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Serendipity in Berkeley
Eastern and Western instruments create a delightful and soulful audio feast


Nazy Kaviani
Photographs by Julie Rehmeyer
June 5, 2007

I went to see Aleph Null perform in Berkeley’s Anna’s Jazz Island last Sunday.  As I was ending a week of melancholy, which in me always results in inconsolable homesickness for Iran, a co-worker’s tip about the event took me and my family there.  Other than knowing that there was an Iranian in the band, I have to admit had no idea who Aleph Null were and what type of music they offered >>> Photos

I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced by a long shot.  The venue was a tidy restaurant and bar, which has been in operation for about a year in Berkeley, offering live music every night of the week, owned and managed by a warm and wonderful jazz artist named Anna de Leon.

I was surprised and impressed to see the size and complexity of this band.  Seven members played in it, and among them, they were playing more than twelve instruments.  Their music is best described as Middle Eastern fusion, where Eastern and Western instruments create a delightful and soulful audio feast. 

The beautiful music composed by David Hauer, who himself plays multiple instruments in the band, is interspersed with solo jams of other musical instruments such as saxophone, guitar, violin, clarinet, and the heavenly voice of Hossein Massoudi.  Massoudi also plays Tonbak and Daf, singing Farsi and Kurdish songs in a unique presentation of traditional and jazz fusion.

In the cozy atmosphere of Anna’s, so far away from the mountains, deserts, and seas of Iran, it felt so comforting to be surrounded by this treat of a performance.  They played the songs of their album Five Tales Foretold, as well as others.  The song, Bi Hamegan Be Sar Shavad, from their other works, was a memorable delivery of Molana’s (Rumi) timeless poem.

No wonder my old friend, Persis Karim, editor and contributing poet to Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been:  New Writings by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, said about their new album: “This is music that stirs you, takes you places you dream of going.  Aleph Null fuses classical and folk Iranian vocal styles with traditional Middle-Eastern instruments and the spirit of jazz to create music that energizes, elevates and makes you understand why music matters.”

Aleph Null’s musicians are:  Mark Wieder -- Contrabass; Hossein Massoudi -- Farsi and Kurdish Vocals & Percussion; Gari Hegedus -- Oud, Violin, Pennywhistle, Saz; David Hauer -- Saz, Guitar; Sheldon Brown -- Clarinet; Aharon Wheels Bolsta -- Tabla, Tonbak, & other Percussion; and Sarah Michael -- Viola de Gamba.

I bought their CD Panj Ravayat, or Five Tales Foretold at the venue, but you can order it through CD Baby or Ketab Co >>> Photos


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Nazy Kaviani



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