At the oud festival, the sounds of Sufism mix with Persian music

There will be a rare meeting between Persian and Turkish artists in Israel, when Persian-born wind instrument player Amir Shahsar performs with Turkish Sufi master Isa Nasim and Turkish singer Selçukhan Yilma on Monday night.

The three artists are performing under the direction of Effie Benayan at the Confederation House in Jerusalem as part of the Oud Festival, which runs from November 3 to 12.

The three artists, accompanied by other musicians, will follow the musical journey of Jalaluddin Rumi, a Sufi mystic who left Iran for Turkey in the 13th century. through Kurdistan and Armenia. The show will include songs in Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Hebrew languages.

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During rehearsals last week, a few days before Nasim and Yilman’s arrival in Israel, Shahsar practiced with sitarist Gilad Weiss, tambourine player Ruhama Carmel and dulcimer player Noam Shemesh under the guidance of teacher Haviva Pedaya, who translated the poems and recitations. presented.

Iranian-born Shahsar, who lives in Israel, repeats the ancient Turkish air of the Sufis about love and friendship, wearing an ancient Iranian flute on his upper lip and a mobile phone on his leg.

Pedaya said about the instrumentalist of Iranian origin that Shahsar is “the master of Persian music”. He described him as the only person who could put together an evening of Turkish and Persian music from the 1300s, when Persia and most of Turkey were an empire.

“The concept just made sense,” Pedaya said. “Persian and Turkish united: Amir united these two shades. He is a cantor and muezzin, a Jew, an Arab and a polyglot. »

Shahsar performs original compositions rich in Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Middle Eastern influences. His music is known for its fusion of modern and traditional, sacred and folk sounds.

The 58-year-old musician was born in Iran and played the flute and the Persian ney from an early age. At the age of 24, he traveled to Turkey, where he studied traditional Turkish and Sufi music, as well as the Turkish clarinet, before emigrating to Israel in 1989, adding the oud to his repertoire.

Persian instrumentalist Amir Shahsar at Oud Festival 2022. (Credit: Oud Festival)

It was Shahsar who suggested that Turkish musicians be included, but he said he “needs other local artists who can really play everything.”

Band members include former students and fellow musicians. Carmel learned to play the big, light drums with Shehsi, and Weiss usually learned to play the guitar. without curtainshe learned the Persian sitar a few months ago.

During the rehearsal, Shemesh played piano-like notes from the dulcimer, a biblical-era instrument played with thin metal hammers that tap the keys—a kind of hammered dulcimer.

The piece they were rehearsing was a long, lyrical poem about love and relationships, spiritual awakening and mystical insights, Shahsar said, then offered an improvised Hebrew translation.

Haviva Pedaya, poet and professor of Jewish history at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, directs the Elyachar Sephardic Heritage Center. (Credit: Haviva Pedaya)

“It’s happy music, but the lyrics are a little painful,” Pedaya said. “It goes on and on, and eventually we find ourselves laughing at the saddest things through music. »

The annual oud festival celebrates its 23rd edition with a full program of local and visiting artists, including Mira Awad, Palestinian hip-hop and electronic music for younger guests at the Mazkeka bar, and a night celebrating Riff Cohen’s new album.

The younger generation will also contribute to the festival, including liturgical singers Shir Yifrach and Yahala Lachmish, and musicians from the Jerusalem Academy of Music’s Department of Oriental Music in a series of events in the courtyard of the Khan Theater.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Oud festival website.

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