The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angelesis currently in its seventeenth year of free Sunset Concerts. This year, TheSkirball as Vice President of ProgramsJordan Peimer explains is celebrating “diverse cultural heritages.”
Thursday, August 15, MamakKhademand Ensemblewill perform Iranian music at the Skirball Sunset Concerts. The classically trained Khadem studied extensively in both Iran and the United States, classical Indian vocal tradition, touring globally and living in Los Angeles, where she teaches Classical Persian music.
MasaZokaei: Tell us about the Sunset Concerts at The Skirball and how you are representing Iranian music at the event.
MamakKhadem: I am very excited about this upcoming concert. The pieces that we are going to do are mostly are Iranian but we have also chosen pieces from Arabic background, Greek background…we are trying to bring in a lot of minority groups who live in Los Angeles together hopefully in a very informal way. We want people from different cultural background enjoy the night together. We can really see how we are all one.
I am learning these pieces in some of their original languages and realize how close these cultures are.
I had the pleasure to travel to Greece recently where I met Sophia Lambropoulou, the special guest artist being featured and is also the musical director for this program.
Also featured in the show will be Ruben Harutynuyan from an Armenian background, Mehdi Bagheri from Kurdistan, Iran; VahidBayat from Azerbaijan, IranAfifTaian from Syira and TJ Troy from Los Angeles.
MasaZokaei: I heard that there is dance at this event, you’re teaching dancing?
MamakKhadem: The Skirball is a place that I have come to perform before. For any artist, there has to be a group of people, an organization, that supports that artist, or there is no way things would happen. So The Skirball has allowed us to take our ideas live.
What my thought was there are Armenians, Iranians, Syrians living here and I thought, what about having a night for that? I wished that there was an Iranian or Middle Eastern group that made quality music that we could also dance to.
I am such an advocate for dance. It has been an issue in our culture and it has a huge question mark on it. There are either ethnic dances or abgooshti dances [laughs].
We wanted to create an atmosphere where there was great music and beautiful, fun dance.
MasaZokaei:Will you also be dancing at the event?
MamakKhadem:I hope so. I mean these guys make me fly!
MasaZokaei: Mamak, you have been influenced by music all over, such as what we hear on your album “Jostojoo”.
MamakKhadem: I love music from Greece, Armenia, and Turkish music is very inspiring to me. Turkish and Greek music has been able to blend tradition, traditional instruments with the music of today. They can easily make it pop music.
Sophia Lambropoulou: It is obvious with certain music that it’s the pop music of its time. You have to play traditional music as it is now. That’s what pop music really is. In 50 years this will be the tradition of today. We just have to play. Music has to be a game otherwise it cannot be.
MamakKhadem: For many years, the Farsi language has taken over the other languages in Iran. The Kurdish and Azari people have their own language.
There was a time in Iran where it was unfashionable to speak Azari or other dialects or similar languages to Farsi. But that is changing now.
In a way, I am trying to connect and this is my way of connection.
Mamak will be singing a Greek song originally by Rosa Ashkenazi, who recorded over 360 songs in her life. Ashkanazi helped many people survive during the German occupation.
The series here really creates a special ambiance in the outdoor courtyard setting of The Skirball Center. Attendees can have dinner under the stars, and sing and dance along with the musicians.
MamakKhadem and Ensemble live at The Skirball Center August 15 8:00pm. Dance Instruction at 7:15pm. Skirball Center is located at 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90049.
Please note: concertgoers must show a date-of-concert Skirball parking stub, Metro pass, or taxi receipt for concert admission.