of poetry. His most recent collection is “What Else Could it Be: Ekphrastics and Collaborations.”
Soraya Shalforoosh’s first collection of poetry, This Version of Earth was published by Barrow Street in November 2014. Soraya has been a featured poet in the Journal of the Academy of American Poets Emerging Poet Series, and has had poems and reviews in Tribes.org, Good Foot, Taos Journal, Barrow Street, Skanky Possum, Bomb Magazine, Marlboro Review, WSQ, Can We Have Our Ball Back.com, Shampoo Poetry, Brink: An Anthology of Post Modern American Poetry, Four Corners, Salonika, etc. Soraya has her MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and as an undergraduate at Clark University, won first place in the Prentiss Cheney Hoyt Poetry award. Ms Shalforoosh has been a Writer in Residence at William Paterson University in NJ, a guest poet at Berkeley College in New York, guest speaker at the American Embassy in Algeria. Soraya has performed her poetry with jazz, blues and world music bands in clubs, universities and Central Park.
Short films will be presented that reflect the Iranian heritage, family history, and commemorate our widely celebrated holiday, Norouz.
By Nika Khanjani
This short experimental uses re-photography onto black and white 16mm film which was then hand processed (very rough and stinky process using buckets of chemicals and film reels dunked like tangled spagetti in a makeshift darkroom), then digitized for online editing.
I originally called this film Current Landscapes because it was an honest reflection of my inner emotional landscape at that time.
I have chosen to call my film Current Landscapes because it refers to the inner landscape that exists in each of us, simultaneously particular and universal. Like any study of a landscape, looking at the inner geography requires time, patience, and a steady gaze so that what is subtle and easily overlooked is given significance. This piece is about the excavation and search for memories, images, sounds, impressions and tones that inform who we are. While these memories are of things past, they remain current because they are present in us all the time. Just because we may not remember does not mean that they do not exist. It is simply our choice whether we will sit still long enough to recognize their presence and let them surface in whatever form they exists.
I have chosen to use re-photography of my own family as a method of exploring these landscapes. I spent a great deal of time with a number of photographs that evoked memories of my childhood. I filmed them then hand processed the film in order to create the scratches you see. These scratches are meant to create distance between the viewer and the image, a veil of sorts, because these images are phantom-like, as memories sometimes seem to be. Just out of reach, below the surface, seemingly of another world. To express this visually, I allowed the photos to begin obscurely and out of focus. This represents the initial moments of remembering things from the past—–they are not very clear at first but, with time, may become clearer. The scratches that were the result of rough hand processing added to the visual effect of separation and distance in that even when memories and impressions from our past become clearer, they are still evasive and just out of reach.
- “Even Gray Feels Blue”
By Negin Sharifzadeh
No one speaks;
Nothing to say;
Nothing to teach.
Silence is truly the best speech!
– Poem by Ahmad Shamlou, Translated by: Maryam Dilmaghani
“Even Gray Feels Blue” investigates the nature of melancholia and solitude, translating these most intimate and deeply personal feelings into their aesthetic essences. The echoes of the individual move into collective realities. Sorrow becomes social malaise.
The film avoids the structure of story and narrative, built instead as a musical composition, creating an ambiguous psychic space for the viewer to enter. The images have been created in conversation with a composition, The last Turn, by the Iranian master Oud player Negar Bouban, based on “Shabaneh,” a poem by Ahmad Shamlou. Even Gray Feels Blue edited and composited by digital master Harold Moss. Both music and image utilize repetition to create a trance-like dynamic, intensifying the emotional resonance by tapping into memories as individual history and an act of collective remembrance.
- “Norouz (نوروز) – Songs of Pardis”
By Negar Behbahani & Saloomeh Sayah
From the Album: Songs of Pardis
Vocals by Hani Niroo
Song written by Negar Behbahani
Arranged and mixed by Salmak Khaledi
Produced by Pardis for Children, Inc.
The most important symbol of Norouz is Sofreh Haft Seen (Haft Seen table setting).
Haft Seen or seven S’s represent the main elements of the sofreh.
Each element has a meaning and is a symbol of what we wish for ourselves, our family and our friends in the new year.
The Seven Symbols
Senjed: Silverberry, symbol of love
Samanoo: Sweet Wheat Pudding, symbol of affluence
Somagh: Sumac (red spice), symbol of patience
Seer: Garlic, symbol of good health
Serkeh: Vinegar, symbol of wisdom
Sabzeh: Sprouts, symbol of growth and rebirth
Seeb: Apple, symbol of beauty
- “Imagine Native”
Director: Mina Bozorgmehr & Hadi Kamali Moghadam
Producer: Hadi Kamali Moghadam & Mina Bozorgmehr
Screenwriter: Hadi Kamali Moghadam & Mina Bozorgmehr
This short documentary fiction, tells the legend of Love between man and fairy. It is a journey to the depths of the beliefs, imaginations, and magic of the people from South of Iran, Hormoz island, the land of thousand-colored sands. This short film is the story of a southern artist, called Mousa, who collects the worn out leg-covers of native women from the washed out rubbish on the shore and puts them together to make tableaus that lay the groundwork for a modern legendary story. It has been told that there was a tradition in the past, where Island people would offer the clothes of a dead person to Mother Sea, so she could cleans that person’s soul and …
Imagine native, is a prelude to a longer documentary fiction, called \”Janbal\”, which is in the process of being edited.
- “Cycles of Lambent Frequencies”
By Negin Sharifzadeh
Animists recognize the spirit of life in every object—a blade of grass, a stone, a brick in a wall. In every nook and cranny,against every wall, life finds its way towards growth and transformation. In this installation, I am taking advantage of light and the technology of projection mapping to reveal to our eyes this magic inside nature in all its manifestations. The sort of magic one imagines transpiring in a clearing hidden deep in the woods, late at night when no humans eyes are there to witness, is instead seen on a wall in SoHo.
A stone face of some ancient deity hangs on a brick wall in the darkening evening. Suddenly, the eyes open. Light flows from her mouth. All the seasons of the year break out at once, sped impossibly up. Green things grow from below. Leaves fall and are blown about. The eyes look around, taking in this explosion of life. Mythic images layer on top of this great fecundity. The light and sounds from all this activity are thrown from the wall to the space around, encapsulating the viewers within this magical place.
As in nature, no sooner is this frenzy reached, then it begins to recede. New growth falls back into the earth. Leaves settle and are absorbed. The eyes grow sleepy, and the light begins to fade. Sleep overcomes the wall, and darkness returns, only to begin the cycle again.
Persian Arts Festival is proud to announce its 9th annual Nowruz celebration, Night of Melodic Wanderlust, a spring voyage to celebrate Iranian and American fusion, MC’ed by comedienne Susan Peret, featuring Persian-Americana rock from three of the city’s hottest bands. The highly-anticipated event will take place at NYC’s premier global music venue Drom on Friday, March 27 at 7:00pm ET.
Headlining the event will be Vatan a Persian meets Americana, or self-described as, “Iranicana”, group hailed by Aslan Media as one of the top emerging Middle Eastern bands to watch for boldly redefining bi-national American identity in melodic terms.
The evening’s line up will also feature acoustic singer-songwriter flair from opening act Arian Saleh, as well as East-meets-West classical fusions from Persian folk master Navid Kandelousi. Rounded out with Vatan’s signature Perso-country grooves, the three acts create a seamless bridge between Iranian and American fusion, amplifying what it means to empower heritages, pay tribute to family roots and celebrate cultures through musical dialogue.
Advance tickets cost $15 for standing room, $25 for guaranteed seating, and $35 for guaranteed seating with a pre-fixe menu. Door prices are $20 for standing room, $30 for guaranteed seating, and $40 for guaranteed seating with a prix-fixe menu. Tickets can be reserved online at dromnyc.com. The venue will also feature a mini Shurka Bazaar, where guests are invited to peruse through arts, crafts, books, jewelry, and more throughout the event.
NYC Literary and Culinary Arts Festival Highlights Iranian-American Experience
Mehregan is a new Iranian-American literary and culinary arts festival celebrating the ancient Iranian holiday marking the coming of Fall. This first annual New York City-based festival will take place Saturday, October 25, 2014 (11am – 9pm) at Café Nadery in Greenwich Village.
Mehregan honors the change of seasons with a day of events by prominent Iranian-American writers, foodies, and musicians. Authors featured include Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post journalist and author of the memoir To See and See Again), Roger Sedarat (poet and author of Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic), Amir Parsa (author of Divan and Open Epic) and Sara Goudarzi (poetry featured in Taos Journal of International Poetry, Drunken Boat, and The Adirondack Review). Journalist and food writer Leila Darabi (Tehran Bureau, everydaytrash.com) will read and invite participants to be interviewed about their experiences with Iranian cooking.
The festival offers a new take on contemporary Iranian-American culture with personal stories of coming of age, identity, family, nostalgia, and who makes the best tahdig (crunchy rice).
Mehregan will also feature videos of shows from the golden age of Iranian TV, a Pomegranate Peel-Off challenging participants to take apart the convoluted fruit for prizes, and a special performance of Iranian pop/funk hits from the 60s and 70s by members of the Farsi-funk music group, Mitra Sumara.
“By featuring food, literature and music from Iran and the Iranian diaspora, Mehregan brings together the best that our culture has to offer. New Yorkers of all backgrounds are in for a treat.”
– Leila Darabi, journalist and writer.
Mehregan will broaden people’s understanding of Iranian-American culture and experience. Through accessible and eclectic events, Mehregan will create a collaborative environment that showcases a shared culture.
Café Nadery 16 West 8th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: $15 / day pass; $40 day pass plus special dinner.
Mehregan is an Iranian-American festival showcasing Iranian-American culture and experience through literary and food memoir readings, contests and interviews, nostalgia films, and music. Produced by Persian Cardinal Productions in partnership with Persian Arts Festival and hosted by Café Nadery. http://cafenaderyny.com/ and http://
Robert Browning Associates presents first NY appearance of acclaimed Persian ensemble
MYSTICAL PERSIAN MUSIC
Saturday, APRIL 26, 2014 8:00 PM
+ 7:00 PM pre-concert artist talk
ROULETTE, 509 Atlantic Avenue (at 3rd Ave), Downtown Brooklyn
$25; $20 seniors, students Box office (917) 267-0363
Info, video & tickets: www.robertbrowningassociates.com
The Music from the Mediterranean to Asia series presented by Robert Browning Associates continues with the first New York appearance of Amir Nojan and the Nava Ensemble in a meditative program of sung poetry and instrumental music in the classical Persian tradition. The ensemble is under the direction of Amir Nojan, a virtuoso setar (lute) player who studied with leading names in traditional Persian music, including Dariush Tala’i, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, and Jalal Zolfonoun. Nojan is joined by vocalist Taghi Amjadi, who has mastered the intricate and ornate singing tradition of Persian music and has a deep understanding of the mystical Persian poetry tradition, and Sina Dehghani, a percussionist par excellence whose instruments include tonbak (goblet-shaped drum) and daf (frame drum). The program’s songs are drawn from a rich history of mystical poetry that ranges from 11th – to 14th-century poets such as Baba Taher, Nizami, Rumi (Molavi), Hafez, and Sa’adi, and more modern poets of the 17th – to 20th-centuries.
As with most Asian and Middle Eastern music, there is a close link between music and poetry. At times, when the Persian language and identity were under assault (as during the Mongol invasion), it was poetry that kept the culture alive. With religious proscriptions against music and dance at various times, the culture was often maintained through poetry because of its connection to Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that plays such an important part in the lives of the Iranian people. Instrumental music is nearly always performed as part of a suite that includes sung poetry. Improvisation is an essential part of any performance, and the musicians draw on their experience and mastery of technique to convey the emotions described by the song texts while adding their personal interpretations.
Amir Nojan, born in Shiraz, Iran in 1980 and currently living in California, is known for his brilliance on the setar, and his comprehensive knowledge of radif, the Persian traditional/classical repertoire. He started studying traditional Persian music at the age of 12 and over the years has benefited from the teachings of great masters of Persian music such as Dariush Tala’i, Jalal Zolfonoun and Mohammad Reza Lotfi. He established and directed the Nava Ensemble in 1998 in Iran and has continued that work in the US. He has performed in Iran, Europe and the US as a composer, soloist, improviser and ensemble player, and collaborated with such renowned musicians as Alim Qasimov and Shahram Nazeri. In 2012, he founded the Shiraz Arts Academy, the first professional academy for the teaching of Persian music and arts in Northern California (San Jose).
Taghi Amjadi grew up in Iran, where he began performing at the age of 14. He studied with master musician Esmail Mehrtaash, and continued his studies in the US with Mahmoud Zofonoun, Mohammad Reza Lotfi and Mohammad Reza Shajarian. He is a co-founder of the Barbod ensemble, and has been teaching and performing with various artists in the Bay Area since 1980. He currently teaches classical Persian singing at the Shiraz Arts Academy in San Jose and works as a psychotherapist privately in the Bay Area and at San Francisco State University.
Sina Dehghani, born in 1976 in Tehran, has been playing two ancient Persian percussion instruments, tonbak and daf, since the age of 14. He studied with master percussionists Bahram Dehghani, Majid Hesabi and Navid Afghi; in recent years he has continued his study of daf with Bijan Kamkar, one of Iran’s most prominent daf players, and Mas’od Habibi. In Iran, he played with several ensembles, including Daf Zanan Delahor. A new immigrant, he currently teaches Persian percussion at the Shiraz Academy of Art and culture.
Robert Browning Associates continues the programming initiated by the founders of the music programming at the Alternative Center for International Arts (Alternative Museum) from 1976 to 1985 and the World Music Institute from 1985 to 2011. Current activities include curating World Views, a concert series presented at Zankel Hall by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Robert Browning Associates; a US tour by Asif Ali Khan, a senior disciple of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and his Qawwali ensemble; and a 4-part concert series of meditational music from the Mediterranean to Asia at Roulette in Downtown Brooklyn.
The last concert in this season’s Music from the Mediterranean to Asia series at Roulette features Omar Faruk Tekbilek with Murat Tekbilek – Sufi Music of Turkey (May 3).