04/15/2015, Graduate Center’s Elebash Hall , New York, NY

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Live @ 365: Brings the finest artists from around the world, including many debuts to the exquisite Elebash Hall at The Graduate Center in NYC.


Samantha Brickler

Virtuosic Playing, Sufi Fire: Kurdish-Iranian Tambour Master Ali Akbar Moradi Plays for the Divine in Rare U.S. Concert

The word “master” has become too readily applied. But for Ali Akbar Moradi, the title is perfectly apt. The Iranian-Kurdish virtuoso of the tambour lute is the only man who knows the full Yarsan (Iranian Kurdish Sufi) repertoire, and he infuses these pieces with intense, palpable artistry.

He’ll be coming direct from Iran to make a rare American appearance when he plays April 15, 7 pm, at the Graduate Center’s Elebash Hall in New York City. The concert is part of the world music series Live@365, presented by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and curated by Isabel Soffer/Live Sounds. Moradi engages deeply with his material, using encyclopedic knowledge in the service of connecting and elevating listeners.

Moradi engages deeply with his material, using encyclopaedic knowledge in the service of connecting and elevating listeners. “Most of my performances are a mixture of my own compositions, based around the three types of tambour maqams– Kalam, Majlessi, and Majazzi – along with traditional pieces,” Moradi says. “The maqams are a system of improvisation that define the development of the piece, as well as its pitches and patterns. In my concerts the melodies change, depending on the mood and the feel of the audience and myself”

It’s the music of Kurdistan’s venerable past, the sounds of a homeland split between four countries – Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Yet the Kurds remain passionately tied to the poetry, songs, and celebrations of their culture. “The Kurdish civilization dates back thousands of years,” Moradi explains. “The language, culture, music, and spiritual traditions are unique, and we still practice them. Our music has always been a vital part of that, with both a secular and religious role. Many of our Kurdish epics have been passed down through the music.”

Now in its fifth decade, Moradi’s career has blossomed since his concert debut in Iran in 1971. By then he’d already spent years studying his instrument and the repertoire under a series of teachers, including the great Mirza Sayyed Ali Kafashyan. Soon he was collaborating with singer Shahram Nazeri, the pair touring the world together and later performing and recording with the renowned Kurdish-Iranian artist Kayhan Kalhor.

Named one of the 50 Best Musicians in the World by British Global Magazine, Moradi is a guardian of the Yarsan culture, continuing a tradition that dates back hundreds of years through his tambour playing and deep knowledge.

“In the Yarsan religion, we value musicians and the tambour,” says Moradi. “The players are respected people; they’re considered the protectors of a big part of culture and melodies from the old days. For our ceremonies we gather in a circle so we connect to one another and our creator with melodies and songs from our thousands of years of culture. It’s very powerful.”

That role as the repository of culture is one he takes very serious. He’s the last to have complete command of all musical branches of Yarsani culture with its strong, distinctive sound. His music is the accompaniment to the Yarsan Sufi ceremonies, an integral part of religious life.

Eight years have passed since he last played in New York, an event he still remember fondly.

“I’m very happy at the thought of playing for the people of New York,” Moradi says, and he has great plans for the show. “My son Kourosh will accompany me, the first time he’s done that here, so it will be memorable for both of us. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of meeting some of my old friends and finding new ones.”

About Live@365:

Live@365 is presented by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and curated/produced by Isabel Soffer/LiveSounds.org. All Live@365 shows take place at the Graduate Center’s Elebash Recital Hall, an intimate, 180-seat space with classical recital hall design and superb state-of-the-art sound.

Live at 365 is made possible with the generous support of the Baisley Powell Elebash Fund.

The Graduate Center is located at 365 5th Avenue, between West 34 and West 35th Street. The venue is a short walk from the 6 train at the 33rd Street stop, the B / D / F / M or PATH train at the 34 Street Herald Square stop or the 1 / 2 / 3 trains at 34 Street Penn Station.

Tickets for all Live@365 shows can be purchased by visiting us online at Liveat365.org, by calling Showclix at 1-888-71-TICKETS (1-888-718-4253) or in person (if available), from 5:30 pm until showtime on the day of show at the venue. Tickets to all shows are $25 or $20 for Graduate Center members, students or faculty. Discount tickets for non-Graduate Center students may be purchased only in person at the event, when available.

For more information about shows, questions about the venue, and to learn more about the entire Live@365 season, please visit us on the web at Liveat365.org.

About the Graduate Center:

The Graduate Center is the principal doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). As part of New York's vibrant and intellectual and cultural life, the Graduate Center presents a wide range of public conversations, panels, and performances, featuring prominent artists, writers and scholars. The spring 2015 season will feature events with Alison Bechdel, Bill T. Jones, Paul Krugman, Eric Bogosian, Joseph Stiglitz, and many others. For more information about the Graduate Center and its public programming, please visit www.gc.cuny.edu/publicprograms.

Dispatch Details

Concert Start Time:
7:00 PM
Graduate Center’s Elebash Hall
Venue St. Address:
365 5th Avenue
Venue City, State:
New York, NY
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