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Ghazal and Septeto Roberto Juan Rodriguez


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Mia Cariño, (310) 440-4544 March 18, 2005 Email:

Skirball Cultural Center presents GHAZAL ENSEMBLE Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14, 8:00 p.m. $30 General, $25 Skirball Members, $20 Students and SEPTETO ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ Thursday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. $25 General, $20 Skirball Members, $15 Students 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049 Located off the 405 Freeway; exit Skirball Ctr Dr General information: (310) 440-4500 Advance tickets recommended: (866) 468-3399 or

LOS ANGELES – The Skirball Cultural Center’s World Mosaic series, featuring music from around the globe, continues with two final spring concerts. The Grammy-nominated Ghazal Ensemble—featuring kamancheh (Persian spike fiddle) master Kayhan Kalhor and virtuoso sitar player Shujaat Husain Khan—takes the stage to perform Persian and Indian improvisations on Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14, at 8:00 p.m. They will be accompanied by tabla player Abhiman Kaushal. Percussionist, composer and Grammy nominee Roberto Rodriguez brings his signature blend of Latin rhythms and Jewish melodies to the Skirball on Thursday, May 26, at 7:30 p.m. Rodriguez is on tour with his ensemble Septeto Roberto Rodriguez in support of its latest album Baila! Gitano Baila! The septet features Rodriguez on percussion, Meg Okura on violin, Mary Wooten on cello, Matt Darriau on clarinet, Uri Sharlin on accordion, Curtis Hasselbring on trombone and Jennifer Vincent on bass. The public may gain free admission to the Skirball’s exhibitions, including Einstein, before the performances on Thursday, April 14 and Thursday, May 26. Every Thursday, the Skirball galleries are free and open until 9:00 p.m.

GHAZAL ENSEMBLE Wednesday, April 13, 8:00 p.m. Thursday, April 14, 8:00 p.m. $30 General, $25 Skirball Members, $20 Students Advance tickets recommended: (866) 468-3399 or In the seven years that master musicians Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Khan have played together in Ghazal, they have realized a rare, innovative merging of Persian and Indian classical traditions, at the heart of both of which lies improvisation. Kalhor explains, “The music that we play together reflects the improvisatory styles of our cultures. This means taking a small idea or melodic form or phrase and developing it into something much larger, beyond its primary character.” In fact, there is a connection that goes beyond the notes themselves: Several centuries of Moghul rule in northern India left a strong imprint on Hindustani music, which absorbed the mysticism, poetry and musical subtleties of the Persian language and culture. The name Ghazal reflects that link: in the Persian tradition, a ghazal is a specific genre of poetry, characterized by an unusual blend of ecstatic spirituality and earthy desires. In India, ghazal has evolved into a popular semi-classical music that usually takes the form of a love ballad.

Ghazal has toured extensively in North America and Europe, picking up critical acclaim along the way. Jon Pareles of the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Kalhor’s kamancheh had the throaty tone of a viola, lingering over phrases or making them leap with thrills and slides.” The Daily Telegraph called Ghazal “superbly lyrical, full of fire and tenderness.”

Ghazal’s many recordings include Lost Songs of the Silk Road, As Night Falls on the Silk Road and Moon Rise Over the Silk Road, all released on the Shanachie label. The ensemble’s latest recording, The Rain, is a live recording taped in Bern in 2001 and marks Ghazal’s debut on the ECM label. In 2004, The Rain was nominated for a Grammy in the traditional world music category. All Music Guide hailed the album for offering “an entirely new hybrid that…pays no mind to current trends in world or popular music…[Ghazal has] devised a music that comes right from the ancient into the postmodern world honestly, purely and dazzlingly.”

Considered one of today’s great North Indian classical musicians, Shujaat Husain Khan is the son and disciple of the late master sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan. His musical lineage goes back many generations through his grandfather, Ustad Inayat Khan; his great grandfather, Ustad Imdad Khan; and his great-great grandfather, Ustad Sahebdad Khan—all leading artists of their day. At the age of three, Shujaat Husain Khan began practicing on a specially made sitar. By the time he was six he was giving public performances. During his long career, he has performed at all of the prestigious music festivals throughout India and has taken the stage in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. In 1997, he was a featured artist in the Music Festival of India, the all-star event celebrating the 50th anniversary of India’s independence.

Khan belongs to the Imdad Khan gharana (school) of the sitar. His style, known as gayaki ang, is imitative of the subtleties of the human voice. Khan is also known for his exceptional singing of folk songs and poetry. In 2001, he received India’s highest award for a classical musician under the age of 45, the national Rashtriya Kumar Gandharva Sammaan. Khan divides his time between New Delhi and Los Angeles, where he is currently on the UCLA faculty of the arts teaching Indian classical music. He tours India, the United States and Europe each year. His most recent recording is Amore—Music of Love (Navras, 2004).

Kayhan Kalhor was born in Tehran in 1963 and began studying music at the age of seven under Master Ahmad Mohajer. A child prodigy on the kamancheh, he was invited at the age of thirteen to join Iran’s National Orchestra of Radio and Television, with which he performed for five years. During this period he was given the National Music Award two years in a row. At 17, Kalhor began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization in Iran at that time. While performing with Shayda, he continued studying the Persian classical repertoire (radif) with various masters. He also spent time in different parts of Iran where he encountered and took inspiration from regional repertoires and styles. In 1978, Kalhor went to Rome to study Western classical music at the Santa Sicilia School of Music and continued his studies in the 1980s at Carleton University in Ottawa, where he received his degree in music. Kalhor has performed and recorded with some of Iran’s greatest artists, and he has composed works for celebrated Iranian musicians such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri. Recent commissions include works written for the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. In 1990 he co-founded the renowned Persian classical music ensemble Dastan, and in 1997 he formed the group Ghazal with Shujaat Husain Khan. In 2001, along with the legendary Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Hossein Alizadeh, Kalhor co-founded the supergroup Masters of Persian Music. The group’s recording Without You was nominated for a Grammy in the traditional world music category in 2004, along with Ghazal’s The Rain, making Kalhor twice-nominated that year. In 2003 he formed the Kayhan Kalhor Ensemble composed of young virtuosos of Persian classical music. Kalhor lectures and teaches extensively in Iran, Europe and the United States.

Tabla player Abhiman Kaushal was initiated in his art at a young age by his father, Shri R. B. Kaushal, who was a student of the legendary Ustad Amir Hussain Khan. The young Kaushal is well known for the rich tone and clarity of his playing. He has performed widely throughout India, Europe and North America with such leading musicians as Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain and Hari Prasad. Kaushal has numerous recordings, including Ravi Shankar in Venice and Passages with Philip Glass, and appears on the soundtrack to National Geographic’s documentary Man Eaters of North India. Kaushal also teaches in UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology.

SEPTETO ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ Thursday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. $25 General, $20 Skirball Members, $15 Students Advance tickets recommended: (866) 468-3399 or Cuban-American percussionist and composer Roberto Rodriguez is a bonafide innovator, synthesizing Cuban rhythms and Jewish melodies into an entirely new music that breathes joy and melancholy with tremendous emotional clarity. Rodriguez also draws upon the influences of pop, rock, jazz, world music, avant-garde and classical. Roberto Juan Rodriguez was born in El Vedado Havana, Cuba. Before leaving Cuba for Miami with his family at age 9, joining millions of others in flight, he studied violin, piano and trumpet at Caturla Conservatory of Music in Havana, and also learned much from his father, the trumpeter and arranger Roberto Luis Rodriguez. Rodriguez began playing percussion professionally at the age of 13 in his father’s ensembles as well as with the legendary Israel “Cachao” Lopez.

In Miami, Rodriguez encountered Jewish Holocaust survivors who had resettled there, many from Eastern Europe, as well as Cuban Jews from the island. He immersed himself in the culture of Miami’s large Jewish population, drumming at a small Yiddish theatre company and at bar mitzvahs. Rodriguez, who majored in jazz and studio music at the University of Miami, on a full scholarship, took keen notice of how Jewish immigrants were fascinated with the guajira, danzon and related types of Cuban music brought to south Florida by his father and his contemporaries. Rodriguez learned that a number of leading Latin pianists and trumpeters of the 1960s and 1970s had been Jewish, a discovery that strengthened his bond with those of the Jewish faith.

Rodriguez moved to New York and soon established himself as a must-have drummer in the jazz world. Jazz and pop notables with whom he has worked include Ruben Blades, T-Bone Burnett, Paquito D’Rivera, Julio Iglesias, Miami Sound Machine, Joe Jackson, Paul Simon, Lloyd Cole and Phoebe Snow. His deep interest in Jewish music was reinvigorated by the ongoing klezmer revival that started in the mid 1980s, by composer and alto saxophonist John Zorn’s series of Radical Jewish Culture recordings on the Tzadik label, and by playing drums in Jewish guitarist Marc Ribot’s Los Cubanos Postizos band.

When Zorn asked if he would like to record an album of Jewish music, Rodriguez jumped at the opportunity. Drawing on his experiences in Miami and New York bands, he began composing for the first time in his life. Soon enough, he enlisted the help of musicians like clarinetist David Krakauer and entered the recording studio. Overflowing with fresh, remarkable Judeo-Cuban music, El Danzon de Moises (The Dance of Moses) was released in 2002 to critical raves from DownBeat and The Village Voice. The album also garnered effusive praise from Rodriguez’s most prestigious predecessors in Cuban music. The legendary conguero Ray Barretto, for example, spoke highly of Rodriguez’s music, calling it “completely enchanting, delightful—different for my ears…it’s something that I’d refer back to if I want to get into another kind of playing.” Far more dance-oriented than the previous album, Rodriguez’s latest release, Baila! Gitano Baila!, goes beyond Havana, Miami and New York, drawing on Jewish and/or Latin music from South America, northwest Africa, and southwest Europe. Critical response to the new album has been overwhelmingly positive. All About Jazz called it “a stroke of genius,” adding that it combines a “fervid, swirling klezmer sound with the gentle and insistent percolations of Latin percussion.” Tom Hull of The Village Voice writes that Rodriguez’s “synthesis of Jewish melody and Cuban percussion dreams of roots that never were, yet it is convincing enough that one can imagine generations of conversos gathering in private to keep the ancient secrets of their culture alive.”

Visiting the Skirball Cultural Center Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405). Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday noon–5:00 p.m.; extended hours on Thursdays until 9:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays. Admission to exhibitions is always free to children under 12 and Skirball Members. Admission to Einstein only (includes admission to all other exhibitions): $12 General, $10 Group Rate, $8 Seniors and Students. Admission to other ticketed exhibitions: $8 General, $6 Seniors and Students. Ruby Gallery exhibitions are always free to the public. Parking is free. 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, and more. About the Skirball Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between four thousand 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. 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 scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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