Music for Change: The Banned Countries
·· David Harrington, Violin
·· John Sherba, Violin
·· Hank Dutt, Viola
·· Sunny Yang, Cello
Mahsa Vahdat, Vocalist
FRANGHIZ ALI-ZADEH Mugam Sayagi
ISLAM CHIPSY Zaghlala (Blurred vision caused by strong light hitting the eyes) (arr. Jacob Garchik, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
TRAD. "Wa Habibi" (arr. Stephen Prutsman)
RAMALLAH UNDERGROUND "Tashweesh" (arr. Jacob Garchik)
FATIMAH AL-ZAELAEYAH "Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa" (arr. Jacob Garchik; World Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
OMAR SOULEYMAN "La Sidounak Sayyada" (arr. Jacob Garchik)
TRAD. "Bia Ke Berem Ba Mazar" (arr. Milad Yousufi)
HAWA KASSÉ MADY DIABATÉ Tegere Tulon: III. Kalime (arr. Jacob Garhik; World Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
DUR-DUR BAND "Dooyo" (arr. Jacob Garchik)
HAMZA EL DIN Escalay (realized by Tohru Ueda)
MAHSA VAHDAT The Sun Rises (arr. Sahba Aminikia)
MAHSA VAHDAT "Leyli's Nightingales" (arr. Atabak Elyasi)
MAHSA VAHDAT "I Was Dead" (arr. Atabak Elyasi)
Support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by members of Carnegie Hall's Composer Club.
Music for Change: The Banned Countries
Kronos Quartet has always looked to music as a model for how to move through the world. A creative and cohesive force that doesn’t heed or recognize borders, music provides an irrefutable response to those seeking to divide and demonize peoples. Music for Change: The Banned Countries came about in direct response to the 2017 Executive Orders severely restricting access to the United States, a policy that targeted citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations, many of which are represented in this program. From its inception some 45 years ago as a vehicle for George Crumb’s epochal anti-war cri de coeur Black Angels, through extraordinary works like Steve Reich’s haunted Different Trains and the excavation of Cold War anxiety on the album Howl, USA, Kronos has embraced the imperative that music must illuminate the present moment. The Banned Countries builds on that legacy. Drawn from throughout the far-flung Muslim world, the concert features newly commissioned arrangements, such as “Dooyo” by Somalia’s Dur-Dur Band and “Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa” by Yemen’s Fatimah Al-Zaelaeyah, as well as pieces gleaned from Kronos’ long-standing repertoire. The Banned Countries concerts often feature guest artists and tonight’s is the incandescent Iranian artist and vocalist Mahsa Vahdat, a regular part of the Kronos constellation since she settled in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For 45 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet has combined a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world’s most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with many of the world’s most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning over 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received more than 40 awards, including the prestigious Polar Music and Avery Fisher prizes. In 2018, the quartet members became the first US-based musicians to receive the WOMEX Artist Award.
Integral to Kronos’ work is a series of long-running collaborations with many of the world’s foremost composers, including Americans Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich; Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali-Zadeh; Russia’s Vladimir Martynov; Poland’s Henryk Górecki; and Serbian-American Aleksandra Vrebalov. Additional collaborators have included Wu Man, Tanya Tagaq, Mahsa Vahdat, Trevor Paglen, Sam Green, Van Dyke Parks, múm, Dawn Upshaw, Noam Chomsky, Tom Waits, Asha Bhosle, Taraf de Haïdouks, and Howard Zinn.
On tour for five months per year, Kronos appears in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, clubs, and festivals. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on recordings, including the Grammy- and Latin Grammy–nominated Nuevo (2002) and the Grammy-winning recording of Berg’s Lyric Suite (2004). Kronos’ most recent releases include Folk Songs, featuring Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant singing traditional songs; the collaborative album Ladilikan with Trio Da Kali, an ensemble of Malian griot musicians assembled by the Aga Khan Music Initiative; the collaborative album Landfall with Laurie Anderson; and Clouded Yellow by Bang on the Can founding composer Michael Gordon.
The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours, home season performances, education programs, and self-produced Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that is commissioning—and distributing for free—the first learning library of contemporary repertoire for string quartet.
Mahsa Vahdat is one of the most important performers of Persian vocal music in the world today. Her career has given a deeper knowledge about Iranian poetry and music to audiences in Europe, America, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Vahdat has developed her personal style based on the Persian vocal tradition of classical and regional folk music, but with a contemporary expression. She has always searched for ways to make her music relevant to the present world. Even if the origin of her styles is Iranian, she believes in her music’s ability to express a universal message of humanism and freedom. Her collaboration with musicians from Iran and many other parts of the world has contributed to the development of her personal expression.
Born in Tehran in 1973, Vahdat entered the Tehran University of Art in 1993 and graduated in 1995. Since then, she has performed as an independent singer and musician in many concerts and festivals in Asia, Europe, America, and Africa together with musicians from Iran, Europe, and the United States. She also has appeared on stage with her sister Marjan Vahdat, who has been involved in several of her recordings.
Following her participation in the album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil (2004), Vahdat started a long-lasting collaboration with the Norwegian record label Kirkelig Kulturverksted and its leader Erik Hillestad, who has produced most of her albums. This collaboration led to a worldwide release of a series of records, and a number of tours and concerts in many countries.
Since 2007, Vahdat has been one of the ambassadors of Freemuse, an independent international organization that advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. In 2010, she was granted the Freemuse Award.