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Skirball Cultural Center

2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049 - (310) 440-4500

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2012

Media Contact:
Mia Cariño, (310) 440-4544, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Skirball Cultural Center presents a concert
in celebration of International Women's Day


Mamak Khadem

Pictured (L–R): Sahba Motallebi, Mamak Khadem, Sholeh Wolpe
Photo by Bonnie Perkinson

$35 General; $30 Skirball Members; $25 Full-Time Students
Advance reservations: or (877) SCC-4TIX


LOS ANGELES— In celebration of International Women’s Day, acclaimed Persian vocalist Mamak Khadem takes the stage at the Skirball Cultural Center on Thursday, March 8, at 8:00 p.m. For this concert, Khadem has gathered a special ensemble of women artists hailing from Iran, Greece, Bulgaria, and beyond, including Tzvetanka Varimezova (vocals), Sahba Motallebi (tar), Sofia Labropoulou (kanun), Polly Tapia Ferber (percussion), and Iranian American poet Sholeh Wolpe. Taking inspiration from the strength and courage of women worldwide, they will perform works that combine music, movement, and spoken word.

The concert is presented by the Skirball in association with the exhibition Women Hold Up Half the Sky (on view through May 20, 2012). This groundbreaking gallery installation and community engagement project addresses the human rights of women and girls around the world as the central moral challenge of our time. Concertgoers are invited to view the exhibition prior to the performance; Women Hold Up Half the Sky will remain free and open to ticketholders 5:00–8:00 p.m.


About the Artists

Mamak Khadem

Called “one of the wonders of world trance music” by the Los Angeles Times, Mamak Khadem blends the ancient poetry and music of the Persian masters with bold new sounds that reflect diverse cultural influences. In Khadem’s earlier work—as longtime lead singer of the acclaimed cross-cultural ensemble Axiom of Choice—and on her two subsequent solo albums, the singer has created a vibrantly emotional and spiritual body of work that she hopes will inspire deeper appreciation of cultural diversity in general, and of Persian arts and culture in particular. Throughout her career, Khadem has long given voice to women in her native Iran and around the world, promoting self-determination and freedom of expression through education and global awareness.

The classically trained Khadem has studied her art extensively in both Iran and the United States. She has trained with the finest traditional Persian vocalists and learned classical Indian vocal tradition at the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in northern California.  She moved to Los Angeles from Tehran as a teenager. Her work reflects her life experience straddling and reconciling two cultures, old and new. She is uniquely able to draw beauty from both the synergies and contrasts between them.

Khadem’s first solo release, Jostojoo (2007), was inspired by her extensive travels throughout the Middle East. The album features some of her favorite Persian poetry set to carefully selected traditional melodies from Armenia, Greece, and Turkey, as well as her native Iran. 

Her latest work, A Window to Color, is a conceptual album inspired by the poetry of Iran’s late poet and artist Sohrab Sepehri. In eight original compositions crafted around his words, Khadem pays tribute to Sepehri’s richly allegorical verse and imagery, celebrating an appreciation of nature and the divinity within all beings. The album was released in October 2011 to coincide with the poet’s birthday.

Khadem’s distinctive, expressive powerhouse of a voice has been heard on numerous film and television scores, including the feature films The Peacemaker, Traffic, and Dracula 2000, and the television shows The Profiler, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Battlestar Galactica

Khadem tours actively and globally, playing such prestigious venues as Washington’s Smithsonian Museum; Perth Concert Hall in Australia; the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance; the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, and Berlin’s House of Cultures. She recently turned in critically acclaimed performances at the annual Rainforest Festival in Malaysia and the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles. She resides in Los Angeles, where she teaches classical Persian music and conducts workshops for non-musicians that incorporate singing, meditation, and movement.

For more information, please visit


Parvaneh Daneshvar

Born in 1977, Parvaneh Daneshvar is a tar and setar player and music teacher.  She started her musical career in 1997 by playing setar. She started learning tar under the tutelage of master Keyvan Saket. She completed her training in the Orff-Schulwerk method of teaching children’s music with master Soudabeh Salem and concurrently began taking advanced courses with maestro Houshang Zarif. In 2001 Danesha established the Daneshvar Music School in Zanjan, Iran, with her siblings and started teaching tar and Orff there. She has collaborated with many women-only bands including the Tazarv orchestra and Ghamar ensemble.

After immigrating to Seattle, Washington, Daneshar created a band called Arghavan and they performed in various states, including Washington and New York. She currently resides in California where she pursues her musical career, teaches music to kids, and teaches classical Persian music to adults.


Polly Tapia Ferber

Percussionist Polly Tapia Ferber is a music educator, performer, and recording artist who specializes in hand percussion styles from the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, the Balkans, and Spanish Andalucia. She has traveled to Egypt, Greece, Spain, Morocco, and Israel to perform for local communities.

Currently, Ferber is on the faculty at Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Contemporary Music Program where she teaches courses in world music and directs the Balkan Mideast Ensemble. She is also a member of several musical ensembles including Orkestra Keyif, Transition, Albanian American Ensemble, Chalgia Band, and Viva La Pepa. She plays regularly with Trova Latin World Music with Nacha Mendez. 


Ruben Harutyunyan

Ruben Harutyunyan began playing music at age seven. Upon graduating from high school he attended the Aram Khachaturyan College of Music and graduated in 1977. Ruben’s credits include director and soloist of the Altounian state folk ensemble of Armenia and duduk teacher at the Armenian international music school in Glendale. Ruben has performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the La Ve Lee Jazz Club. Ruben’s Winds of Passion CD won an Armenian Music award in 1998.


Sofia Lampropoulou

Sofia Lampropoulou has been playing kanun since 1997. She was awarded a diploma in Byzantine music (tutored by S. Pavlakis). She studied piano (with Nelly Semitekolo), classical percussion (with K. Vorisis and K. Thodorakos) and traditional percussion (with V. Karipis).

In 2003 Lampropoulou moved to Istanbul to study the kanun with leading experts in the instrument, including Ahmet Meter, Hakan Gungor, Omer Erdogdular, and Necati Celik.

As a soloist, she has collaborated with many prominent traditional and alternative musicians, actors, directors, and ensembles in Greece and abroad including Ballake Sissoko, Marta Sebestyen, Kalman Balogh, Ross Daly, and Necati Celik among others. Since 2005, she has been teaching at the Music School of Athens.


Sahba Motallebi

Sahba Motallebi was born in 1978 in Tehran, Iran, and started playing traditional Persian music very early in her childhood. She is a graduate of the Tehran Conservatory where she mastered playing tar and setar (traditional Persian instruments) under the instruction of master Fariborz Azizi. She also studied with a renowned master of traditional Persian music, Hossein Alizadeh, and the respected music theoretician Dr Mehran Rouhani. She continued her formal music studies in composition at St Petersburgh Conservatory, Russia and also attended the R.G.S University, Turkey, for a comparative study of Persian and Turkish music.

Motallebi was recognized as the best tar player by the Iranian Music Festival for four years in a row, from 1995 to 1998. In 2000 she joined the Iranian National Orchestra and since then she has been traveling around the world to present Persian music. Sahba has recorded several CDs and composed numerous theatrical pieces. Currently, she is a resident of Southern California where she spends most of her time teaching tar and setar. She graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in World Music Performance and Dance Major.


T.J. Troy

T.J. Troy combines an eclectic knowledge of percussion from around the world with an innate musicality, making him a distinct figure in the world of contemporary percussion. Troy has established himself as one of the most multifaceted and sought after percussion artists in Los Angeles as a member of many high-caliber ensembles, a collaborator with fellow artists, and a soloist.

Troy is principal percussionist for MESTO, the Multi-Ethnic Star Orchestra; champion of the giant bass marimba in Partch; drummer/percussionist of The Shpil; and drummer/singer/composer for the band, Run Downhill. With these and many other ensembles, Troy has appeared at some of the most prestigious festivals of music around the world, including the Sounds of Arabia Festival (UAE 2010), the International Book Fair (Mexico 2009), the Territoria Festival (Russia 2008), the 16th Arabic Music Conference (Egypt 2007), and the Jerash Festival of Arts (Jordan 2007).

An active performer and composer for television and film, Troy was awarded the Gaia Award from the Moondance International Film Festival, for his score to Den Serras' film Seven Swans, co-written with composer Leon Rothenberg.

Troy received his bachelor of music degree in percussion performance from the University of Michigan, and his MFA, specializing in percussion, from the California Institute of the Arts.


Afif Taian

Master oudist Afif Taian was born in Fairouzah Homs, Syria. He began his musical studies at the age of fifteen. Taian received formal training at the Institute of Music in Homs, Syria, graduated at the age of nineteen and began teaching immediately thereafter. He played with many groups throughout his area and became known for his brilliant taksims (solo melodic improvisations).

In 1995 Taian immigrated to the United States. He has toured with many Arabic superstars such as Shadi Gameel, Aboud Bashir, Shahd Barmada, and the famous Aleppo group Salteen Al Tarab.  Taian also tours with Grammy nominee Souhail Kaspar, and is the musical director for the SK (Souhail Kaspar) Near East Ensemble.

Taian’s music can be heard on his CD Sunset, Shams el-Ghoroub. He also played with the SK Near East Ensemble on the educational DVD Egyptian Rhythm and Music for Raqs al-Sharqi with Souhail Kaspar


Tzvetanka Varimezova

Tzvetanka Varimezova was born in Bulgaria and received her BA in choral conducting and folk instrument pedagogy from the Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv. During the 1980s she directed the choir of a regional professional ensemble of folk song and dance in the town of Pazardzhik. During the 1990s she was a soloist and assistant choral director for a number of professional women's choirs in Sofia, including the Bulgarian National Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance. She has many solo recordings to her name and is well-known for her brilliant, high-pitched tone quality as well as her interpretations of the highly ornamented songs from her native Pazardzhik region. She came to the U.S. in 2001 to teach at UCLA.

Since 2001, Varimezova has worked with several choirs in the U.S., including Nevenka(Los Angeles), Zhena (San Pedro, CA) Kitka (San Francisco), and Planina (Denver, CO). She has also conducted many workshops in Greece, Denmark, Japan, and France. During the last six years, she and her husband, Ivan, have organized many concerts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities. In the summer of 2005, the couple organized the first international tour for the UCLA Balkan Ensemble, which included concerts throughout Bulgaria and a performance in the International Folk Festival in Bourgas.


Sheila Vosough

Sheila Vosough is an Iranian-born actress and producer who has lived in Los Angeles since 1978.  Since 1998 she has toured with numerous theater companies performing plays in the Persian language for Iranians in exile. Since 2003, she has been an active member of the theatre company, Workshop 79, spearheaded by the renowned playwright and actor/director Houshang Touzie and actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. Her

theater credits include Farar-e Bozorg (The Enormous Escape), Az Mahvareh Ba Eshgh (From Satellite with Love), When Hope Arrives, Matique, Jigsaw Nation, Baran-e Sang (The Rain of Stones), The Crucible, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, and The Middle Eastern Comedy Festival. Vosough’s producing credits include Susan Miller (a true story about the life of a homeless woman's in New York); Whores Like Us, a play written by Sylvia Monet; and Kali Kali La, a documentary about an American Woman's journey at a Buddhist monastery in Nepal.


Sholeh Wolpé

Sholeh Wolpé is a poet, literary translator, and editor. Born in Iran, she has lived in England, Trinidad, and the United States.  Her publications include Rooftops of Tehran, The Scar Saloon, and Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, for which she was awarded the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize in 2010. She is the editor of The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and Its Exiles (MSU, 2012) and a regional editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East edited by Reza Aslan (W.W. Norton). 


About the Skirball

The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through an interactive family destination inspired by the Noah’s Ark story; and through outreach to the community.


Visiting the Skirball

The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049. Free on-site parking is available; street parking is strictly prohibited. The Skirball is also accessible by Metro Rapid Bus 761. Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays. Museum admission: $10 General; $7 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $5 Children 2–12. Exhibitions are always free to Skirball Members and Children under 2. Exhibitions are free to all visitors on Thursdays. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, jewelry, and more.

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