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October 7, 1999


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Bhajans, Sufi Music Come Together at LA Concert

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A P Kamath in Los Angeles

Can Islam and Hinduism unite on the grounds of mysticism and music? UCLA Professor Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, who has researched the link between Sufism and Hinduism as manifested in the flute, has gathered an outstanding array of artists to present 'Mystic Voices: Music of Devotion in Islam and Hinduism'.

The concert is a part of the Festival of Sacred Music, a non-commercial and non-profit even initiated by the Dalai Lama to herald in the new millennium on a united spiritual-musical front. 'Mystic Voices' is slated for October 12, 8 pm at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 3300 Wilshire Boulevard in mid-city.

Emeritus UCLA Professor Nazir Jairazbhoy will introduce the program. (, a Los Angeles-based organization specializing in spiritual music from the Middle East, is a key force behind the concert.

The haunting sounds of Arab Sufism will emerge at the concert played masterfully by Ali Jihad Racy, in intimate arrangements with Arab musicians. Rumi's renowned Sufi poetry of longing will be sung in Persian by Manoochehr Sadeghi, accompanying himself on the santur, and embellished by the ney and the whispering mesh frame drum of the dervishes.

Devotional poetry relating to the flute of Lord Krishna will be interpreted through the exquisite voice of Lakshmi Shankar, in three classical Indian styles.

Adding a contemporary element to this otherwise traditional program, Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy will present herself as the 16th Century Indian medieval poet and singer Mirabai, expressing her passionate devotion to Krishna through a modern musical reinterpretation. To close, David Philipson will perform a powerful and inspirational set on the bansuri.

Lakshmi Shankar is one of India's most renowned vocalists whose unique background encompasses both Karnatak and Hindusthani traditions.

After performing as a Bharata Natyam dance soloist under the tutelage of guru Kandappa, she received vocal training from Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan of the Patiala Gharana. She continued studies under musicologist and singer B R Deodhar and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Her recordings of Khyal, thumri, and bhajans have received acclaim in Europe, the US, and India. Critics, in east and west alike, are unstinting in their praise of the artist.

She is an active concert artist, performing in major music festivals on all three continents and beyond. Her voice can be heard on the Academy Award-winning film Gandhi, and on LP, cassette, and CD. Her CD recording, Les heures et les saisons featuring khyal, thumri, tarana, and Surdas and Mira bhajans is one of the highlights of her singing career.

Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy is a Quaker-Muslim soprano ethnomusicologist who embodies all the contradictions those labels imply. Her public singing career began at the age of seven when she was the favorite soloist on the long school-bus ride home in rural Maryland, stashing song texts, transcribed from the radio, in a secret box.

After intensive piano and composition training, she studied singing at the Peabody Conservatory and Vassar College, and earned a master's degree in voice at Yale University, after which she turned to the voice of the Other. Her PhD is from Brown University, where she specialized in ethnomusicology and the anthropological study of performance of South and Southeast Asia.

When she is not doing fieldwork in India or editing documentary videos with her husband, Nazir, she is visiting professor at UCLA in the Department of Ethnomusicology where she teaches courses on the music of Asia, music in documentary film, and the applications of ethnomusicology to contemporary problems. Mystic Voices was conceived and created by Amy as a way of affirming the deep spiritual connections between prevalent forms of Hinduism and Islam.

Nazir Jairazbhoy is Emeritus Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. He has been recognized for distinguished service to the university, and is an internationally acclaimed scholar and interpreter of south Asian Muslim and Hindu classical and folk music. Past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, he has published over 100 articles and several books, videotapes, and audio narratives about Indian and Pakistani music.

David Philipson has spent much of the last 20 years gaining mastery of the bansuri, and North Indian classical music. He began his studies at CalArts with Amiya Dasgupta, and was later awarded a Fulbright grant to study in India with the leading disciples of the late Pannalal Ghosh (inventor of the long flute).

Philipson has also received guidance from Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Bellare and Rajiv Taranath. His performances and recordings have received acclaim in the US, India, Europe and Japan. In addition to performing as a bansuri soloist, Philipson is known for his forays into trans-cultural music, and in this area collaborates with innovative trumpet player/composer Wadada Leo Smith.

He has also performed and/or composed music for dance, theater and film productions. He also has a web site ( on the bansuri and Hindustani music.

Ali Jihad Racy, virtuoso performer, composer, and scholar of Middle Eastern music began his career in Lebanon. He has appeared as a soloist in major concert halls throughout the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. His scores for television, feature films, and documentaries include the 10-part series, The Arabs, shown on BBC and PBS, and his compositions have been commissioned by major ensembles; for example his Zaman Suite was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet.

Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA, Dr Racy has authored numerous publications on Middle Eastern music. In addition to the nay and 'ud, he is a master of the buzuq long-necked fretted lute, the mizmar double-reed, the rabbah spiked fiddle, and the mijwij double pipe. His LP, cassette, and CD releases include Hellucination Engine in which he performed with other major world artists including Zakir Hussain and Wayne Shorter, and Ancient Egypt (Lyrichord), praised in CD Review as "exquisitely beautiful . . . immaculately performed . . . and gentle and dreamlike".

Manoochehr Sadeghi is a leading santur virtuoso with 35 years' professional experience both in his native Iran and the United States. As a youth, Sadeghi's principal teacher was the great master Abol Hassan Saba (d 1957), whose notations and publications served to preserve the traditional style of santur playing.

Chosen by Saba to join his orchestra as a soloist for many years, Sadeghi concertized widely and gave command performances for heads of state from many nations. He has been a lecturer in Persian music for many years in UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology.

Souhail Kaspar was born in Lebanon and received his early musical training in Syria, assimilating the basic theory and technique of Arab percussion performance. He has performed widely in concerts and night clubs the United States and abroad, as well as conducting master classes and workshops, and is known for his brilliant technique and his ability to move the audience with his extraordinary rhythmic improvisations. His versatility extends from the tar frame drum to the tablah cylindrical Arab drum, the mazhar large tambourine, and the smaller riqq tambourine.

Khaled Khalifa is an accomplished cellist, born in Aleppo, Syria, where he studied violin and cello at the Aleppo Conservatory (1973-1983). His distinguished teachers include Yeviguini Xavariov, cellist of the National Symphony of Moscow. Since then he has led an active career as one of the few cellists who have mastered the traditional Arab musical idiom. Having toured the US and many Arab countries and recorded widely, he has performed with the National Orchestra of the Syrian Radio and Television, the Aleppo Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, and both Spring and Aleppo Orchestras of Classical Arab Music. He has taught and held leading positions with various musical organizations, and accompanied such distinguished artists as the Arab singer, Sabah Fakhri.

Nasser Musa is an accomplished 'ud player, composer, singer, and lyricist. Born in Jordan, he studied music in Amman and Cal Poly Pomona, after arriving in the US in 1982. Nasser has performed and toured with major artists such as the Lebanese singer Sabah, and has appeared in major night clubs in Southern California. He is widely appreciated for his stylistic versatility, which can be heard on his cassettes of Arab and Middle Eastern music.

Houmon Pourmehdi began classical training in music as a young boy in Tehran, continuing under the great master Nasser Eftehah and Morteza Ayan. Interest in Sufism let him to study with Ghaderi's daf players such as Darvish Karim, and with the Sadeghi family. He arrived in the U.S. to continue studies, and helped to found the Society for Advancement and Preservation of Traditional Persian Music in Chicago. He has performed on ney, daf, and tombak in the United States and Canada with many great musicians, including Master Hassan Nahid and Master Mohammad Reza Lotfi.

Joan Thompson, pianist, is head of the Piano department at Moorpark College. Born in Los Angeles, she did her advanced piano study with Norma Brown, Daniel Pollack, and Jakob Gimpel and earned her BA and MA degrees from CSUN. She also pursued advanced studies at the Dalcroze Institute in Geneva, Switzerland and at the University of Colorado.

Thompson is a frequent piano soloist in concertos and recitals, as well as a chamber musician and accompanist. She has recorded the piano accompaniments of several published song collections and college textbooks for singing. Her piano accompaniments for the song anthology, Gateways to German Lieder, will be released this fall. ( is a non-profit educational organization. As a resource for world arts, its goals are to publish articles and reviews on arts with multi-cultural relevance, produce concerts, exhibits, recitals, and other events and sponsor artists to perform, publish or exhibit their art

For information, write to at PO Box 1107, La Canada, California 91012, or call 1-800-779-3746; E-mail

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