By Jordan Elgrably
Recently, I had the rare pleasure of experiencing Monajat—a concert by the American Iranian Jewish singer, composer and cultural anthropologist Galeet Dardashti. Monajat took place on the campus of UCLA, in the Fowler Museum's Lenoir Auditorium. It was an unexpected fusion of Persian classical singing, piyutim (Hebrew spiritual chanting in a poetic mode), Arab and Persian instrumentation, and jazz-like jamming. The concert was bathed in video projections (prepared by Dmitry Kmelnitsky and Lustre) behind the musicians and on two sides of the audience. The immersion in Iranian and Jewish culture—and Arab and American world music culture—was total.
L.A's Orpheum theater was buzzing with anticipation on the evening of May 20th, 2012, as the inimitable Iranian composer-musician Mohsen Namjoo came to town to present his latest (and as yet unreleased) pieces under the collective title thirteen/eight. From the moment the curtain went up it was clear something marvelous was afoot: the instruments accompanying Mr. Namjoo's setar included an upright bass, a full drum kit, and a pair of synthesizers; and the band took no time to get jamming on these. Two hours later, the buzz had turned from anticipation to awe, amazement, and satisfaction at having witnessed another extraordinary performance.
The poems of Hafez have a beautiful and musical quality, which also embody a great spontaneity. In a myriad of poetic ways, he expresses the spiritual experiences of a mystic, in love with his Beloved. Like other Sufi poets, Hafez weaves themes of ambiguity into his poems. Often he will use secular images such as wine, drunkenness and human love, however these are just symbols for the divine experiences which Hafez is alluding to.
You're still a bud, yet hundreds of nightingales surround you.
Hafez is Iran's most beloved, most highly revered, and most frequently quoted lyric poet. He was born in Shiraz circa 1320 and died around 1390. Not much is known about his life except the most general facts. Son of a merchant, Hafez was well educated, married, and had a son. After his talent for poetry became apparent, Hafez became the court poet for most of the rulers of Shiraz during his lifetime.
In Iran Hafez is known by the following name, Khajeh Shams ad-Din Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi. The word Khajeh is a term of respect which is awarded to someone who embodies wisdom and learning. Shams ad-Din literally means "sun of religion" and was also a descriptive phrase signifying his expertise in the Qu'ran. Mohammad is Hafez's given name. The term "Hafez" is an honorary title given to someone who has memorized the entire Qu'ran. Hence, Hafez's pen name is derived from his knowledge about the Qu'ran. The Shirazi at the end of the name alerts the reader to the poet's hometown. Hafez is believed to have spent most of his life in Shiraz, except for one or two incidents when he was exiled.