Sunday, April 6, 2008

In Review---Persian delights of Mamak Khadem

Mamak Khadem
Jostojoo (Forever Seeking)

Banyan Tree Production

I discovered Iranian-American Mamak Khadem's voice in 2002 when I received Axiom of Choice's Unfolding in the mail. But many of you have probably heard her beautiful voice complimenting television show and movie soundtracks. Based in California, Mamak has kept herself busy contributing her vocal talents to many projects, including her newest CD, Jostojoo (Forever Seeking).

In her liner notes, Mamak reflects on the recording. "In the past few years, while traveling to Greece, Turkey, Armenia, and various parts of Iran, I became aware of the many similarities among these cultures and their music."

She sought that common ground while infusing music from those cultures with the inspiring words of Iranian poetry, especially illustrious poetry of the ancient Persian poet, Rumi. None of this comes as a surprise to me since Mamak and I had spoken about Rumi's poetry briefly during a 2002 interview. And Axiom of Choice had married Armenian and Iranian music with Mamak singing over clarinet, duduk, setar, and other traditional instruments of those countries.

Jostojoo still feels like a jewel in a crown. Mamak's voice has grown in strength and passion over the interim of 6 years. It is a real pleasure to listen to her interpretation of the various musical traditions she has chosen to explore. And the musicians that came on board the project, including Sofia Lambropoulou (kanun), Roubik Haroutunian (duduk) Hamid Saeidi (santur) and the project's producer, Jamshied Sharifi (accordion), just to name a few, brings this recording to a place of transcendence.

From the opening track, The Return to the closing track, Restless Yearning, these musicians weave a tapestry of luscious sounds, from the beats played out on the traditional percussion, to the swirling clarinet, haunting duduk, and zithers. "Heydar" composed by Turkish musician Ali Ekber Cicek (1935-2006), highlights a duet with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, who also plays the traditional Iranian flute (ney). Ole Mathisen's clarinet interlude on the title track perks my ears up everytime I hear it. It reminds me of a circus of life.

If you are looking beyond relaxing music and seeking something with a transcendental edge that allows you to absorb poetry sung in an exotic language, then look no further. You can find out more about this recording at