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Skirball Cultural Center

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


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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 the first in new concert series showcasing unexpected artistic and cross-cultural collaborations


Thursday, November 8, 2012, 8:00 p.m.

For general Skirball information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit


The Skirball Cultural Center presents acclaimed Persian singer Mahsa Vahdat and American soul/blues master Mighty Sam McClain, live in concert, on Thursday, November 8, at 8:00 p.m.  Kicking off the Skirball’s new, six-concert music series, “Journeys and Encounters”—which showcases surprising collaborations between musicians of diverse genres—the acclaimed artists come together for the West Coast premiere of their achingly beautiful project that blends traditional Persian music with American blues.

The duo’s one-of-a-kind music is drawn from their critically hailed album Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations (Valley Entertainment, 2010) and the recent follow-up, A Deeper Tone of Longing: Love Duets Across Civilizations (Valley Entertainment, 2012). Both were produced by Norwegian producer and poet Erik Hillestad. Vahdat first met Hillestad in Tehran, Iran, in 2003 for the recording of the much-talked-about compilation album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, which featured traditional lullabies sung by women from Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Vahdat and Hillestad would go on to cooperate on a number of projects and eventually collaborate with the Iranian poet and painter Mohammad Ebrahim Jafari. During a week in Vence, France, in December 2008, the trio’s exchange of ideas resulted in texts for extraordinary love duets. The intertwined Farsi and English lyrics were brought to life by the music of Vahdat and Norwegian composers Sigvart Dagsland, Knut Reiersrud, and Jarle Bernhoft. Their singer of choice for the English lyrics was none other than Mighty Sam McClain.

At the Skirball, Vahdat and McClain will be joined on stage by Joe Deleault on keyboards, Pat Herlehy on guitar, Rick Paige on drums, and Chad Owen on bass.

The performance by Vahdat and McClain will be followed up by five more concerts in the Skirball’s Journeys and Encounters series:

  • Vinicius Cantuária and Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas (Sunday, January 20, 7:00 p.m.)
  • Dr. L. Subramaniam’s Global Fusion Featuring Harmonic Blues Legend Corky Siegel (Friday, February 22, 8:00 p.m.)
  • Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal: Chamber Music (Thursday, March 14, 8:00 p.m.)
  • Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar (Thursday, April 4, 8:00 p.m.)
  • Common Chords (Thursday, May 16, 8:00 p.m.)


About Mahsa Vahdat

Born in Tehran in 1973, Mahsa Vahdat started her career in music at an early age, studying piano and Persian vocals under a number of master teachers in Iran. She also plays setar, a Persian lute instrument, and daf, a frame drum. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Arts in Tehran in 1993.

Since 1995, Vahdat has performed throughout Asia, Europe, and America with musicians from around the world, sometimes as a solo vocalist and sometimes in a duet with her equally gifted sister, Marjan Vahdat.

The sisters’ critically hailed album Songs from a Persian Garden (Valley Entertainment, 2008) was recorded live at a concert in Tehran, at which both Mahsa and Marjan performed without veils in a statement against the oppression of women in their country. Mahsa Vahdat’s bold resistance earned her the 2010 Freemuse Award, awarded by the international Freemuse Organization, which advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide.

Vahdat’s recording I Vine Speil (In the Mirror of Wine), released in 2011, consists of poems by Hafez and Rumi set to songs composed by herself and arranged by famed Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen. Her latest recording with her sister Marjan is called Twinklings of Hope and was released in Europe in 2012.

Vahdat has performed worldwide at some of the most prestigious venues, including just recently at the 2012 Fez Festival in Morocco and Divinamente Festival in Rome. Besides performing and touring, she is a teacher of Persian classical music both in Iran and at festivals in Europe and the U.S.


About Mighty Sam McClain

Mighty Sam McClain was born on the northern edge of the Bible Belt in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1943. He began singing in his mother’s gospel church at the age of five. It was then that he realized that singing was his mission. He left home when he was thirteen to escape an abusive stepfather and followed local R&B guitarist "Little Melvin" Underwood through the Chitlin Circuit, first as his valet and then as lead vocalist at age fifteen.

While singing at the 506 Club in Pensacola, Florida, McClain was introduced to producer/ DJ, "Papa Don" Schroeder and in 1966, McClain recorded Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams," his first real success. Recording sessions at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio produced the singles "Fannie-May" and "In the Same Old Way."

After this exciting start to his musical journey, McClain hit a rough patch and worked menial jobs for several years. At one point, he was homeless. In 1989, McClain began to resurrect his career, thanks to an opportunity to tour and record in Japan. McClain’s Live in Japan, featuring the legendary Wayne Bennett, is a highly regarded recording, much sought-after by fans worldwide.

By the early 1990s, McClain networked his way to New England through his participation in the acclaimed Hubert Sumlin Blues Party project. By 1996, he began to manage himself and started his own publishing company, McClain Productions. In 1999, McClain signed with the Telarc Blues label, taking his longtime producer Joe Harley with him, and recorded the W.C. Handy–nominated albums Blues for the Soul in 2000 and Sweet Dreams in 2001.

In 2008, McClain joined the Give US Your Poor project to end homelessness and has performed on behalf of the organization at such prestigious venues as Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.

Released by McClain’s own label, Mighty Music, his album Betcha Didn't Know was nominated by the Blues Association as best soul/blues album 2010. In addition to his two albums with Mahsa Vahdat, McClain has also recently released the album Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whisky).

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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