Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 18, 2011

An Interview with Galeet Dardashti

Divahn: Jewish Songs of the Middle East
UMass Bowker Auditorium, Amherst, MA
Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 7:30pm

Tell us about your background as a musician. Did you/do you have any mentors?
I grew up performing music professionally with my family--my parents and two sisters.  Sort of like the Jewish Von-Trapp's. We performed a lot of international Jewish music. I've had so many incredible influences and mentors along the way, but my parents really gave me my entree into music and performance. In addition, my grandfather on my dad's side was one of the most famous singers of Persian classical music in Iran in his day. He sang regularly on National Radio and for the Shah. I didn't get to know him that well as a child, but as I grew up I began listening to his recordings quite a bit and consider him an important musical mentor for me.

Why is it important for people of all nationalities to hear your music? What responses have you received from audiences?
We are very lucky to have performed for very diverse audiences over the years, and this is exciting. Audience responses have ranged from dancing the hora (at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival) to tears. Oftentimes, audience members tell me that they never even knew that there was such a close musical relationship between Jews and non-Jews in the Middle East. That doesn't come across in news headlines. I'm happy to share this realm of shared culture from the Middle East. But my primary hope is that people will love the music we perform.

Does the music come through generations of time and/or your own compositions?
I will perform one of my new compositions in the show from my new CD "The Naming." Other that that, the songs we perform are creative renditions of traditional music, many of them from the sacred Jewish realm. Some of them I learned from my father, who learned them from his father. I'm the first woman in my family to continue this musical tradition.

What is in your future and the future of this genre of music?
I plan to continue performing, composing, and innovating new music. Here is my new project: