"Your music and presence were a gift." Unitarian Universalists of Sterling, Rev. Anya (2012)
"Your music is simply beautiful and your messages about the culture were informative, clear, and universal.. wonderful stage presence." Green Acres School, Rockville, MD, Head of School, Neal Brown (2012)
"Mesmerizing performance .. . beautiful sound .. an essential part of this festival." Washington Folk Festival Program Committee Co-Chair, Carol Lite (2011)
"Very creative & artistic with Middle Eastern and Western music influences melted together. This music group has a lot of potential!" International Acoustic Music Awards (Best Group Finalist - 2011)
"Dreamy, ethereal, capitalizing on Roya's novel Persian-Flamenco sound. World music beautifully executed, opulently delivered." 2011 Billboard Discoveries: Roya Bahrami & Ensemble, “I Am I Am Not”. Full album review follows.
Iranian native Roya Bahrami certainly wears a multitude of hats for her Washington, D.C.-based fusion ensemble Roya Ensemble. In addition to founding the outfit, she produces, composes, arranges, sings and plays santur. Third album “I Am I Am Not,” released in November 2010, is a dreamy, ethereal, all-acoustic recording, capitalizing on her novel Persian-Flamenco sound, with solo improvisations from acclaimed musicians Denis Malloy (bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax), Ricardo Marlow (flamenco guitar), Steve Bloom (congas, cajon, ashiko, bata, shakers, daf) and Jonathan Seligman (bodhran, riqq). The cool, laid-back mesh of Persian, flamenco, Latin and jazz is often complemented by Bahrami’s written passages based on Persian poetry, including “Moonstruck,” an elegant 7-minute affair, with lyrics based on a poem by 13th-Century Persian mystical poet Rumi. The title track, whose traditional elements are garnished with a surprise clarinet interlude, again weaves a lyric and vocals from Bahrami, sung in Persian and translating to, “Don't ask who I am, I am and I am not.” “Stranger” offers a fond nod to her homeland, as she sings, "(translated) Ocean, carry me to top of the cliffs, so the wind would carry my words to that land/Familiar fragrance of a flower, the smell of earth, a foggy day/These nostalgic moments carry me back to Iran.” Instrumental tracks like “Carmelita” demonstrate Roya Ensemble's magic sans the lyrics—as genuine and mannered as the heritage music these songs honor. Roya has long shared its wares in highbrow company—including President Obama’s Inaugural celebratory concerts at the Smithsonian Institution—and the National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, American University, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Arts Festival and the Washington Folk Festival. “I Am I Am Not” is certainly world music with a nod to the ages, a beautifully executed set, genteel, graceful and opulently delivered.
Reviews from Professors, Administrators, Foundations
NJ Snider, Director, Music Program, American University, Washington, D.C.: "Roya has achieved a level of artistry that few can claim. The message of her music is uniquely profound, far reaching and inspiring in the extreme. All who hear her will be changed for the better by the experience. I had the pleasure of inviting Roya to present her music to a large group of our students in a lecture recital format. The presentation was excellent and had a tremendous and far reaching impact on the students. The value and inspiration that was generated by this was immeasurable. She has a richness and depth of character that transcends all boundaries real and imaginary. I give her my highest recommendation." Full letter of commendation in PDF.
Carol Lite, Program Committee Co-Chair, Washington Folk Festival: "The Roya Ensemble performed in front of a fully packed house/standing-room-only crowd at the Washington Folk Festival on Sunday, June 6, 2010 and the audience was left spellbound by their music and the fusion of santur, flamenco guitar, clarinet, and percussion. Each musician had a chance to do a duet with the santur, highlighting the playfulness, depth, and musicality of those instruments. The sound of all four together was pure magic...the kind of performance that leaves some unable to applaud because of being totally wrapped up in the music. Roya's voice added yet another element of magic to the performance. The Roya Ensemble was a huge hit at the Festival, mentioned by many folks as one of their favorites in the two day festival. They will be invited back next year! My husband and I are now groupies, eagerly awaiting the next live performance. In the meantime, we have been enjoying Roya's latest recording." Letter of commendation in PDF.
Desepe de Vargas, Multilingual Communications And the Arts Assistant Principal, Bell Multicultural High School, Washington, D.C.: " The performance was well received by both students and teachers and truly complimented our World Cultures programming.
Dr. Maritheresa Frain, Director, Council on International Educational Exchange, Seville, Spain: "The evening could not have been more enchanting. The Persian musical selections of Roya and Antonio were passionate, tender and inspiring. With or without words, you could feel the intensity of how this music lives and thrives in Roya. The fact that the event took place in a museum related to flamenco in Seville, served only to accentuate the interest of the legacy of Persian music in the Al-Andalus tradition. It was truly a magical event."
Dr. Ellen Echeverria, George Washington University School of Languages, Washington, D.C.: "All in all, we could have not wished for a more enriching program, one that opened up new avenues of awareness and appreciation in our journey of coming to a better understanding of our world." Full letter of commendation in PDF
Dr. Laura Renninger, Shepherd University School of Music, Sheperdstown, WV: "Everyone has found her work to be incredibly enlightening and inspiring. She has broadened our horizons in many ways. Even weeks after her presentation, students are still discussing ideas that she introduced." Full letter of commendation in PDF
Dr. Victor Vicente, The George Washington University School of Music, Washington, D.C.: "Roya is both an exceptional virtuoso soloist and the consummate collaborative musician. The mysticism she brings to her music transcends the divides of culture and politics. Indeed, the ease in which she makes her art understandable to uninitiated audiences and her ability to work with musicians of other cultures without sacrificing any of the essentials of the Persian tradition, make her truly indispensable in our troubled times." Full letter of commendation in PDF
Dr. Peter Rollberg, Chair, Department of Romance, German, and Slavic Languages and Literatures, George Washington University: "The music had a hypnotic quality to it, and I was sometimes listening as if in trance. I envy your students who learn to understand and appreciate such beautiful and mysterious layers of culture.”
Dr. David Cain, Professor of Religion, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA: “Thank you again for the splendid performance at University of Mary Washington on Friday evening, 19 January. To send you a few words regarding my reaction as one coming utterly new to the santur and to your music: First, a rain of notes, a complexity of sound which seems greater than the striking of strings with two mallets could ever produce. Sometimes I hear a piano. Sometimes the sounds seem more guitar-like. The sound changes color as it evokes its own time--and space—with magical allure. Your own voice is wonderfully suited to your instrument. As an indication of this: I was aware, well into the music, of when you began to sing. I was never aware that the singing had ceased. Thank you for your artistry. Thank you for your gift.”
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Director, The Center for Persian Studies, University of Maryland: “Ms. Roya Bahrami is a master composer and hammer dulcimer player, who is doing some exciting work within the genre of traditional Persian music.”
Mahnaz Afkhami, President and CEO, Women’s Learning Partnership, Washington DC. “Dear Roya, It was wonderful to see you and to hear your exhilarating performance last Sunday. As an Iranian I was proud to share the work of such a talented compatriot with my colleagues from around the world. Many thanks and with my warmest good wishes.”
Mahnaz Afkhami, Executive Director, Foundation for Iranian Studies: “Dear Ms. Bahrami: On behalf of the Foundation for Iranian Studies and the participants of the Resident Associate Program of the Smithsonian institution’s course on the arts of Timurid Persia I would like to thank you for your splendid performance on the Santur. Your fine rendition of Persian classical music made the reception following the final session a wonderful experience for all who were present. Wishing you great success in your future professional and artistic endeavors, I thank you for your support of the Foundation’s program and for your wonderful performance.”
Cait Hartney: “Roya's concert was breathtaking. The music was so precise and deep with meaning, that I found it to be entrancing. The way she moved the lines to consist of a melody and a base line was shocking since it was only one instrument making the sounds of many. Her lecture helped clarify the ancestry behind such sounds. Her music taught me a lot about other cultures' music. I realized that even if you cannot understand the words being sung, you can still hear the meaning behind the tones. I saw a deeper side to European music through her recital. I honestly want to look up more music like hers. This was a great idea for a class and really helped establish a more concrete view on everything we've been learning about. Thanks!” George Washington University.
Marissa Ciampi: “I thoroughly enjoyed Roya Bahrami's presentation today! She is an amazing musician. I could really feel the mysticism that she spoke about being tied with these songs. When she played, I felt as if put in a trance. The music sounded beautiful, and definitely conveyed so much more emotion live than on a cd. I also am really glad she could get a percussionist, because the drums definitely added to the performance. Her speech was also really good in that it especially underscored what we have been learning in class. ” George Washington University.
Renee Nichols: “I was completely entranced by Ms. Bahrami’s music. I was simply blown away with her mastery of the instrument. The range of emotions in her music captivated me. With one instrument she was able to create sounds it takes a whole orchestra to create. Her dedication and love for music was obvious, you could hear it when she spoke of music and see it when she played. It was, in some ways, how I imagined Ziryab. I learned more about the history of Persian music and how it traveled to Spain. Ms. Bahrami’s music really demonstrated to me the power of music. Her music brought out many different emotions in me that were otherwise hidden.” George Washington University.
Sam Taterka: “When she began to play, the music was unlike anything I had ever heard. The sound produced was very trance like and at the same time sort of mysterious in a way. This feeling was especially intensified when she read poetry while playing, as the tone she spoke in sent chills down your spine. What made the recital ever more fascinating though was the thought that people sat and listened to this instrument being played over 1,200 years ago. It was a great experience, which taught me that age does not matter when it comes to a tradition such as the one we engaged in.” George Washington University.
University of Maryland Annual Newsletter: “The multi-cultural Roya Ensemble performed original music in which the mysticism of Persian melodies and poetry blend with Spanish flamenco. The concert, held in conjunction with a conference, titled “Jews and Muslims in Islamic Lands: Conflict, Coexistence, Confluence” and sponsored by the Meyerhoff Center on the theme of interactions between Jews and Muslims through history, demonstrated the cultural roots of traditional, spiritual Persian music and its reach and influence outward”. Persiphony III. Full article PDF . Summer 2008.
Catherine Thomas, The Oregonian:“In the space of a solo on the stage of the Portland Art Museum's Grand Ballroom, flamenco artist Carmela Greco distilled a power that comes only with age. "Intimo," which played Thursday night, was a welcome return to the pleasures of flamenco puro with soulful ballads by guitarist Richard Marlow, vocalist/percussionist El Yiyiand Persian composer Roya Bahrami on santur.” Monday, October 24, 2005
PJL, Dirty Linen, The magazine of folk and world music: “Probe (Probe Music Productions (1999)) This release marks the debut of Iranian due Said Amintinat (guitar) and Roya Bahrami (santur). They present a sparkling and rhythmically sophisticated mix of new age, Persian, Indian, Gypsy, and jazz musics. The two play well off of each other, and get very capable help from Barry Dove (percussion), Humayun Farzad (vocals and harmonium), and Debu Nayak (tabla). While they are often in danger of drifting off into the ether of new-age spaciness, Nayak's tabla and Farzad's well-phrased vocals keep them on track. Fans of Oregon will find much to like here.” June/July 2000
AUDIO GLIPHIX music review magazine:“Probe is Sunday morning music. Newspaper and brunch. Intricate instrumental compositions that draws from various ethnic cultures. The principles, composer Said Amintinat and santur arranger Roya Bahrami are both classically trained musicians originally from Iran. Collaborators Barry Dove, (U.S. born percussionist), Afghanistan native Humayun Farzad (vocals) and tabla player Debu Nayak, originally from India, round out the ensemble. By exploring the music of their homelands alone, this album spans the globe. But Probe goes further. The ensemble delves into Spanish gypsy traditional, American jazz, Gamelan music from Southeast Asia, Afro Cuban rhythms and Raga cycles from India. ‘Probe’ is like listening to a four act play, where the music is the star. The compositions move you through each act.” Fall 1999.
SIGI, A Publication of The Sisterhood is Global Institute. “Roya Bahrami, who has played the santur for audiences around the world, performed a magnificent set of arranged pieces, many of which were her own compositions.” Fall/Winter 1997
|Fans (regarding CDs & performances)|
Mahnaz Afkhami, CEO Women's Learning Partnership: “It is stunning. You have done a great job blending the music and poetry."
Peter H. Burris, Washington D.C.: “While the performance was billed as a Musical Pilgrimage to Iran, I thought it was a one-way ticket to heaven.”
Amy Wilson, Visual Artist, Washington D.C.“ I have seldom heard Rumi or Hafiz applied more beautifully.”Dr. Mina Marefat, Washington D.C.: “ It is a pleasure to see you succeed in reaching not just ours but the younger generation through the fusion that they need as they are born into it.”
G.R. Memar, San Fransisco, CA: "Great work. I really hope to see her in performance around here."Norah Lopez, McLain, VA: "She is gifted she has the music in herself. I highly recommend this CD."
Alaleh Ashtari, Wilmington, DE: "I highly recommend this CD to anyone who appreciates great music. Roya is a gifted musician and her passion for music comes through in this album."
David Corry, Houston, TX : "Listening to Roya play the santur is truly a sublime experience-soothing, mystical, exciting, entrancing. Roya achieves a seamless fusion of ancient and modern musical and even spiritual themes."
Azita Amjadi, Rockville, MD: “I enjoyed her CD very much including Roya's beautiful voice.”
Hossein Samiei, Washington, D.C.: “I was truly moved by the music and songs on this CD. They show a unique and unsual combination of talent, passion, and spirtuality.”
Frank Klisch, Fairfax, VA: “My favorite is "Message". I can close my eyes and see the Flamenco dancers. Another favorite is "The Beloved"; it is mellow and very soothing. All of the songs and mix of styles are great, and the introduction "On The Path" is awesome.”
Pezhman Akbari, Bronx, NY: “Thank you for inspiring our spirits with your talent. I keep playing your CD all the time-- it made me more serious to learn Santur.”
Shirin Z Tehrani Germantown, MD: “The music transports the listener to faraway lands. She is a gifted musician and I highly recommend this CD.”
OASIS CD Manufacturing's President Micah Solomon: " I'm very impressed & touched by your work.”