An evening of traditional and original Persian Music with
MAHSA VAHDAT and ATABAK ELYASI
“The Iran born singer Mahsa Vahdat has one of the most beautiful voices in the universe. So intense, so mystic, so passionate, it can express the deepest longing, sorrow and pain that exists.” – LIRA Magazine
Mahsa Vahdat was trained in classical Persian singing and regional folk music by master musicians in Iran. After the Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, public female singing was banned. To this day, female singers can only perform for authorized women-only audiences or alongside a male voice, and can never perform solo in public. She and her husband, internationally renowned composer, instrumentalist and music educator Atabak Elyasi now live in the US.
Mahsa’s repertoire is inspired by regional and traditional music from Iran infused with her unique and resilient artistic sensibility. Her song lyrics are mostly mystical and love poems by great Persian poets like Hafez, Rumi and Saadi, who lived several centuries ago, as well as works of contemporary Iranian poetry speaking about Iranian society.
Recording on the highly regarded Norwegian world music label, Kirkelig Kulturverksted, her recent solo album, The Sun Also Rises has received rave reviews worldwide: “Mahsa Vahdat has masterfully proven how it’s possible for Persian music to continue evolving.” –Neil van der Linden, SONGLINES Magazine
An active campaigner for human rights, Mahsa is an award-winning ambassador of Freemuse, an independent international organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. She has attracted considerable attention with her work on the record Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, and her collaboration with soul singer Mighty Sam McClain, A Deeper Tone of Longing (Love Duets Across civilizations).
She was guest soloist with the Women’s choir, Kitka in one of the highlights of our concert season last year.
“…hauntingly graceful, achingly poignant vocals” – World Music Central
This performance is part of our Immigrant Voices series, featuring music from recent immigrants to the US.
Also part of the series:
March 24 – DIANA GAMEROS, plus Megan Keely
SF Live Arts presents our Immigrant Voices series with
“You build a wall – we make a bridge. You ban an immigrant – we make a flower bouquet, a song and welcome all humans in.” –Diana Gameros
“Her voice haunted me.” Felix Contreras, NPR
Originally from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, singer, guitarist and composer Diana Gameros creates authentic, inspiring music that reflects the 21st century experiences of an indie artist at the borderlands between cultures, languages, and genres. Now living In the Bay Area, Diana has played with many local favorites, including the Oakland East Bay Symphony and has opened concerts for Bebel Gilberto, Latin Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia and many others. She recently performed for four nights at the SF Jazz Festival and was featured in both SF Chronicle Datebook and KQED Arts’ “Women to Watch” articles. In 2013 Diana released her first album Eterno Retorno, a soulful retrospective of her journey as an immigrant. The following year, she received the Emerging Leader Award from the Chicana/Latina Foundation for her work in music and her support to social justice movements. Part of tonight’s concert will celebrate Arrullo, (a new album of traditional Mexican songs that she arranged and directed) that pays homage to her heritage and homeland. Recorded at the renowned Women’s Audio Mission Studio, it received honorable mention from NPR’s Top Latin Albums Of the Year in 2017. As their review stated: “She combines deeply reflective songs about longing that speak to the immigrant experience, no matter where home is.” She will be accompanied by Patrick Wolff (tenor sax/clarinet). http://dianagameros.com/
Megan Keely was born and raised in the hills south of San Francisco, CA.
With three albums released and a fourth on the way, Megan’s body of work is simultaneously soothing and empowering.
Define American is the first single off Megan Keely’s forthcoming album, Bloom. With the launch of the music video, the song was picked up by Jose Antonio Vargas’s nation-wide non profit to help deepen conversations around immigration and cultural change.
She is breaking new ground with songs celebrating life and strength. Her songwriting first caught the attention of producer T Bone Burnett, who selected Megan’s song, Rules (co-written with her brother Brandon) for inclusion on The Hunger Games Soundtrack Companion Album. “Megan Keely is a stunning young woman with a voice that will break your heart and heal it all in one sitting.” – Annie Bacon –The Folk Opera For this performance, she will be accompanied by Steve Wyreman on guitar.
We continue our Immigrant Voicesseries with Vietnamese music virtuoso
Vân-Ánh, VANESSA VÕ
An award-winning performer and virtuoso on 16-string dan tranh (zither), voice and other traditional instruments, Vân-Ánh, Vanessa Võ is also an Emmy Award-winning composer who has performed internationally with ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet(most recently at SF Jazz). In this performance Võ will take the audience on a journey to Vietnam through music — and the culture behind it. This performance of traditional sounds of North, Central, and South Vietnam will blend with modern Western soundscapes as Võ presents solo works and collaborative performances.
Fusing her traditional Vietnamese foundation with new structures and compositions, she has been a collaborator and solo artist with performers such as Nguyen Le, Paul McCandless, Ali Ryerson, Charles Loos, and SOMEI Taiko Ensemble. Vanessa has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, Zellerbach Hall,Lincoln Center and the Olympic Games 2012 Music Festival. She was composer and arranger for the Oscar® nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning documentary Daughter from Danang.
At the Kennedy Center, she presented The Odyssey: From Vietnam to America, a piece using music, spoken word, live media and more to explore the journeys of the boat people escaping war and abandoning their lives in search of freedom.
A multi-instrumentalist, she also performs on the dan Bau. “This instrument has a single string, but by bending it with a kind of whammy bar made from buffalo horn, Vo creates a haunting landscape of growls, hushed vibrato and graceful slides, all with the exquisite phrasing of an opera singer. Her composition “Three-Mountain Pass”(also the title of her recent album), for voice and Hang drum, is based on the sensuously evocative texts of Ho Xuan Huong, a groundbreaking female poet (and concubine) from the 18th century. And with “Go Hunting,”Vo introduces another traditional instrument, the dan T’rung, a bamboo xylophone from Vietnam’s south highlands. In her work with orchestras and Japanese taiko drum ensembles, Võ reveals the great breadth and flexibility of the traditional styles she spent decades perfecting with master musicians and at the conservatory in Hanoi. Võ pushes the envelope of the past, engaging sounds and complex, multi-layered concepts to unfurl new spaces for the music she loves.” Tom Huizenga, NPR
Coming from a family of musicians, Võ began studying đàn tranh (16-string zither) from the age of four. She graduated with distinction from the Vietnam Academy of Music, where she later taught. In Hanoi, she was an ensemble member of Vietnam National Music Theatre as well as founder and director of the traditional music group Đồng Nội Ensemble. She also plays the 36-string hammered dulcimer (dan tam thap luc), the bamboo xylophone (dan t’rung), the k’longput, traditional drums (trong), and Chinese guzheng.
“Võ’s energy and enthusiasm for musical creativity seems to transcend any particular instrument and instead feed off a fundamental sonic curiosity, as well as a desire to reflect on hercultural heritage and share those sounds with new ears.”—Molly Sheridan, New Music Box
We’re pleased to present Vanessa Võ as part of our Immigrant Voicesseries, which features internationally renowned performers who have immigrated to the US.