Mamak Khadem & Ensemble
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Mamak Khadem & Ensemble

Santa Monica, California, United States

Santa Monica, California, United States
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“On her first solo album, Mamak Khadem creates a seamless tapestry from different cultures, unified by Persian poetry and centered on the theme of love. Innovative and beautiful musical arrangements combine with powerfully evocative vocals, conjuring myriads of images and landscapes. The delivery is deeply heartfelt and sincere. As we listen, we are awakened to a stream of emotions as Mamak takes us on her journey beyond time and space, on a quest for union and wholeness.� - Yatrika Shah-Rais KPFK 90.7 FM


...one of the ground-breaking vocalists in a new Persian fusion sound that challenged the boundaries of classical purism, and forged a fresh new stylistic context for a generation of young singers."

"Inspired by her extensive travels throughout the Middle East, "Jostojoo" not only evokes an eclectic assortment of vibrant regional Iranian melodies, but draws as well from closely-related cultures - Armenian, Greek, Turkish, Kurdish - that share similar musical timbres and tenets. Bu the richly atmospheric core of Khadem's work is deeply rooted in her native culture, as she adapts the great Persian love poetry of Rumi and Shamloo, as well as original verse from young contemporary Iranian poets, to carefully selected melodies from both the classical and folk repertoires of Iran, and from the folk traditions of the related musical cultures of the region that she has explored.

- fRoots by Cheryl McEnaney


"Khadem was extraordinary Wednesday, drawing her listeners in via the pure, emotionally communicative
powers of her voice - she is one of the wonders of world trance music." - Don Heckman - Los Angeles Times


“Khadem’s subtle, sophisticated repertoire recalls the minimalism of Philip Glass along with the closely related traditions of India, Persia, the Near East and Eastern Europe.” - Shepherd Express


“ This is fusion at its best: a seamless musical fabric which provides the best evidence that there never was any such thing as a 'pure' musical tradition in this part of the world, where the cross-cultural connections go back for millennia. “ - Songlines by Laudan Nooshin-


Mamak Khadem - Rainforest world Music Festival, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia, July 9
"In this 14th year of the festival, artistic director Randy Raine-Reusch focused on female performers. "I wanted to show strong voices of women around the world." says Reusch. What better way to do that than with Iranian-born singer Mamak Khadem. As the sun set over the jungle, Khadem launched into her performance with a confident, robust and powerful a capella song 'Invocation' from her upcoming release, A Window to Color. It is a prayer to ensure the show goes smoothly, and it did.
This was the first time Khadem has performed in a Muslim country. Her voice rang with passion and pride in the songs women in Iran are forbidden to sing. The concert-goers - Malaysians, Singaporeans, and visitors from around the world - sang along and swayed to the music.
Khadem moved to Los Angeles in 1977, two years before the Islamic revolution. seeing the struggle in Iran from afar, she felt the need to connect herself with the suffering back home. "I had to do something 100% Iranian," says Khadem. Her way of reaching this goal was to learn to sing the ancient poetry from the Persian greats, such as Rumi and Hafiz. Meanwhile in Iran, women are still not allowed to perform in public. Khadem sings these Persian classical songs as a form of protest." I am an Iranian woman and I want to be the voice of Iranian women. it's a big challenge. My heart is in it so I feel I am a good representative of an Iranian woman," says Khadem. - Songlines


Forever Seeking Persian Excellence
03/08/2008 02:51AM
Contributed by: TJNelson

CD Reviews

Mamak Khadem

Jostojoo Forever Seeking (Banyan Tree Production, 2008)

Most world music fans would easily recognize Mamak Khadem’s voice by her work with the popular Persian ensemble Axiom of Choice, but that would just be a sliver of this songstress’ career. Lending her exquisite voice to movie and television soundtracks like The Peacemaker, Traffic, The Profiler and Battlestar Galactica, participating in the Voices of Women Festival in Greece and the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles, as well as, appearing on Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s Alif and Jamshied Sharifi’s A Prayer for the Soul of Layla has certainly put Ms. Khadem firmly on the musical map. Now fans have a new reason to rejoice because Mamak Khadem has kicked off her solo career in a big way with Jostojoo Forever Seeking out on Banyan Tree Productions.


Assembling and arranging a repertoire of songs based on melodies found in Iran, Baluchistan, Armenia, Turkey, Greece and Kurdistan and shot through with Persian poetry, Ms. Khadem, along with producer extraordinaire Jamshied Sharifi and Omar Faruk Tekbilek, has created a smart, sophisticated CD with Jostojoo. Artfully crafted and expertly arranged, Jostojoo is simply an invitation something magical.

Opening track “Baz Amadam The Return� starts simply but blossoms into a full force of clarinet, oud, darbuka, viola, bass, djembe, gungon, bender, chaker, bells, bombo and some snappy hand claps against the full force of Ms. Khadem’s vocals. I have to admit a little greedy pleasure I get from tracks like percussion layered “Gelayeh Plaintive� or the achingly poignant Kurdish melody “Varan Rain� in that there is a fairytale like feel to them, where there are unexpected turns of vocal phrasing I didn’t expect or the subtle circle of accordion or clarinet that wend their way throughout the compositions.



Omar Faruk Tekbilek lends his rich voice to Ms. Khadem’s bewitching vocals on “Heydar,� a composition brimming over with the meaty sounds of ney, baglama, tam-tam, daf, cajon, darbuka, shaker and accordion. In addition to rich pieces like title track “Jostojoo,� “Lalah Lullaby for the Awakening� and “Avareh Homewrecke,d� there is the powerful “Lachrymosa� with Mamak Khadem on vocals and harmonium, Kourosh Moradi on tambur and vocals and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on vocals and ney that is deliciously evocative.

While centered around Mamak Khadem’s vocals, Jostojoo Forever Speaking also features some splendid musicians like Ole Mathisen on clarinet, Simone Haggiag on daf and cajon as well as a whole host of other instruments, Eyvind King on viola, Brahim Fribgane and Dimitris Mahlis on oud, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, Benjamin Wittman on darbuka and Hamid Saeidi on santur. There’s also Habib Mefia on dom dom and damman, Sofia Lambropoulou on kanum, Roubik Haroutunian on duduk, Layla Sakamoto Sharifi on violin, Marc Shulman on guitar and other fine musicians I simply don’t have room to mention.

Jostojoo is simply a triumph of a jumping off point for Ms. Khadem’s solo career.

Jostojoo is available from cdbaby.com/cd/mamakkhadem

- World Music Central


Born in Tehran and based in Los Angeles, the singer emphasizes classical Persian verse by Rumi and Shamloo, as well as contemporary Iranian poetry. Her music is steeped in tradition, but has a breezy feel that should appeal to modern globe-trotters.
TIME OUT NEW YORK Oct 2008
- Time Out New York


Classically trained Mamak Khadem, an Iranian long based in Los Angeles, is also performing her blend of Persian poetry and Greek, Turkish and Armenian musical influences at the ICA. She chooses not to play in Iran because she would be confined to women-only audiences. “The unfortunate thing is most Iranian artists have learned to censor themselves to stay out of trouble and have become comfortable with it,” she says. “But I have been encouraged these past few months witnessing another, more activist side of the Iranian youth.” - Evening Standard - London


By Tony Montague, January 18, 2011

After years of returning regularly to her homeland of Iran to study Persian classical music and learn its repertoire from the masters, Mamak Khadem came to realize that she wanted to be more than a vocalist in the traditional mould.

“As a teenage immigrant to the U.S. I was exposed to many different cultures and musics,” she says, reached at her home in L.A. “I wanted to create my own style—accessible to everyone, but with an Iranian signature. It was a challenge. Such ideas were not appropriate to the classical-music purists.”

In the early ’90s, Khadem joined Axiom of Choice, formed by multi-instrumentalist and composer Loga Ramin Torkian. The band helped forge a new Middle Eastern sound, one that balanced respect for Persian tradition, a desire to innovate, and western influences. After Axiom, which released three brilliant albums, disbanded in 2004, Torkian went on to form the trio Niyaz with his wife, Azam Ali, and Carmen Rizzo, while Khadem continued to teach, perform, and research her art, which led to travels.

“For a number of years I went to Armenia, Turkey, and Greece. I find their cultures and music particularly inspiring and had a desire to explore the differences from my Iranian background. Instead, I ended up discovering how many things we all share—especially in music. I felt an urge to work with the traditional melodies I encountered.”

Khadem’s debut solo album, Jostojoo, distills her thoughts, memories, and desires from those years. The elegantly arranged music is a blend of classical Persian and other Middle Eastern traditions with subtle elements of trancey electronica, rock, and early music. It resonates long after the final notes.

“With Axiom, we primarily were composing original music,” Khadem says. “With this project, I wanted to start with existing melodies that had been haunting me—sparking my imagination and inspiring a very personal journey. Jostojoo gave me an opportunity to widen my musical family, and I was thrilled to collaborate with the combination of players from folk traditions, world music, and the jazz scene.”

For the words of Iranian songs such as the rousing closer “Bigharar”, Khadem turned to young poets such as Siroos Jamali. But to provide the lyrics for songs from other lands—the lilting title track based on Greek folk tradition, or the plaintive yet uptempo opener “Baz Amadam”, whose melody comes from Armenia—she turned to Persian Sufi poets of the distant past.

“I soon realized I can express myself more openly and effectively in Farsi, so I married the melodies to the work of some Persian master poets that I continue to turn to for inspiration, Rumi and Baba Taher.”

Khadem’s second solo album, due for release later this year, is based on the work of a more contemporary Iranian poet, the late Sohrab Sepehri. “The new recording came from a very different period of my life from Jostojoo—one that involved far less travelling, and really connecting with my husband, Hamid, who was in the process of immigrating to the U.S. from Iran. It’s a bit more meditative, as Sepehri was a man who chose a very simple life and had his own spiritual path—I like to call him a contemporary Sufi. It’s more spare and simple in the arrangements than Jostojoo—all my albums have to reflect my life at the time.” - Straight.com


Mamak Khadem - brought operatic intensity to the music of Iran, where she was born. Khadem's vocal methods, which involved intricate ornamentation and a virtuoso technique, would have been alluring to hear if she were onstage alone.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE Sept 2008
- Chicago Tribune


Iranian vocalist Mamak Khadem is breaking gender rules in Persian music, one of very few Iranian women singing this style of poetry in public, usually a men-only affair.

Khadem releases her new album “A Window to Color” with influences from Turkey, Greece and Spain.

Maria Bakkalapulo tells us how the music helped Mamak Khadem find her purpose as an Iranian woman and singer. - PRI's The World


Discography

Solo:
"A Window to Color" 2011
"Jostojoo" ("Forever Seeking") 2007

With Axiom of Choice:
"Unfolding" Axiom of Choice 2002
"Niya Yesh" Axiom of Choice 2000
"Beyond Denial" Axiom of Choice 1996

As guest vocalist:
"Alif" Omar Faruk Tekbilek 2002
"Brink" Dave Stringer 2001
"Season of Souls" Tulku 1998
"Prayer for the Soul of Layla" Jamshied Sharifi 1997

Soundtracks:
"Skateistan" 2010
"Battlestar Gallactica" 2004-2009
"Traffic" (The Mini-Series) 2004
"Peacemaker" Hans Zimmer 1997

Photos

Bio

Born in Tehran, Iran, Mamak moved to the U.S. as a teenager where she grew up with American pop, rock and jazz. Two years after her arrival in the U.S., the 1979 revolution in Iran and the eight-year war with Iraq changed her destiny. After the revolution,Mamak decided to explore her rich heritage and began training in Persian Classical music with radif vocal masters. "After years of traveling back to Iran to study this music, I realized that I didn't want to be a pure traditional singer. I needed to create my own style of music - accessible to everyone, but with an Iranian signature. It was a challenge that I really wanted to embrace." As a founding member of the fusion sensation Axiom of Choice, Mamak had a chance to collaborate and create in an ensemble that pioneered an exciting and original Persian contribution to world music. Inspired by her travels throughout the Middle East, the music of her first solo album Jostojoo explored a variety of different regional and folk melodies not only from Iran, but also from Greece, Turkey and Armenia.

A Window to Color, Mamak's new CD features original compositions based on the nature poetry of Persian artist Sohrab Sepehri evoking yearning, beauty, freedom and a return to innocence and love. Mamak feels it is her mission to encourage the youth around the world to contemplate, observe and celebrate a global consciousness of peace, equality and understanding. Mamak Khadem is equally active on stage, having performed at many venues and festivals in the US and around the world. A guest vocalist on numerous world music recordings, she has also recorded for a number of film soundtracks including Skateistan, The Peacemaker, Traffic, The Profiler, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica.