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Mina Deris, Payam Yousef, and Witness Matlou

Date(s) - 12/02/2022
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

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Tsai Performance Center


15-50 USD
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Join us for a soulful musical performance featuring the masterful voice of Mina Deris (Arab-Iranian singer), Payam Yousefi (kamancheh), and Witness Matlou (jazz piano). This performance explores the liminal spaces at the intersection of Iranian and jazz musical improvisation. Drawing on contemporary poetry, Mina Deris sings through the current events unfolding in Iran while drawing inspiration from the poetry and melodies of Kurdish, Arab, and Persian music.

This concert is sponsored by Boston University and the benefits will fully go to the artists.

Mina Deris, one of the singers in the well-known documentary “Female Voices of Iran”, was born in 1981 during Iran and Iraq war. She started showing her talent in singing at the age of 5. Later on at school she was chosen as the best singer among other students and won the competition. At the age of 15 she was impressed by the charm of Arab music and it’s rhythm. Also she was inspired by the great Arab singer Umm Kulthum. Due to the fact that her hometown is Abadan which is located in the south of Iran, she was so passionate about Arabic classic music(maqam). Furthermore Arabic is her mother tongue. She started to pursue her enthusiasm for music after university by learning Iranian classic music with Master Hengameh Akhavan and Master Farhang Sharif.

See her on Instagram:

Later on as she got well known among different musicianes and bands, she joined some Pop, Folk and Fusion Iranian music bands. Then in 2014 she was gratuated from Music Conservatory of Tehran. Having researched on old Arab melodies from the south ,she has been trying to mix these melodies with electronic style which enhance more impressive mood in new generation.

Mina Deris has performed a lot of concerts in Iran and other countries such as Qatar, Turkey, Italy, Germany. In 2017 she’s had her first acting experience in a play about homeless women as an actress and a singer. She is now the lead singer of Novak Ensemble since 2016 and has many single tracks and an album called “Agitation” with this band.


Payam Yousefi (PhD, Harvard Music Department, 2023) is a scholar and composer-performer of classical Persian music. Payam’s kamancheh performance draws heavily on both the avaz tradition which he has studied extensively with Ostad Masumeh Mehrali, and the contemporary kamancheh performance techniques he has learned from Ostad Ardeshir Kamkar. His debut album Songs of Hope, featuring renowned tombak virtuoso Pedram Khavarzamini, offers a new collection of compositions for the kamancheh that are rooted in the melodic richness of the dastgāh tradition (Javan Records, forthcoming, spring 2023). Staying true to the improvisatory tradition he was raised in Payam’s music seeks to create emotionally heightened spaces of musical sharing through a practice dedicated to affective listening and collaboration.

Musical Background:

Payam has studied under the tutelage of some of Iran’s most prominent master musicians. As an apprentice of Ostad Masumeh Mehrali, he studied the vocal radif-s (modal, melodic, and rhythmic improvisatory systems) of classical Persian music, and the advanced morakab techniques (modal modulation). Additionally, he studied the instrumental radif-s and the repertoire of the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle) under the direction of Negar Kharkan and the renowned Ostad Ardeshir Kamkar. After graduating from UCLA with an MA in ethnomusicology, Payam began teaching in the music department of the Tehran University of Art in Iran, teaching courses on “Transcription and Arrangement in Iranian Music;” “Modal Analysis of Classical Persian Music’s Radif-s and Dastgah-s;” “Music of the Middle East;” and “Transcription and Analysis Methods.” Currently Payam is a PhD candidate in Harvard’s music department finishing his dissertation titled, “The Politics of Style in Classical Persian Music.” In recent years Payam has been a creative consultant and musical contributor on various projects for Disney Imagineering and Disney Junior.

Witness Matlou is a pianist, composer, and bandleader. He has performed nationally and internationally. His music is influenced by South African traditional, folk, jazz, and classical music. He received his bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in performance and jazz composition with a minor in philosophy. He also received his master’s degree from Berklee in contemporary performance (global jazz concentration), studying with Danilo Pérez, Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano, John Patitucci, and George Garzone.

In 2018, Matlou was awarded the Harvard South African Fellowship and accepted into the special student program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. There, he engaged in scholarly work and research under the guidance of acclaimed linguist John Mugane, with Matlou’s research focusing on the interdependence of music in retaining African languages and cultural identity.

Matlou has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the DC Jazz Festival, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and the North Sea Jazz Festival (Rotterdam, Netherlands).

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