Tag Archives: Iran

Artist Profiles: Mamak Khadem

Mamak Khadem

Born in Iran, Mamak Khadem was part of the Children’s Choir for National Radio and Television, and immigrated to the U. S. as a teenager in 1976. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, her passion for singing and learning traditional Persian vocal styles grew.

When I think of my childhood, my memories are inseparable from the melodies that touched my soul when I was growing up. It was through establishing this personal relationship with music as well as my training at the children’s choir for National Radio and Television of Iran that my musical education began. But it was not until the late 1970s and after the revolution that I truly became inspired to learn Persian traditional vocals.” Thus Mamak Khadem sums up her musical background.

She was inspired by works of master musicians in the 1980s and regularly traveled back to Iran to study with prominent vocalists and musicians. She also studied classical Indian singing at Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in northern California and Eastern European singing with the Los Angeles-based women’s choir Nevenka.

In 1992, Mamak joined Axiom of Choice, and over the next ten years created three albums with the group. Khadem embarked on a solo career and in 2007 released a new solo recording, Jostojoo (Forever Seeking). Inspired by her travels throughout the Middle East, Khadem adapts Persian poetry to rearranged traditional melodies from various regions of Iran, Baluchistan, Armenia, Turkey, Greece and Kurdistan.

Mamak Khadem

Khadem has also been a featured performer on several film and television scores, including The Peacemaker, Traffic, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica. She sang music composed by Iranian ethnomusicologist Mohammad Reza Darvishi for the play Majles-e Shabih (by renowned Iranian playwright and director Bahram Bayzaie). In addition, Khadem has recorded with Turkish singer Omar Faruk Tekbilek (on the album Alif), Jamshied Sharifi (on A Prayer for the Soul of Layla) and Tulku (on Season of Souls, compiled on the Buddha Bar series).



Jostojoo: Forever Seeking (Banyan Tree, 2007)
A Window to Color (2011)
The Road (Innova, 2015)

With Axiom of Choice:

Beyond Denial (Faray-e Enkaar) (X Dot 25, 1996)
Niya Yesh (Narada World, 2000)
Unfolding (Goshayesh) (Narada World, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Majid Derakhshani

Majid Derakhshani

Majid Derakhshani is considered one of the best tar players in Iran with the respectful title Ostad, meaning a master who can give the best performance on a classical instrument. His teacher on setar and tar was the legendary Mohamad Reza Lotfi. He has also recorded with the most famous Iranian singer Mohammadreza Shajarian.


Music of the Persian Mystics (Arc Music, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Loga Ramin Torkian

Loga Ramin Torkian

Loga Ramin Torkian was the guitarist and musical director of Axiom of Choice. Born in Iran, he moved to the United States after the revolution. When asked to speak about his musical background, he says, “The path to defining one’s music is never straight. I reflect upon the day I left my flamenco guitar teacher – disheartened by his truthful comment that after practicing for years, the only way to bring myself to professional standards would be to move to Spain, otherwise my playing would always have an accent.

I knew I could not leave the United States for years to come and I felt I had reached an end. I did not realize then that I was about to discover something very unique within myself.” Loga spent the next three years studying the tar, a Persian lute and joined for a short period a traditional ensemble. But he quickly learned that he could not satisfy his creativity within the framework of traditional music. It was then that he decided to create the quarter-tone guitar to which he adapted many of the tar techniques and formed Axiom of Choice, which served as a common ground for other expatriates to work with him. “As an emigre artist, I have chosen to express myself in music that is not bound by the confines of traditional Persian music. Yet, my music in its very depth comes from that tradition,” said Loga who continues to use the radif (Persian repertoire) and Persian melodies as the source of his compositions. Many master musicians have welcomed his approach.

Loga’s unique approach to compositions is influenced heavily by years of playing for Masters Theses concerts at U.C.L.A. and by his education in Mathematics. “Dancers,” he says, “count to subdivide the space, not time! In mathematics one defines the axiom before articulating any theory. I find both principles to be of great help when I am composing. I also believe that every composition must have a concept or principle, and should not just be a direct expression of the subconscious. Often I use visual images to inspire and –assist musicians in the creation of these compositions. To me, musicians are like actors on stage. They bring to life through music their personal interpretations of images, feelings, ideas, and that to me is very respectable.”

Loga’s extensive travels around the world have been essential in developing his great sensitivity towards other cultures. He believes that any music originating from a specific tradition that crosses over to other cultures must remain equally convincing for the traditions that it involves.

In 2005, along with vocalist Azam Ali and programmer/producer Carmen Rizzo, Loga founded the best-selling world music group Niyaz. Blending medieval Sufi poetry and folk songs from Iran, the Indian sub-continent and Turkey, rich acoustic instrumentation, with modern electronics.

He is currently based in Montreal, Canada.



Mehraab (Six Degrees Records, 2012)

With Axiom of Choice:

Beyond Denial (Faray-e Enkaar) (X Dot 25, 1996)
Niya Yesh (Narada World, 2000)
Unfolding (Goshayesh) (Narada World, 2002)

With Niyaz:

Niyaz (Six Degrees, 2005)
Nine Heavens (Six Degrees, 2008)
Sumud (Six Degrees, 2012)
The Fourth Light (Six Degrees, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Laymer

The Laymer folk music group of Boushehr began its artistic activities in 1991 by winning first place at the 6th Fadjr international Music Festival. The group has also participated in many festivals like the Iran Epical Music Festival, First Iran Scholars Festival, as well as cultural and artistic festivals in Germany and Yemen.

Most of the group’s performances are the result of several years of research done by its director, Mohammad Reza Beladi, which are based on themes, melodies and folk poems that were found in popular folklore.

Mohammad Reza Beladi also managed a research project with the title of Anthropology of Music of Boushehr, which documents the cultural heritage of southern Iran. Reza Beladi has also written articles for foreign arts magazines, initiated cooperation with other folk music groups from different parts of Iran as an investigator, worked with IRAN TV on the production of several documentary films about Iranian folk and is the composer for the Boushehr folk theater.

Leymer uses various indigenous musical instruments in its performances, such as the Ney – Anban (bagpipes), Dammam (a kind of drum), cymbals known as senj, Tempo (a cup -like percussion that is held upright between the legs and played with the hands), Deyre & Deyreh Zangi (tambourine), Bugh (horn shaped like an antler, which is decorated in a unique way and it is used with the Dammam & the senj in a ceremony with the same name), Nay – jofti (another melodic instrument which is like the handle of the Nay – Anban but it has a separate emotion than NayAnban. This instrument is played by blowing in it without interruption.

The group specializes in different dance and music forms such as Senj & Dammam (A percussive dance and musical form), Dance of Mouloudi, char – Dastmaleh (A musical form and dance), Yazleh (Dance and song that includes several percussion instruments and harmonic clapping), Neymeh (Special ceremonies for native sailors that include dance and song with percussion instruments), Folk songs such as Beyt, Sharveh and jangnameh.


Artist Profiles: Kiya Tabassian

Kiya Tabassian

Born in Tehran in 1976, Kiya Tabassian received his initial training in Persian music from Mehrdad Torabi at the Bahârlou Institute in Tehran, from Reza Ghassemi in Paris and Kayhan Kalhor in Montreal. He has since continued to develop his instrumental skills independently. He has also studied composition at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal with Gilles Tremblay and Michel Gonneville.

In 1989, he founded the Tahmassebi Ensemble. In addition to directing the group, he contributed several compositions to its repertoire. The ensemble gave several concerts throughout Iran and performed on the Iranian national broadcasting network. In 1990, upon his arrival in Canada, he co-founded the Darvish-Khan Trio, an ensemble devoted to classical Persian music. He is also the co-founder of Constantinople, an ensemble that specializes in medieval and Renaissance music, and Nowrouz, which is devoted to classical Persian music. Both ensembles have performed in a number of Canadian cities.

Kiya has collaborated with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on several occasions as a performer and special co-host. In addition, he performs regularly throughout the U.S., France, Greece and Mexico, both as a soloist and in collaboration with other musicians.

In 2000, he was composer in residence for Musique Multi Montréal with a project entitled “Poussières d’étoiles.” Along with his brother Ziya, he recorded his first CD of Persian classical music titled Garden of the Memory on the XXI-21 label. He has also recorded several CDs with Constantinople on the ATMA label.

Since March 2002, he has been an active member of the MediMuses project, as a member of the research group on the history of Mediterranean music.

Kiya is a member of the Conseil Québécois de la Musique. He has received several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Kiya has frequently been invited to give lectures and presentations on Persian music.


Terres Turquoises (Atma Classique, 2004)
Mania (Atma Classique, 2005)
Masafat (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2009)

With Constantinople (Early Music ensemble)

Musique du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance (Atma)
Memoria Sefardí – Jewish & Christian Spanish Music (Atma)
Li Tans Nouveaus (Atma)
De Castille à Samarkand (Atma 22383)
Greece – Carrefour De La Méditerrannée, with ensemble En Chordais (Atma)
Que le Yable les emporte (Atma Classique)
Terra nostra – 17th century Mexico (Atma 22567)
Ay Amor (Atma Classique)
Premiers Songes (Analekta)
Marco Polo (World Village)
Jardins migrateurs (Analekta)


Artist Profiles: Kiu Haghighi

Kiu Haghighi

Kiu Haghighi is a leading Persian classical santoor player. His instrument, the santoor (or santur), dates back to the eleventh century. This ancient instrument is a trapezoid-shaped walnut box with eighty strings which are fitted over and between ten bridges in groups of four and are struck with thin, wooden mallets covered on the tips with leather. In addition to being the prototype of the piano, variations on the santoor, such as the hammered dulcimer and the cymbalom, have been introduced in Hungary, Germany, China, Japan, Greece and India.

Kiu Haghighi began his lifetime study of the santoor at the age of ten. As a teenager, he performed on National Iranian Radio. At nineteen he was invited to join the Iranian Ministry of Education and Art as the featured soloist in the Academy Orchestra and as a regular performer on National Iranian Television.

Since 1965 he has performed concerts in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Switzerland and Japan.


Music From Iran (Candle Records)
The Santour (1998)
Music for the Soul (2000)
Reflections (2004)
Musical mosaic (2008)
Unity East West (2013)


Artist Profiles: Homayoun Shajarian

Homayoun Shajarian

Homayoun Shajarian, born in 1975, is the son of master vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian. He began playing tombak (goblet drum) at the age of five and later attended the Tehran Conservatory of Music.

As well as tombak, Homayoun plays the kamancheh and studies the vocal tradition with his father. Since 1991 he has played in many ensembles accompanying his father on tombak in concerts in Europe, Iran and North America.

As a disciple of his father, Homayoun has developed many similar vocal qualities and will continue a new generation of the great Persian vocal tradition.


Without You ‎(World Village, 2002)
Masters Of Persian Music – Faryad ‎(World Village, 2003)
Na Shakiba ‎(Ryan Production, 2004)
Mayeh-ye Dashti / Mayeh-ye Isfahan ‎(Celestial Harmonies, 2009)
Simorq (Celestial Harmonies, 2013)
Emshab Kenar-e Ghazalhaye Man Bekhab ‎(Barbad Music, 2017)
Nasim-e vasl
Showq-e doost
Naghsh-e khiyal
Ba setareh ha
Gheyzhaak-e kouli
Khorshid-e arezoo
Ab, nan, Avaz
Shab-e jodayi
Showq nameh
Ey jan-e jan bi man maro
Beyond Any Form
Neither Angel Nor Devil
The Occult And The Intoxicated – Mastoor o Mast
The Lords Of Secrets – Khodavandane Asrar


Artist Profiles: Houman Pourmehdi

Houman Pourmehdi

Houman Pourmehdi plays tombak (goblet drum). He is well known for his diverse abilities as a musician, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. Pourmehdi’s deep understanding of the Persian musical heritage and his belief in exploring new territories make him a unique musician. He has played a pivotal part in advancing the tombak’s role in ensemble work with his distinct style in playing tombak.

Pourmehdi has won acclaim throughout the world both as a solo artist and as an accompanist for some of the world’s most prestigious and renowned artists such as Mohammad Reza Lotfi, Wadada Leo Smith, Rajeev Taranath, John Bergamo, to name a few.


Quest, with Amir Koushkani ‎(Songlines Recordings, 1998)
Maiden’s Prayer, with Lisa Lynne (New Earth Records, 2001)
Lulka, withVanja Lazarova, Miroslav Tadić (Third Ear Music, 2003)
Earthsea, soundtrack (Varèse Sarabande, 2004)
Psalms album ‎(Al Urmawi Center For Mashreq Music, 2005)
Hand’Stan ‎(Hands On’Semble, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Hossein Behroozi-Nia

Hossein Behroozi-Nia

Born in Tehran, Iran in 1962, Hossein Behroozi-Nia studied tar with Vohdaney, barbat with M. Nariman, and radif with Mr. M. R. Lotfi. After studying at the Conservatory of Persian Music, he became the Musical Director of Ensemble Khaleghi and Director of Musical Education at the Center for the Preservation of Persian Music.

Behroozi-Nia is the greatest living barbat player from Iran. He is also noted for his brilliant compositions and powerful improvisations on this ancient lute, which is the predecessor
of the ud, and various European lutes. Mr. Behroozi-Nia was the Music Director of the National Radio and Television Orchestra of Tehran and has made many recordings with a great variety of ensembles as well as his solo works Barbat, Koohestan and Yadestan.

Concert engagements have taken Mr. Behroozi-Nia all over the world, from North America, Europe to Asia and Southeast Asia, including the Sacred Music Festival in Fez, Morocco, collaborating and performing with various traditional music ensembles including Aref, Mowlana, and Dastan. Currently Mr. Behroozi-Nia is actively teaching and giving concerts all over the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his family.


Artist Profiles: Dastan Ensemble

Dastan Ensemble

Dastan Ensemble has established itself as one of Iran’s most distinguished musical groups. The ensemble includes some of the country’s finest virtuoso instrumentalists and have performed at major festivals worldwide and have numerous recordings to their credit. The group’s instrumentalists have varied throughout the years. Founders include: Hamid Motebassem on tar; Hossein Behroozinia on barbat; Saeed Farajpouri on kamanche; Pejman Hadadi on percussion; and Behnam Samani on percussion.


Through Eternity (Sounds True, 1999)
Shahram Nazeri Et L’Ensemble Dastan / And The Dastan Group (Long Distance, 2001)
Shoorideh (Network Medien, 2003)
Journey To Persia (Arc Music, 2003)
Parissa, Dastan Ensemble – Gol-E Behesht (Network Records, 2005)
The Endless Ocean (Network Medien, 2007)
Mayeh-ye Dashti / Mayeh-ye Isfahan (Celestial Harmonies, 2009)
In The Name Of The Red Rose: Iranian Classical Music (Celestial Harmonies, 2010)
A Call Beneath The Ashes (Noghteh Tarif Cultural Institute, 2010)
A Window (2015)
Char Pareh (2014)