Monika Jalili
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Monika Jalili

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"Cultural Detente: Iranian Music Made in the US"

“Monika Jalili and NoorSaaz burst upon the world music scene in 2005 with their eponymous CD mingling
Persian folk standards with love songs from the thriving pop scene of pre-revolutionary Iran in the 1960s and
1970s. The response to both the CD and live performances by the group has been tremendous, including over 350,000 hits on the webcast of NoorSaaz's concert from Trinity Church in Manhattan in late 2005.” 3/1/07 - Modern Mask: Journal of the Arts

"An Axis of Joy: Monika Jalili and NoorSaaz Band Triumph in Paris"

“Three standing ovations and cheers of bravos...there is something very special about NoorSaaz that I have rarely encountered in the past 27 years I have lived outside of Iran... “ - 11/28/06
- Payvand News

"Monika Jalili Lights the Way"

"With her debut CD entitled Monika Jalili: NoorSaaz, Monika and her group have managed to capture the minds of young and old and to bridge the gaps of
culture and amazingly well-recorded and beautifully sung set of songs." - 12/1/05 - Persian MIRROR

"Monika Jalili : NoorSaaz CD Review"

Prior to the 1979 revolution, Iranians were not listening to Persian hip-hop, but rather traditional tunes and love songs. Preserving a slice of this pre-revolutionary history is Monika Jalili. Her self-released album NoorSaaz (a combination of the Farsi words for "light" and "creator" or "musical instrument") includes ten songs (totaling just over 40 minutes of music).....incorporating her strong, crisp, almost operatic voice with violin, oud, guitar, and percussion. A fine Persian diversion. - 11/1/05 - SoundRoots

"Sensational Work in Every Sense"

"This truly perfect collection of songs is hair-raising, and you may find yourself in tremor from the sheer beauty of the work, even if you don't understand the language of the lyrics.
Monika's angelic, soprano voice is a perfect complement to the masterful instrumentals, and together they transport the listener to a mystical ancient time where one's worries can melt away into thin ether.
I have an eclectic taste in music, and a vast collection that spans in the hundreds, but there was truly not a single album in my collection that could have been called "perfect," until now..." - 9/16/07 - Amazon

"Monika Jalili - Iranian American Soprano"

"What an amazing voice!"

-Beauty and the East 3/13/09 - Beauty and the East -

""Roundtable with You" Featured Monika Jalili"

Roundtable with You featured Monika Jalili, a classically trained vocalist born in New York City who currently devotes much of her time to bringing “the beautiful songs of Iran” to as many people as possible...One viewer responded to the program with this e-mail message: “You have done many great shows, but today’s show with Monika Jalili was exceptional.”

Voice of America News - 11/19/07 - Voice of America News

"A Concert Heard Round the World: Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz Return"

In October 2005, Monika Jalili and NoorSaaz filed on to the stage at Trinity Church and straight into Trinity history. Their concert of music from pre-revolutionary Iran has been viewed via more than 300,000 times since last October, making it one of the most heavily trafficked features ever presented on Trinity's website.

-Trinity News 9/28/06 - Trinity News -

"Monika Jalili "Élan""

Monika Jalili is perhaps the most interesting and talented singer of old and popular Iranian songs of the 1940s through 1970s-or songs before "Islamic Revolution." Her beautiful and modern rendition of these songs brings back joy and nostalgia to all Iranians and even non-Iranians.
Beside her beautiful voice, Monika's translation of some songs and singing them in English and occasionally in French has really added to her American fans and created a great deal of respect and admiration for her among Persian listeners. 6/7/09 -

"Review: Monika Jalili - Élan"

Monika Jalili stumbled into Persian music much the way destiny finds most people; it was something that was never entirely distant from her life based on her background, but took her quite surprise. Jalili was pursuing a career in musical theater when bitten by the bug of Persian music. After starting NoorSaaz with Megan (nee Weeder) in 2004, Persian music filled more and more of Jalili's musical vision. The culmination (thus far), is the album Élan. Jalili takes traditional folk songs of Iran/Persia prior to the Iranian revolution and breathes life into them with readings that mix both eastern and western perspectives. Jalili sings in Persian, Azeri, French and English, and her love of the songs shows through in every note. Many of these songs have been banned in Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but continue to inspire and move people all around the world. Élan is produced by Jamshied Sharifi, himself a prodigious composer (Muppets In Space, Down To Earth, Harriet The Spy, Clockstoppers), Arranger (Ray Charles, Paula Cole, Dream Theater) and band leader.

Élan opens with Ghoghaye Setaregan (Dance Of The Stars), an uplifting song full of hope and grace. Jalili's voice is eminently beautiful; a full and rich soprano that caresses each note with its texture and tone. Arezooha (Wishes) pulls in some serious Western Influence ala Windham Hill. The acoustic guitar here serving as the perfect complement to Jalili's vocals. This is one of those songs you just won't want to end, and the language barrier won't matter either. You don't need to understand the words to get the wistful hope with a slice of melancholy that pervades the song. As if to balance the western feel of Arezooha, Jalili heads resolutely in the other direction on Gonjeshgake Ashi Mashi. The violin and guitar nearly steal the show on this song, but Jalili owns the stage even on CD.

Ay Rilikh (Separation) is as close to an operatic recitative that Jalili gets on Élan. There's no Wagnerian fire and brimstone, but the emotive quality of the song is startling. The song itself is a thing of beauty, and Jalili draws every ounce of subdued drama and sorrow out into the open in the texture and tone of her voice. Evlari Vaar (To Bemaan) is one of the more interesting songs on Élan with clear Persian roots but an almost Eastern European/Slavic feel to it. The arrangement here is somewhat simplistic but that works to showcase Jalili's voice on a particularly challenging vocal line.

Biya Bare Safar Bandim (Let's Be On Our Way) has an almost Rock N Roll feel to it, bowing to distinct western influence. This is another relatively bare arrangement, relying primarily on guitar, violin and percussion. Peyke Sahari (Messenger Of Dawn) may well be the most beautiful composition on the disc, and finds Jalili in her most lyric vocal line yet. Bia Bia Benshin (Come Sit By Me) takes full control of the Persian scale, making the most of those two extra half-steps. Bia Bia Benshin sounds like it might have stepped right out of a movie or musical. Élan closes out with what must be described as the keynote song of the album, Ay Vatan (Oh, My Homeland). This is not so much a song of nationality as a musical ode to the land where an entire people's roots are driven deep. You'll be moved by Ay Vatan regardless of your nationality, and Jalili's rendition is absolutely haunting.

Monika Jalili comes along with a collection of poignant and beautiful Iranian/Persian songs that predate the Iranian Revolution at a time when the residents of that country are closer to turning back the revolution that binds them than at any point since 1979. Élan speaks to the goodness and yearning for a better life of a beautiful people; one who is striving right now for the freedom to choose their own path. If Jalili's album is reflective of the culture and nature of the people of Iran when free from oppression and fear, then it is an amazing tribute to a national spirit that has been hidden from the world for three decades. Élan is an amazing collection full of beauty, hope and the fragile yet vital strength of the human spirit.

Wildy's World July 18, 2009


CD: Élan - released April 2009
CD: Monika Jalili : NoorSaaz - released August, 2005
DVD: Songs of Love from Iran - released March, 2006



For a talented group of Iranian poets and composers enjoying fame, the Iranian revolution of 1979 extinguished hopes, dreams and careers. We will never know what could have been.

Since a serendipitous introduction in 2003, Monika Jalili has worked tirelessly to revive the touching works of these Iranian artists, some of whom are no longer with us, and most of whom have lived the past 30 years into their old age unable to express themselves as they once could. It is their songs that Monika sings with passion, appreciation, care and love.

Monika's repertoire also includes folk songs from various regions of Iran. All songs are sung in local dialects and languages, with additional English and French translations on selected pieces.

Monika Jalili aims to bring to life the rich history of Iranian culture through its music and poetry. Her entrancing selection of songs spans time and place; traditional Persian folk favorites stand alongside love songs from the 1940s to 1970s, a time of great cultural change in Iran. Using traditional and non-traditional instruments, her ensemble of musicians combine their influences to present original interpretations of this music. In a spirit of exploration, Monika aspires to create understanding through an appreciation of the beauty of Iranian culture. Monika's English and French translations are her way of sharing the poetry she loves with a global audience.

Monika Jalili is a classically trained vocalist born in New York City, with a degree in Vocal Performance from The Manhattan School of Music and in French Literature from Columbia University. Monika has performed with her ensemble at such venues as The Kennedy Center - Millennium Stage (D.C.), Lincoln Center (NY), Faces Etnofestival (Finland), The United States Naval Academy (Annapolis), Place des Arts (Montreal), Maison des Cultures du Monde (Paris), World Academy of Art, Literature, and Music Awards (Budapest), Cathedral of St. John the Divine (NY), Columbia University (NY), American University (NY), University of California (Davis), University of Illinois (Urbana), University of Washington (Seattle), Trinity Church at Wall Street (NY), Missouri History Museum (St. Louis), California Institute of Technology (Pasadena), Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (California), and many others.