Sahba Motallebi is an award-winning, modern virtuoso of the tar and setar, lute-like stringed instruments central to one of the world’s great musical traditions. She began studying music as a young girl in Sari, Northern Iran. Shortly after graduating from the Tehran Conservatory of Music, she co-founded a groundbreaking women’s music ensemble and later joined the Iranian National Orchestra, beginning her career as an international performer. She left Iran in 2003 to pursue graduate studies, closed to her there because of her faith. Sahba is also recognized as an innovator in the teaching of Persian music; her pioneering efforts putting instructional materials on the internet and teaching students online have inspired something of a renaissance in the transmission of this ancient art form, reflecting her commitment to bringing music to the world.
The daughter of one of Iran’s leading percussionists, Mahmoud Farahmand, grew up surrounded by music in a full house of drums. She started playing the tonbak when she was six under the supervision of her father, and was encouraged to learn a melodic instrument to gain insight into the melodic aspect of music, as this would make her a better accompanist. So she started playing the santur under the guidance of Faramarz Payvar and Pashang Kamkar. Besides learning traditional music, Naghmeh found the daf to be very powerful and spiritual and began learning Sufi and Kurdish rhythms from Bijan Kamkar and Masoud Habibi. She has performed in many well-known traditional ensembles in Iran and at festivals around the world, and was honored to perform with ney master Hassan Nahid and famed vocalist Hengameh Akhavan. In 2010, she moved to Canada and started working with musicians in world music and jazz. She is the founder of the Sharghi percussion ensemble.
In 2018, this annual series returns in collaboration with Miami Dade College’s MDC Live Arts. It invites audiences into a meditative space through instrumental, traditional and innovative sounds from the Middle East. With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and the Doris Duke Foundation, The Rhythm Foundation and MDC Live Arts create an opportunity to build a connection with cultures primarily in the public eye for conflict zones. Victoria Rogers, Vice President of Arts for Knight Foundation, said: “Few things can bring people together like the arts. Events like this series are a great prism for exploring our and other cultures, and for finding the threads that unite us all.” In an immersive environment, the audience surrounds performers in an in-the-round stage setup. The evening also features culture-specific, traditional snacks and sweets to engage the audience in a multi-sensory experience.
Co-produced with Miami Dade College’s MDC Live Arts