About Zaryab Ensemble

The mission of Zaryab Ensemble is to promote cross-cultural understanding, peace, tolerance and environmental consciousness through the development of musical performances that can engage international audiences.  The artistic focus represents a contemporary re-interpretation of Persian traditional roots, melding ancient Persian modal qualities and traditional instruments with modern musical systems.

The ensemble engages a renowned international cast, specialized in both Persian and Western musical systems, all based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  In cooperation with Afsaneh Art and Culture Society - Ballet Afsaneh dance artists, choreographers and collaborators, Zaryab Ensemble has developed numerous original compositions, in an inspiring juxtaposition of music, dance, visual art and poetry.  Recent performances include: Festival of the Silk Road (annually self-produced performance at Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose, CA), Celebration of Planet Earth (self-produced performance at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts), Re-Orient Festival (San Francisco, CA).

Clips from past work and performances

"Kahkeshani az Noor" ("Light of the Infinite"): Original composition inspired by Sufi musical forms. Performed on May 8, 2009 at "2nd Annual Silk Road Festival" Mexican Heritage, San Jose, CA and Dec 6, 2009 at "Reorient Festival," San Francisco

"Ab Ra Gel Nakonim" ("Don't Muddy the Water"): Original composition based on contemporary Persian poetry by Sohrab Sepehri, promoting environmental consciousness.  Performed on February 27, 2010 at "Celebration of Planet Earth," Mountain View Center for Performing Arts and on May 8, 2010 at "Festival of the Silk Road - 2010" Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater, San Jose, CA

"The Joy of Persian spring": Online production celebrating Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, with Persian poetry and music




Core ensemble members

  • Sonja Drakulich, vocalist, producer and specialization in Turkish, Arabic, Balkan, Medieval European musical traditions
  • Neema Hekmat, santur player, composer and specialization in Persian modal systems and improvisation
  • Pourya Khademi, violinist and specialization in Persian and Western classical music
  • Moses Sedler, cellist, composer and specialization in Western classical music, eastern European folk music and Indian music

Other collaborating artists include invited musicians:

  • Ali Bazyar, Persian percussionist
  • Jeannette Ferber, western classical vocalist
  • Kaveh Hedayati, setar player
  • Fares Hedayati, tonbak and daf player
  • Pedram Heydari, kamanche and guitar player
  • Salar Khoshfahm, Persian/Azeri vocalist
  • Adeleh Moghaddam, poetry recitation
  • Bon Singer, vocalist specialized in Balkan and Eastern European modal systems
  • Bobak Tamaddon, guitar player and vocalist

Primary dance artists collaborators include:

Historical background

Zaryab or Ziryab was a key figure in the development of Andalusian or Moorish musical systems in the 8th century A.D.   Being a Persian musician, singer and composer within the Arab courts, Zaryab's travels within the Arab-Islamic empire took him to Cordoba, Spain where he was exposed to Spanish music.  There, Zaryab introduced Persian and Mesopotamian musical styles, instruments and melodies, which carried great influence on Spanish music.  Today, the influence of Persian music still survives in the modern Spanish guitar and Flamenco music and dance.

The artistic vision of Zaryab Ensemble is greatly inspired by the cross-cultural melding and monumental contributions of this historical figure. 













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