Artists Give Concerts in Honor of Rumi Even After Centuries
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranians from Santa Barbara to San Diego created traffic jams as they drove to the Hollywood Bowl Sept. 27 for a concert celebrating the poetry of the 13th century Sufi philosopher Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.
The Bowl was almost filled to its 17,000 person capacity for the program featuring Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble, whirling dervishes from Damascus and the Kayhan Kalhor Ensemble.
Sharing the podium with Yo-Yo Ma was Kalhor, who arranged the program offering the finest in classical Persian culture. The audience broke into laughter when Chinese-American Ma asked Iran-born Kalhor if the rice really is better in Iran.
Each stage setting resembled a Persian miniature painting, with musicians sitting cross-legged on low platforms and framed by the Bowl's exterior façade illuminated by Arabesque floral designs.
Wearing a huge turban and medieval Persian garments, Nour Mohammad Dorpour sang and played the dotar (a lute-like instrument with two strings) in his premier US performance.
Actress Shoreh Aghdashloo and journalist Iraj Gorgin recited poems of Rumi in English and Farsi. Enhancing the program of Persian arts was a demonstration of calligraphy by master calligrapher Ostad Yadollah Kaboli, who sat at stage right creating scriptural images which were blown up on overhead screens.
The Qaderi Dervishes of western Iran sang hypnotic chants which culminated in the "Talaa' al-Badrou A'layna," the song performed when the Prophet entered victoriously into Mecca. As the music soared, the three Kurdish dervishes loosened their waist-length hair and tossed their heads back and forth.
A more subdued performance was rendered by the whirling dervishes of Damascus, as they spun round the stage while their wide gowns lifted and they appeared to spin like human tops.
A haunting ney (flute) refrain by Siamak Jahangiry opened the performance of the Kalhor Ensemble. The voice of Hamid Reza Nourbakhsh thrilled the audience. Even to Americans unaccustomed to Eastern music Nourbakhsh offered a melodic improvisation of tonality changes (mawwal in Arabic) that is akin to throat singing.
The grand finale was the performance of Yo-Yo Ma with the Silk Road Ensemble. Their selection, "Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur," exemplifies the ultimate in East-West fusion. The audience was entranced as Ma and Kalhor exchanged exquisite tones on the cello and the kamancheh (a spiked fiddle resembling a complicated rababa).
The three-hour concert was memorable and unlikely ever to be replicated in the quality and selection of participating artists.