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NWC News Desk

Celebrated Middle Eastern musician featured in Tuesday, Sept. 27, concert

Posted September 12, 2016
By NWC News Desk

POWELL, Wyoming — From New York City, one of this country’s most celebrated Middle Eastern musicians, will perform in concert Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Nelson Performing Arts Center Auditorium at Northwest College.

The 7 p.m. program features ancient Sufi love songs to bridge the divide across cultures and religions. It showcases the talents of Amir Vahab and his ensemble in a performance that wouldn’t have been allowed in Vahab’s Iranian homeland for many years after the 1979 revolution when all music was banned.

Vahab left his native Tehran three years before the revolution to travel Europe and earned a degree in linguistics at the University of Paris before moving to New York City in 1981.

The New York Times described him as an “ambassador for a silenced music” in its 2003 story about Vahab’s one-man mission to keep Persian music alive.

A regular lecturer at Columbia University and New York University, he has performed at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the United Nations and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. With multiple albums to his credit, he’s composed and performed music for Iranian film and theatrical performances since 1990 and performed on Iranian television in the United States.

Vahab draws from the poetry of medieval Sufi masters Rumi, Hafez, Yunus and Baba Taher to inspire this concert, which he titles “Sufi Songs of Love.”

Sufi is recognized as the mystical dimension of Islam. Vahab and his ensemble interpret this belief system through lively folk and traditional music featuring the ethereal-sounding ney (reed flute), tar (mood-setting stringed instrument), oud (short-neck lute), tambour (ancient sacred lute) saz (seven-stringed long-necked lute) dat (large-frame drum), and tomb (Persian goblet drum) and a drumming performance.

Sufi music is often associated with the whirling dervish dance where believers whirl in ecstasy, losing themselves in graceful spinning as they seek to connect to the divine source through trance dance. 

This concert is one of the final events held in conjunction with “The Bridge” art exhibit on display through Friday, Sept. 30, in Northwest College’s SinClair Gallery. The traveling collection features contemporary works by premier artists from 15 countries in a focused effort to build bridges through the arts between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and West.

Admission to the concert and all the events associated with “The Bridge” exhibit is free.