Galeet Dardashti’s Monajat

March 28, 2019 at 7:30 PM, Stella Boyle Concert Hall

Monajat is inspired by old and haunting recordings of the Jewish prayers of Selihot chanted by Galeet Dardashti’s grandfather—a master singer of Persian classical music in Iran. Dardashti reinvents the deep and reflective musical ritual of Selihot using digital technology to sing with her famed Iranian grandfather, composing original music to sacred Jewish and Persian poetry, and performing with an acclaimed ensemble of Middle Eastern and jazz musicians. Audiences are enveloped into the ritual with Persian melodies, poetic Hebrew texts, electronic soundscapes, and dynamic video art.

Dardashti is joined by accomplished musicians Zafer Tawil (ney, violin, doumbek), Max ZT (hammer dulcimer), Philip Mayer (doumbek, frame drum, riqq), and Shanir Blumenkranz (oud, bass).

“Monajat is one of those unforgettable performances that transcends time and space through intergenerational voices and mesmerizing visuals,” says Greg Sandoval, Curator of Public Programs, Fowler Museum, UCLA. “Dardashti and the accompanying musicians are superb performers whose talents are indeed impressive and inspiring.”

Monajat will also be joined by student musicians from the U of A World Music Ensemble, which performs music from various cultures using instruments from the Middle East, Medieval Europe, Western Folk music instruments, among others.

About the Musicians

The first woman to continue her family’s tradition of distinguished Persian and Jewish musicianship, Galeet Dardashti pursues her passion for Jewish and Middle Eastern music as vocalist/composer and scholar. Dardashti’s grandfather, Younes Dardashti, was one of the most highly acclaimed singers of Persian classical music in Iran. Together with her family (including renowned Cantor Farid Dardashti), she has performed Jewish music throughout the US and Canada for almost twenty years.

Since then, she has earned a reputation as one of the most innovative Jewish and Middle Eastern musicians today. She received a Six Points Fellowship to pursue her multi-disciplinary project and nationally acclaimed release, The Naming. Dardashti is also the leader of the renowned all-female power-house Mizrahi ensemble, Divahn. The group has engendered an international following with its fresh and fiery renditions of traditional Middle Eastern Jewish songs.

Dardashti holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, specializing in cultural politics and contemporary Middle Eastern/Arab music and identity in Israel. She has published widely on her work and her recent positions have included Visiting Scholar and Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU’s Taub Center for Israel Studies and Reitman Fellow at the Bildner Center at Rutgers University. She is currently Assistant Professor of Jewish Music and Musician-in-Residence at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Zafer Tawil is an accomplished Palestinian musician based in New York City. A virtuoso on oud, violin, and qanoun, he is a master of Arabic percussion. He has performed with numerous musicians, ranging from the pop star Sting to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe, to masters of Arabic music such as Simon Shaheen, Chab Mami, Bassam Saba, and George Ziadeh, among many others. Tawil has composed music for several film soundtracks, most recently Jonathan Demme’s My Favorite American (not yet released), Rachel Getting Married, and the documentary Until When. He has held workshops on Arabic music at numerous universities throughout the United States.

Max ZT, based out of Brooklyn, New York, has been lauded as the “Jimi Hendrix of Hammered Dulcimer” by NPR, and “A Force of nature” by NY Music Daily, Max ZT is an innovator of the instrument. Taking his roots from Irish and American folk music, Max has transplanted his compositional techniques to both Senegal, where he studied the Mandinko technique with the Cissoko griot family, and to India, where he received the prestigious AIIS grant to study under the great santoor master Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. His fresh perspective and bold experimentalism have been the backbone to beautiful, complex, and genuine compositions, while his unorthodox playing style has been a pioneering force in revolutionizing dulcimer techniques.

He has put out nine albums, and in 2005, won the National Hammered Dulcimer Championship. He’s recorded with a vast array of artists across musical genres, ranging from Victor Wooten, to The Goo Goo Dolls, to American Idol Phil Phillips. His band House of Waters have been called “One of the most original bands on the planet,” by NY Music Daily, and have shared the stage with some of the most influential international musical leaders of the century including Pt. Ravi Shankar, Tinariwen, Jon Bon Jovi, Jimmy Cliff, Bela Fleck, Karsh Kale, Snarky Puppy, and more.

Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, acoustic bass, electric bass, oud, gimbri, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1975 to Egyptian and Polish parents. He was given his first instruments, the pots and pans from the kitchen and a three string guitar at the age of two. He is featured on over 35 releases on John Zorn’s Tzadik record label since 1999 – producing and arranging many of the bands he works with, including Rashanim “The Gathering”, Edom “Hope And Destruction”, Pitom “Blasphemy And Other Serious Crimes”, and the “Kef” self-titled debut.

Blumenkranz has performed in concert halls and festival stages all over the world with John Zorn, ABRAXAS, Banquet of the Spirits, Yemen Blues, Zion80, Edom, Pitom, Rashanim, Satlah, Kef, Pharaoh’s Daughter, and recently joining Yo-Yo Ma playing oud, bass, gimbri, and arranging music for the Silk Road Project.

Philip Mayer is a New York City based percussionist. With a background in jazz and American popular music, Mayer’s interest in drumming traditions from around the world has led him to travel to and study extensively in India, Turkey, Israel, Spain and Italy. He has a degree in jazz performance from Florida State University. Notable teachers include: John Riley, Leon Anderson Jr., Pandit Samir Chaterjee, Zohar Fresco, Yshai Afterman, Mehmet Akatay, Bünyamin Olguncan, and Aleix Tobias.

Mayer has performed, toured, and/or recorded with Natalie Merchant, Kishi Bashi, of Montreal, David Wax Museum, Coleman Barks, Lonnie Holley, Moira Smiley, Seamus Egan, Hazmat Modine, Pillar Point, Tall Tall Trees, Parijat Desai, Charlotte Kate Fox, The New York Arabic Orchestra, Addi & Jacq, SHARQ ATTACK, Tipsy Oxcart, Jai Jagdeesh and many more. He is currently the percussionist for the Broadway musical, The Band’s Visit, winner of 10-Tony Awards in 2018.