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PREVIEW | Saba Yousefi Presents Persian Whispers Meet Tango’s Passion

By Anya Wassenberg on June 18, 2024

L-R: Violinist Saba Yousefi (Photo courtesy of the artist); Coloratura soprano Bahar Harandi (Photo courtesy of the artist); Musician Matti Pulkki (Photo: Alejandro Lorenzo)
L-R: Violinist Saba Yousefi (Photo courtesy of the artist); Coloratura soprano Bahar Harandi (Photo courtesy of the artist); Musician Matti Pulkki (Photo: Alejandro Lorenzo)

Contemporary Iranian music and classic tango by Astor Piazzolla— it’s an intriguing combination of musical genres that will come together in a concert on June 29. Violinist and educator Saba Yousefi is behind the collaboration between artists.

Persian Whispers Meet Tango’s Passion in a Night of Music and Hope juxtaposes two beloved traditions with a view to giving the audience a kind of emotional arc to the concert. We asked Saba Yousefi (SY) a few questions about the upcoming event.

Saba Yousefi & Friends

Saba Yousefi earned a Master of Violin Performance and a Bachelor of Violin Performance with a minor in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. A former member of the UofT Pedagogy School, she has focused her research on exploring new ways for professional musicians to deal with physical injuries, and improving their mental health. Saba was awarded the University of Toronto Graduate Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

She is a co-founder and former member of the Chaam Trio, a Toronto-based ensemble whose performances combined Western technique and traditional Persian music. Along with a performing career that has taken her from Canada to the Middle Ease and China, Saba’s work involves conducting workshops, webinars and other educational endeavours for composers and music students.

Coloratura soprano Bahar Harandi and accordionist Matti Pulkki are her collaborators in the performance.

Iranian Canadian soprano Bahar Harandi’s repertoire is broad, ranging from the Baroque to contemporary eras. As a woman, she was barred from pursuing a career as a singer in her native Iran, and so began her musical journey at the age of seven playing the violin. She received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance, and then immigrated to Canada to take up studies as a vocalist. She has earned a Master’s degree in voice at the University of Victoria, and a second Master’s degree in music from the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal in Donna Brown’s studio. Earlier this year, she completed her Postgraduate Diploma at Die Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst of Vienna, Austria.

Finnish accordionist Matti Pulkki has established a busy career as both as solo and ensemble performer in a wide range of style, including contemporary classical, musical theatre, opera and chamber music of various kinds. He performs as an active member of Toronto’s Freesound Performance Collective and Quartteto Gelato, among others.

Pulkki earned a Master’s degree from the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Toronto.

Q&A with Saba Yousefi

LvT: How would you sum up the program?

SY: The concert features contemporary pieces by Iranian women composers that explore themes of discrimination, followed by selected tango pieces by Piazzolla for violin and accordion. This unique program aims to take the audience on an emotive journey through struggles and triumphs, blending Persian and tango influences in a harmonious dialogue.

LvT: What can you tell me about the collaboration with Bahar Harandi and Matti Pulki?

SY: I know Matti from when we studied at the University of Toronto. We had contemporary ensemble performances with other friends; that was my first interaction with new music. It is nice to perform and share the stage with him again after so many years have passed.

Bahar and I got to know each other from our performance at Salle Bourgie Hall in Montreal back in April. From the first rehearsal with her, I felt that it was a good fit, like we had been performing and rehearsing together for years. Matti and Bahar are amazingly talented artists, and I am lucky to share the stage with them for this upcoming concert.

LvT: How does the program fit together?

SY: The program for our upcoming concert, titled “From Persian Gardens to Tango Streets”, will feature a compelling mix of contemporary pieces by Persian composers and lively Tango pieces. The first half of the concert will focus on works that address themes of women, discrimination, oppression, and immigration. We are honoured to present pieces by four remarkable Iranian contemporary composers: Parisa Sabet, Aida Shirazi, Mina Arissian, and Karan Salajegheh.

My focus was to choose Iranian composers to highlight the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Iran. Among them, Karan Salajegheh is the only male composer featured. His piece, titled “Anahita”, is particularly special as it is inspired by a poet, his mother, and the goddess of water and life-giving power, Anahita. This work will be premiered during our concert, adding a unique and exciting element to the performance.

After exploring these profound and thought-provoking themes, we will transition to the second half of the program with vibrant Tango pieces. This shift in tone is designed to convey hope and offer a refreshing contrast, making the intense contemporary pieces easier to absorb.

Overall, the concert promises to be a rich and varied musical experience, blending the depth of contemporary compositions with the spirited and expressive nature of Tango music. I am thrilled to share this journey with our audience and to bring these powerful works to life alongside such talented collaborators.

LvT: How did the unusual mix of music in the program, tango and Persian music, develop?

SY: The unusual mix of Tango and Persian music in the program developed from a desire to create a concert experience that is both emotionally compelling and culturally rich. The idea emerged from my fascination with the distinct yet complementary qualities of these two musical genres.

Persian music, especially contemporary pieces by Iranian composers, often delves into profound themes such as women, discrimination, oppression, and immigration. These compositions are deeply expressive and evoke a wide range of emotions, reflecting the complexities and nuances of the human experience. I wanted to showcase these powerful works to highlight the stories and struggles that are both personal and universal.

On the other hand, Tango music brings a different kind of energy and emotion to the stage. It is vibrant, passionate, and full of life, offering a sense of hope and resilience. After the intense and thought-provoking contemporary Persian pieces, the transition to Tango creates a refreshing contrast, allowing the audience to experience a journey from introspection to upliftment.

By blending these two genres, the concert aims to provide a holistic experience that engages the audience on multiple levels. The juxtaposition of Persian music’s depth and Tango’s exuberance allows for a dynamic and varied program that keeps the audience captivated and emotionally connected throughout the performance.

This mix also symbolizes the blending of different cultural elements, showcasing the universality of music and its ability to bridge diverse worlds. It reflects my belief that music, in all its forms, has the power to convey profound messages and bring people together, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries.

  • Get tickets for Persian Whispers Meet Tango’s Passion in a Night of Music and Hope on June 29 (8 p.m.) at Array Music [HERE].

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