Thursday, April 30, 2009

Artistic Director of Opera for Mesopotamian Night 2009

AAS-A Central Valley Chapter has chosen the Persian American opera singer Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai as the artistic director of the opera for the production of the Qateeni opera and the new scene from the Gilgamesh opera to be performed in the Mesopotamian Night 2009 concert.

Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai Biography

Persian mezzo-soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai has received critical acclaim for her “warm sound” and her “charismatic stage presence”.

Recently she appeared as Carmen with Livermore Opera, Mercedes with Pacific Repertory Opera, Cherubino with Mendocino Music Festival, and soloist for Alden Jenks’ Song Cycle The Soup with Ensemble Parallèle.

Operatic credits include Poppea and Ottavia (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Rosina (Il Trionfo dell Onore), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Lola (Cavalleria Rusticana), Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Polina (Pique Dame), Mrs. Page (Merry Wives of Windsor), Nancy (Albert Herring), Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti); and the title roles in Iolanthe and La Perichole.
She has worked with among others, San Francisco Opera Center, North Bay Opera, Eldorado Opera, West Bay Opera, Bear Valley Music Festival, Oakland Opera theatre and made her European debut singing the title role in Carmen at Opera Brasov in Romania.

Ms Shehabi-Yaghmai’s Oratorio work includes Mozart's Coronation Mass, Haydn's Mass for Prince Nicolai, and Bach's Magnificat.

Equally active in both opera and recital performances, Ms Shehabi-Yaghmai is much sought after for her expressive and well balance recital programs. She has been featured in a multitude of recital series. Among others, the Brand Library, Iranian Women Scholarship Foundation, California State University of Northridge Alumni Performances, San Francisco Conservatory of Music Faculty Performances.

An avid interpreter of Persian folksong, Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai has done extensive research on the genre and since January, 2007 has collaborated with composer David Garner on new arrangements of selected melodies. Her recital at Brand Library Music Series in Glendale, CA marked the debut of a number of these song settings for piano and voice. Other performances in this genre include featured soloist for the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Monterey Symphony, International Sharif University Reunions in San Diego, Heidelberg (Germany), and Santa Clara, fundraiser gala for Iranian-American district supervisor of San Francisco Ross Mirkarimi, and The Iranian Women Scholarship Foundation.

In 2009 she will be featured as Soloist with Monterey Opera Orchestra, San Diego Chamber Orchestra, and will debut the role of The Widow in Michel Bosc’s Opera Qateeni based on Assyrian epic poems at Modesto's Gallo Center for the Arts.

In summer of 2005 Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai established her first Summer Opera Workshop Company TANEEN OPERA in San Francisco, training aspiring beginning level opera singers who wish to gain experience in performing arts. She maintains an active vocal studio in San Francisco.

Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai was the winner of the 1999 CSUN annual concerto competition as well as a finalist for the prestigious Merola auditions where after she was hired as a resident artist with the San Francisco Opera Center. Additional awards include: Beulah Allen and John Vaznaian voice scholarships, the 1999 Outstanding Iranian Student Award, and The Outstanding Bachelor's Degree Graduate in Music at California State University of Northridge.

Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai holds a Bachelor of Music, Magna Cum Laude, from California State University of Northridge, and a Master of Music and a Post Graduate Artist’s Diploma from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mesopotamian Night 2009 Seating Chart

The above image shows the seating chart for The third Annual Mesopotamian Night fund raiser concert in Modesto, California under the name Assyryt: The Symphonic Suite Assyria and the Opera Qateeni. To reserve your seats go to the Gallo Center for the Arts web site or contact AAS-A Central Valley Chapter officers.

The Gilgamesh Assyrian Opera

The Gilgamesh Assyrian opera is a work in progress that was initiated by the Assyrian Aid Society Central Valley Chapter two years ago and was commissioned to John Craton. This opera is the first to be composed in modern Syriac (Assyrian Aramaic). The work to date consists of the overture and scenes comprising Tablets 6 and 7 of the original epic (the “Bull of Heaven Scene” from Tablet 6, and the “Death of Enkidu” and “Lament of Gilgamesh” from Tablet 7). The libretto is adapted from the poetic interpretation of the ancient text by Addai Alkhas and transliterated by Abraham Giliana. It is designed to be a chamber opera of approximately 70 minutes in length when completed. The overture and Bull of Heaven Scene were presented in performance on 23 August 2008 in Modesto, California, in the Mesopotamian Night 2008 concert by the Townsend Opera Players.

The “Death of Enkidu” and “Lament of Gilgamesh” scenes from Tablet 7 will be performed at the Mesopotamian Night 2009 concert in Modesto, CA.

John Craton's Biography

Born in Anniston, Alabama, John Craton hails from an extended family of musicians, including both professionals and amateurs. His own career began on the violin at age ten, and he began studying piano at fourteen. He made his first feeble attempts at composing at age eleven. He studied violin under the late concert violinist Robert Louis Barron and John Maltese; piano under Louis Culver and Ouida Susie Francis; and music theory and composition under Gerald Moore and Henry Fusner. He received his B.A. from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his M.A. from Indiana University, Bloomington, and has taught in Alabama, Tennessee, and Indiana. He currently teaches violin and piano in a private studio in Bedford.

Craton’s music has been performed by such artists and ensembles as Sebastiaan de Grebber, Gertrud Weyhofen, Ljubomir Velickovic, Townsend Opera Players, Het Consort, Het Orkest van het Oosten, and the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra. His works include a number of compositions for chamber ensembles ranging from violin to marimba and piano; six operas (Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer, based on ancient Sumerian texts; The Curious Affair of the Count of Monte Blotto, a comic chamber opera; Vasya Whitefeet, a children’s opera; The Parliament of Fowls, a one-act chamber opera based on the poem by Geoffrey Chaucer; and The Reconciliation and The Fashionable Lady, both reconstructions of early American operas); orchestral works such as Pagan Festivals for string orchestra, Beowulf, four mandolin concertos and a double concerto for two mandolins and orchestra, a concerto for tuba and orchestra, and a setting of Mongolian folk songs for viola and orchestra; and vocal compositions including The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock for tenor and strings and several song cycles. A number of his works are currently available in print from Wolfhead Music.

La Boîte à musique was composed specifically for the dancers of Kat’s Performing Arts Studio in Bedford and is dedicated to Kathy Thompson. Other upcoming performances of Craton’s works include: the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B Major with Barbara Gallagher, piano, in Wilmington, North Carolina; excerpts from the opera Gilgamesh, in Modesto, California; and Danseries anciennes with Het Consort conducted by Alex Timmerman in Bancigny, France. More information is available at Craton’s website at

Pastor Samuel Khangaldy's Gilgamesh Oratorio

In addition to Assyryt and the opera Qateeni, the Mesopotamian Night 2009 will present an overture from "The Gilgamesh Oratorio" a work under progress by Pastor Samuel Khangaldy. The following is a description of this project in his own words.

Inspired by the cultural and arts initiatives of the AAS-A Central Valley Chapter and the Mesopotamian Night concert of 2008, I decided to create a composition on the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the first epic ever written, about 2700 B.C., a millennium before Homer’s Iliad, and has a special place in the literature of the human history. This epic is written on twelve tablets in poetry form, about 300 lines on each. Several copies of Gilgamesh are found in Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian languages. The tablets that have the most significance are those written in cuneiform and found in the Assyrian King, Ashourbanipal’s library. The story of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, talks about pride, love, hate, battle, forgiveness, and search for the life after death. It has been translated in many languages and some American and European composers have written music on this epic. Most of these compositions contain only parts of the epic and not the epic in its entirety.

The oratorio will have fifteen parts, covering the complete story of Gilgamesh, for symphony orchestra, piano, choir and soloists. The lyrics will be in both Assyrian Aramaic and English. Assyrian lyrics are adopted to keep the genuineness and the spirit of the story, while its English translation will attract those outside Assyrian communities and will make it understandable for non-Assyrian speaking audience.

Pastor Samuel Khangaldy's Biography

Pastor Samuel Khangaldy was born in Tehran, Iran into an Assyrian family. After graduating from National University of Iran with a degree in Economics, he worked many years for Iran Aircraft Industries, a company under Ministry of Defense. Like the majority of Assyrians who immigrated to other countries after the Islamic revolution, Samuel and his family moved to the United States in 1984 and settled in San Jose, California. Samuel attended San Jose Christian College (now William Jessup University) and graduated with a degree in Theology and received his ordination as the Minister of the Word in 1996.

Samuel started his first music lesson when he was eight years old. He played accordion for three years but because of his great passion for his dream instrument, he switched to piano and received his trainings in classical music. His compositions were performed by Tehran Symphony Orchestra, and National Iranian Radio and Television Orchestra. He has directed choirs in different churches, schools and for the Shah of Iran. His music archive includes several classical pieces, piano solos, military marches, Assyrian folk dances, and numerous Gospel music and lyrics written in two languages, Assyrian and Farsi. As a pastor and a musician he is well known among the Assyrian and Persian communities in different countries in general and in San Jose and the Bay Area and Southern California in particular.

Pastor Samuel has been teaching and training piano students for about four decades, some to an advance level that have become piano teachers. We should add calligraphy and oil painting to Pastor Samuel’s artistic profile.

Michel Bosc Comments about Assyryt and Qateeni

Orchestrating «Assyryt» was difficult. It’s music for piano, with an easy level, made for pupils and familial music. It’s charming, clear and light. The question was : could I enlarge this music for orchestra without transforming it too much ? I choose to obtain shining colours and not change the music itself at all : only Paulus Khofri notes. This music has an innocent and sometimes Mozartian character. We decided to make 2 suites of 10 pieces each.

“Qateeni” is one of the most exciting musical and human experience of my life. We now present the first Act of this opera. As a musician, I use to work about prosody ; I made linguistic studies when I was young. Today I work on French baroque pronunciation and prosody in the music of Lully, Charpentier, Rameau… I composed an opera in Spanish, a little piece in English, pieces in Latin, almost 50 “mélodies françaises” so language into music is one of my favourite territory. I was coached to understand how Assyrian language works, but first I was always afraid to make mistakes about prosody and accentuation. Later, it became easier and pleasant. I had a different relation with music than the usual one, with more freedom and dramatic inspiration. I wrote a lot of parts for wind and brass soloists, the harp is an essential element into the orchestra, the percussion gives a lot of colours. As a singer myself, I took care of the singers. They have 2 quintets, a trio, a duet… I loved the characters at once. I really do hope we could some day compose the 2 others Acts of “Qateeni”. I have plenty of ideas for it. I’m really honoured and proud to serve the Assyrian community!

Michel Bosc Biography

French composer Michel Bosc (born in 1963) is largely self-taught. In 1985, the French singer and composer William Sheller convinced him to devote himself to writing music. Since then, he has tackled registers as diverse as chamber music, symphonies, sacred music and music for the theater.

Leading soloists have given Michel Bosc encouragement, among them the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal (for a flute trio), the counter-tenors James Bowman and Bertrand Dazin (creators of his cantata Ils sont là), the soprano Natalie Dessay (for the melody Madinina), John Walz, 1st cello of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera) and Monica Cecconi-Botella, composer and premier Grand-Prix de Rome (for her Elégie for strings).

A member of the Société Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Michel Bosc is a distinguished music critic and analyst. His writings include the sleeve-notes for a recording of French Baroque music by the Petits chanteurs de Versailles.
As a composer, Michel Bosc is the author of over two hundred pieces of music, many of them have been played places as diverse as Paris (Le Châtelet), Angers, Saumur, Tours, Fontevrault, Annecy, Strasbourg, Lille, Lyon, Pasadena (USA), Madrid (Spain), in Japan (Yokohama, Tokyo), in Belgium (Wavre) and in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic. As an orchestrator, he made several arrangements and transcriptions for symphonic or chamber consorts.

His work spans over a wide range of genres: symphony, symphonic poem, choral music, concerto, string quartet, opéra, wind quintet, brass quintet, trio with piano, melodies… His sacred music includes a mass, a requiem, Leçons de Ténèbres and two oratorios.

Bosc's works have been performed worldwide by such performers and ensembles as Jean-Walter Audoli, Hugues Reiner, Philippe Fournier and Maximilian Fröschl, the soprano Agnès Mellon, the brass quintet of the Orchestre national des Pays-de-Loire, the Orchestre Pasdeloup, the National Orchestra of Kazakhstan, the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Ulyanovsk Philarmonia, the European Orchestra, the Orchestre instrumental d’Ile-de-France, the Orchestre symphonique lyonnais, and the Ensemble Gabriele Leone.

The music of Michel Bosc is both tonal and highly personal, marked by a strong, independent hedonism. In the words of the conductor Maximilian Fröschl, Bosc’s music «contains melodic sweetness, polyphonic rigor and the power of rhythm».
Several works of Michel Bosc are published in United States by Wolfhead music. Compilations of scores are also available on

His work has undergone a variety of influences, but still quintessentially French. It is made up of a certain reserve, a concern for clarity and lightness, a refusal of emphasis, a sort of repugnance for development.

He has practiced Lully, Charpentier, Delalande and Rameau with a passion as a singer and practically worships the works of Debussy, Florent Schmitt, Charles Koechlin, Guy Ropartz, Jehan Alain and Francis Poulenc. He is strongly attracted to Russian (especially Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky) and English music (from Purcell to Britten). Among the contemporaries, he particularly likes Denisov, Ligeti, Escaich, Hersant. Even tough his writing is tonal, he is open to all styles as long as it is not gimmicky and above all not conceptual. This makes him closed to twelve-note, concrete and minimalist schools or repetitive techniques.

Film scores have attracted him since childhood, notably because of their lushness (as David Raksin, Alex North or Michel Legrand). Nature is essential to his inspiration. “If the essence of music is the inner song, its soul is in the universe”, he says. His attraction for spirituality is not just pantheist and sacred music does occupy a certain place in his work; his experience as a singer has inspired many vocal compositions.

Fascinated by instrumental colors, he made a lot of arrangements, transcriptions and orchestrations, always carefully preserving interpreter's and public's pleasure.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mesopotamian Night: August 15th, 2009

We are getting closer to finalize all the details of yet another historic Assyrian musical and arts event perhaps surpassing the Mesopotamian Night 2008 in many aspects. We will post more details as we move closer to the event.

The tickets are now available for reservation from the Gallo Center for the Arts Web Site as well as calling our Chapter officers directly.

Monday, April 27, 2009


By: Nineveh Babella Nissan

“We Are Assyrian,” a documentary produced by the prominent filmmaker Victor Davoody, was a spectacular premiere for our beloved community in the Central Valley. They gathered to experience this documentary for the very first time in the State Theater in Modesto, California on April 5, 2009. With the extraordinary efforts of Hollywood Connections Center and the Assyrian Aid Society-Central Valley Chapter, Victor Davoody was able to produce and create a remarkable documentary of the unforgettable Mesopotamian Night- Melodies from the East. The documentary portrayed the Mesopotamian Night in an artistic and exuberant way of presenting our musicians like never seen before.

As narrator of the film, Christen Cowden takes us on a journey beginning with a brief history of the Assyrians, indigenous people of Mesopotamia. She proudly states the achievements, inventions, language, and the history of the Assyrian people bringing us to who we are today and what great accomplishments we are struggling to reach as one nation. With honor and dignity, Cowden presents “The Mesopotamian Night” as one of our accomplishments and introduces the leaders, musicians, artists, and supporters of this great production to the audience. The interviews with the community members exemplified the level of intensity and excitement the supporters felt that night. They were anxiously awaiting the night to begin, to hear and see two phenomenal singers of our nation, Ashur Bet-Sargis and Walter Aziz, with an astounding orchestra and the Assyrian Classical Music and Opera. One of the most essential aspects of the film was listening to those who brought “The Mesopotamian Night” to life; the Maestro/Conductor, Assurhadoun Khofri, the music director and producer, Pierre Noghli, the President of the AAS Central Valley Chapter, Tony Khoshaba, the two famous Assyrian singers, Ashur Bet-Sargis and Walter Aziz, including the musicians and the dedicated members of the Assyrian Aid Society. It is through this documentary that the audience experienced the vision and intent of all those who struggled to create a masterpiece for the Assyrian nation- a night with melodies from the East for the very first time in Assyrian history.

The personal testimonies and reminiscences of all those involved in the making of the concert led to one goal; we want to unite and work for our people in our Homeland. Listening to the singers’ all-time favorite songs with the enchanting music playing in the background made the cause of the concert transparent in the musicians’ hearts and listeners’ souls. Ashur Bet-Sargis, our nation’s legendary singer, quoted Mother Teresa stating, “We will help until it hurts.” He presented the essence of the concert and assured the people that they should donate their time and money to this noble cause. With these powerful statements, Ashur emphasized that unconditional love for our nation will break all the barriers that are creating divisions and allow us to help our people no matter what it takes.

Davoody’s production of the concert presented our brilliant musicians and talented individuals who shared their contributions to this project. He captured the musicians’ and supporters’ personal reflections of the concert. Their reflections brought tears to our eyes because they wholeheartedly expressed how our singers and their lifelong struggle of keeping the Assyrian heritage alive have paid off at the end of the night. In the midst of the tough times our nation is facing, the AAS was successful in hosting the Mesopotamian Night and the outcome was rewarding. Most importantly, the community is grateful to Victor Davoody, who created a documentary for this production. Davoody’s goal was to give hope to our people that our culture will remain strong despite the differences in our nation and he emphasized that we need to work as one nation to help our people in Beth-Nahrain, our Homeland. Every time we watch the concert film, it will bring us back to the people, the singers, the musicians, and the goal of the Mesopotamian Night- we will relive that night once again!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Qateeni Piano Rehearsal Sample

The French Composer Michel Bosc who has taken on the composition of the music for the opera Qateeni has posted the following piano rehearsal sample on YouTube. Enjoy the music and come and see this important historical performance in Assyrian art in Modesto on August 15th, 2009.

The Assyrian opera "Qateeni" to be performed in Modesto

Two years ago, The Central Valley Chapter of AAS-A took on the creation of the Assyrian opera Qateeni as part of its initiative to expand Assyrian cultural and art activities. This project now has come to fruition and on August 15th 2009, the first act of this opera will come to stage in concert style in the third Mesopotamian Night fund raiser concert in Modesto, California.

In order to familiarize our audience and supporters with this important cultural and art project, we will be posting informative articles in this blog periodically.

The first of these articles is a summery translation of the Epic Poem book Qateeni Gabbara by Dr. Arianne Ishaya.

By: Dr. Arianne Ishaya


The scene introduces Giliana (the revealer), an itinerary storyteller who travels from village to village bringing good tidings or recounting legends of long ago.

It is a winter night. Mountains, valleys, trees and bushes are all covered under a blanket of snow. Giliana appears as a dot on the snowy blanket slowly approaching a low laying village. He enters a house where petty disputes with neighbors over whose sheep are fatter, has dampened the mood of the family members. Guiliana advises them that it is better to forego differences of opinion with friends and “do what Qateeni did”.
“What did Qateeni do?” everyone asks.

“He forgot the anger he had towards his uncle’s family when he realized a stronger foe was threatening all.”

Thus Giliana begins to recount Qateeni Gabbara’s legend.

Book I
Chapter 1

The scene opens with the introduction of a mighty ruling family in the Assyrian country laced with high mountains surrounding green-carpeted valleys. The ruler is Malik (feudal lord) Tuma who is sovereign over both the mountain and lowland people.
His older brother is Yateevoo, the high priest, the power of whose cross penetrates every soul. The younger brother is Gouzmanoo, a friend of the poor and the oppressed.
Then there is the beautiful sister, Kurikmoo, coveted by the neighboring princes, and the topic of many poetic praises.

This family’s stately mansion is open everyday to distinguished guests who are entertained and fed with a variety of delectable dishes the aroma of which fills the air; not to mention the aged red wine which freely flows from barrels to smaller earthen jugs.

On some occasions Tuma raises his bowl of wine and offers a challenge to brave men daring them to rid the country of a grievous calamity in the form of a female demon, Shidda, who has built a castle on a high mountain from the skulls and bones of people she has snared and murdered. She has taken hold not only of people whether young or old, lord or pauper, but also of the land. She has diverted the rivers from their courses leaving man, beast, and green plants high and dry.

Tuma’s challenge goes like this:

“Who is the brave, the bravest of the brave, the bravest of all times, who is not afraid to climb the high mountains, squeeze through narrowest crevices, pass through plains and deserts, and speedily land, like an arrow soaring through the air, on Shidda’s green meadows, and while she is in her slumber of 40 days, pick from the green plant to bring home a specimen that will give sight to the blind, and life to the dead.”

Chapter 2

Qateeni’s Childhood

Qateeni grew up in a lowly village raised by his mother Kurikmoo (remember, this is the beautiful sister of Malik Tuma) who was banished by her brothers because she fell in love and married a poor miller instead of a rich prince that would bring wealth and honor to her father’s family. How dared she not to submit to the will of her elder brothers who had absolute power over the people and even commanded the air, the weather and the seasons!

Some said Qateeni’s father, Yossip, was himself from a celebrated family, the mighty Qateenis, in whose strong arms the leopard, clasped against his bosom, ceased to breathe.

When Tuma and his brother the high priest, with a hundred strong followers descended upon Yossip’s village for revenge, Yossip had to make a decision. He knew he was guilty of marrying a woman without the consent of her family. So instead of shedding the blood of his in-laws, he decided to retreat. He entered the mill and rolled the huge millstone over the opening. The attacking party stood in awe before such might. The two brothers did not have the heart to kill such a Herculean man; but banished the couple from the homeland. Yossip who was strong enough to withstand great trials, could not endure the weight of his guilt and the tears of his wife. He died leaving his pregnant wife alone.

Time healed the wounded heart of the widow by giving her a son who grew into a strong and beautiful child. “Your name is Qateeni, and Qateeni (a mighty hero) you will be. You will not let this great name die out. You will inherit your father’s strength three times over.” These were the blessings of a heart-broken mother who asked the almighty to “pave your path with success and to enable you to shame those who broke your father’s and your mother’s heart. The heart of those who hear your name shall tremble, and when they see Qateeni on their heels, they will bend down and bow their faces to the ground before your feet.”

Chapter 3

Qateeni’s Boyhood

In a little village adorned with water, green pastures, high cliffs, and fruit trees each boasting of its own virtues, [1] noisy children played and retold tales they had heard of giants and men, of battles and heroic deeds. Among them was a boy, the strongest of them all. Although the youngest, he stood a head and shoulder taller, and his arms and limbs were strong having walked through drifts of snow. So strong was he that when he leaned against a walnut tree, the tree moaned deep in its roots. In the pretend play with children, Qateeni would tie them up and fight with the imaginary monster dislocating one child’s arm here and another’s leg there. The parents complained to the village head that Qateeni was maiming their children and demanded to know who had invited this orphan and his mother clad in black (mourning clothes) to their village, and asked that they return where they had come from. But the village head was wise and reprimanded them. “We are mountain people, descendants of Assyrians. Isn’t it shameful to forget our values and throw out a guest out of our village?’ Instead, for the safety of the village children, Qateeni was made the village shepherd so that he would spend his days on high pastures. One evening Qateeni was very tardy in bringing the flock back from pasture. When he finally did return, people asked him the reason. He told them of the big headache he had with one of the “sheep” who would run away from the flock and climb the cliffs or hide in crevices. She was the reason for his delay. Finally he had caught her and had had to carry her on his shoulders. When they looked and saw the beast standing in the middle of the flock with her head high, and branched horns, they laughed and laughed until tears flew down their cheeks. Then the forlorn mother, who was standing by quietly, took the boy in her arms and amidst bursts of laughter and crying, explained to him that this was not a sheep but a wild deer and was probably being missed by her little ones. He was to return her the next day where he had first found her.

One day on his way to the pasture, the boy heard a voice calling: “Who are you Qateeni. Don’t you have a father?’ That evening the saddened boy asked his mother to tell him where they were from and who was his father. But his mother asked him to wait until he was older and more mature. Then she would tell him everything about the injustice done to her and his father. But Qateeni insisted he was already wise enough. To prove his point he told her about an event that had occurred three days earlier. In the evening when it was time to bring the herd back to the village, the spotted cow of Ashi, and her calf Bashi, stubbornly continued to stay behind grazing. So he had lifted the cow on his shoulders, and when the calf had seen the mother leave, she had obediently followed suit. “Now then, Qateeni asked, isn’t this proof that I am already wise?”

Chapter 4

A Mother’s Advice

The heart-broken mother tells her son about the events of the past. She assures him that with the passage of time, her anger against her brothers has subsided; there is just the occasional sting of pain of disrepute and lost honor. Her advice to her son is not to make revenge a goal in his life. “It is foretold in the book of the wise, there will be a hero from a certain mountain. Who will he be, you or another, I do not know. But he will bring hope to the people, will bring them light. Two desires tear me apart: one that you stay with me; the other that you go to the rescue of hundreds. Leave shepherding to others and exchange your shepherd’s staff with a sword. Go from good deed to good deed and from glory to glory.”

Chapter 5

Qateeni Arms Himself

Qateeni goes to a sly merchant to purchase a sword and a shield. The merchant shows him nine unworthy swords. He breaks them in two one after another. The tenth one he picks himself; a sword that can even cut through a rock. There seems to be certain strength in this sword like the power of lightening. It is said of Qateeni’s sword that when the lightening struck, the sword neighed like a horse. It was nicknamed “the son of thunder”. But, to no avail, the merchant tries to dissuade Qateeni from buying this sword.

Chapter 6


Malik Tuma has blocked the shipping passage to and from the big river. He does not allow merchant ships to either leave or enter the waters. He has assigned Gouzmanoo, his youngest brother, a valiant officer, to implement his order. Qateeni reaches the crossing and finds the ship merchants gloomy. When they see his Herculean gait, they promise him whatever he wants only if he would open the passage. Qateeni asks for only 10 pieces of gold, to pay the trader for the purchase of his sword. Without knowing Gouzmano is his uncle, he fights with him and defeats him.

A messenger with an unfamiliar dialect comes to Mallik Tuma, and tries to recount Qateeni’s stature, his fight with, and victory over Gouzmanou. A hilarious dialogue ensues that is very hard to do justice to in translation.

Qateeni who has broken the heavy chains across the river is described as a man who hops from one end of the big river to the other in two steps; one who crumbles rocks in his hands; and who takes the lion by his mane like it was a pussy cat; and when he leans against a marble wall to rest, the wall crumbles under his weight. Malik Tuma loses patience and wants to know what has happened to his brother. The messenger rambles on. There is no one of that boy’s stature and size in the country. His hair is long like gals; but there is no hair on his face. Must not be older than 17. Malik Tuma stops him and again asks about his brother. The messenger: As to his features, he has teeth like the spikes on a plow; each of his ears is the size of a quilt; and his nose is like a trumpet that when blown sounds like thunder. Malik Tuma is beside himself with anger, and wants to know about his brother. The messenger: He overpowered Gouzmanoo in a matter of seconds. First Gouzmanoo’s sword flew out of his hands, then Gouzmanno himself was lifted into the air like a light feather and thrown down to the ground like heavy metal. Gouzmanoo begged for mercy and asked the hero to have pity on him for the sake of his children.

Kateeny’s heart melts particularly when he finds out this is his uncle and spares his life, promising that his mission is to rescue his people and not to kill his mother’s kin. Now he has sent a message to Malik Tuma requesting an audience with him.

Chapter 7

In Malik Tuma’s Castle:

The dinner table is set. Around it sit many dignitaries from different cities and from the countryside. It is a gloomy atmosphere. The old men are quiet, lost in thought; the young braves, head downcast, appear very depressed. Even the wine jug, which used to fly from mouth to mouth lewdly, giving her lips to be kissed, sits solemnly like an old cat by her master. What malady has struck them all?

Have you not heard of the new devastation Shidda has inflicted upon man and beast? Water was not enough to satiate her thirst; now blood is what she wants, that of young men and maidens. Hundreds of braves have gone to fight her never to return leaving wives and children in mourning. Again Malik Tuma lifts his wine bowl and sings his song:

“Who is the brave, the bravest of the brave, the bravest of all times, who is not afraid to cruise through plains and deserts, pass through hills and valleys, climb the high mountains, and fly like an arrow through frightful crevices; speedily land on Shidda’s stronghold surrounded by the most fertile fields, and the greenest meadows; find the sleeping Shidda, aim his arrow at her, and throw her dead body into the deeps, into the hell from where she rose. Open the waterways, and bring life to the parched land. Let me see that brave, the bravest of all times to drink from this wine with me knowing that leaving, he might never come back.

Malik Tuma’s song hardly over, the crowd pours out into the yard in wonderment saying:

Look at this Assyrian descending from the mountains, each of his shoulders a yard wide; where he steps, the earth caves in. He is Qateeni, the one who splits mountains, his chest that of a mirror; the one who drinks wine by the barrels. Is there any hero who can challenge Qateeni? If there is one who can climb the perilous mountain to confront Satan’s daughter Shidda, he is the one!
Qateeni enters as crowds hale; the gate collapsing before his Herculean stride.
-“Do I come in peace or war, my uncle Tuma? Let’s end the family feud this very day.”
-“Peace be with you nephew. Good will my son, come forward.”
-“Before you welcome me, I want to hear your decision about your banished sister.”
-“Let’s first talk about the calamity that has brought us together; then we will discuss the honor of my sister Kurikmoo.”
-“Sugar-coated words are not enough to heal wounded hearts. I will restore the stolen honor, and end the life of the guilty party, let God be my witness.
-“I know now the truth about my honorable sister. I was misled by an evil stranger.
-Stranger: “You are sly like a fox, Malik Tuma. Trying to kill the offspring through deception; or could it be that you became afraid of his strength and want to even the score by flattery. Know that strength alone is not a sign of worthy character.
Having identified the culprit, Qateeni then and there smashes him to the ground with one strike.
Resumption of Malik Tuma’s Invitation:
The sad Tuma raises his bowl of wine and sings:
Who is the bravest of all, turning back, he never learned;
To drink the drink I drink, to take the stride I take; my pledge not to break.
To leave this thirsty land, climb the forbidden rock whose summit is hidden in the clouds; find the sleeping demon, aim at her his arrow, and throw her dead body into the deep. Break her dams and fences, open the floodgates, and saturate this parched land with water, returning life back to the desert; pick from her field an armful of aromatic grass to give sight to the blind and life to the dead. Who is ready to drink from this drink knowing going forth, he may never come back.

Qateeni accepts the challenge:
Malik I will drink the drink with you; will take the stride you take; will fulfill your pledge. Neither swamps nor waterways, burning deserts or evil spirits will dampen my spirit. I will climb the mountain of calamities. Shidda will not escape my sword, Will throw her dead body into the deep; will break her dams and fences.
Fill my empty bowl with the most aged wine to drink in honor of the great love, which is stronger than all ties and that has preserved us throughout time: the love of our forefathers. But tell me uncle, what was this twinkle in your eye? I wished I could know the secrets of your heart before I left.
Prior to his departure, Qateeni asks his uncle to bring his mother back home and restore her position in the family.

Description of Qateeni’s weapons

Qateeni’s shield was of one piece metal. It was so heavy that five strong men could not move it from the ground. But Qateeni could lift it upon his shoulders with one move.

The voices of cheering crowds reach high upon the frightful mountain top where Shidda slumbers. Shidda trembles as do the foundations of her camp. Her heart tells her that her days are numbered.

Kateen’s strongest weapon was not his shield, nor his sword “the son of thunder”. It was his heart, bleeding for the sufferings of his people. It was his devotion to serve his people. His uncle knew Qateeni was his only hope. Many brave men had gone before never to return. Some were killed; others enslaved. He also knew by sending his nephew to this perilous mission, some would say that he was trying to get rid of him; that having mistreated the parents, he was afraid of his nephew.

People surrounded Qateeni the Great; some encouraging him; others warning him not to go alone. Among them there was a woman who had lost two of her sons on this mission. With a bleeding heart she knelt before him and stared at his face as she song this song:

Retreat from this path Qateeni,
Great is the power of the foe.
Let some years pass by
Until you grow in power.
On your face, that of a lad,
There is no trace of a beard yet.
The loss would be immeasurable,
If this valiant stature is cut down;
Innumerable are the brave and valiant ones
Who died on the black altar;
The altar of the cruel Shidda.

In answer Qateeni shows his unwavering resolve:

Do not fear mother
Do not look at my age
Could be I’m not a famous brave
But it has never happened
That in the face of a challenge,
Qateeni step back.
Listen to this promise,
That I make in the memory of my dead father.
The last day of Shidda is at hand.
Before the sun sets,
Before the moon rises,
Her death she’ll meet by this hand.

The Widow:

Blessed be the mother who deserves to be honored for raising such a son, the deliverer of his nation. With prayerful hearts we will always be with you asking that your path be laid with success. You are the one we’ve been waiting for from long ago. There is no hope for those languishing in prisons without you.


By the truth of my soul,
By the light of this day,
I give you a sacred promise
Before the God of night,
Sets up his tent,
The enemy will lose its head.
No longer will it pass,
That Shidda seeps blood.
Wipe the tears off your eyes.
Before the sun sets,
Before the moon rises,
You’ll embrace your sons in your arms.

The angel of grace, on his powerful wings, took that song to the castle of demons. The song chimed in the heart of the innocent slaves. It’s echo returned to the ears of Qateeni.

The song of the enslaved:

Oh, how heavy is the yoke; unending is the suffering. Is there no light to shine on our bitter lives? Where is the one who would come to save us; break the chains that tie our hands and limbs? Long-awaited hero, come and put an end to this evil kingdom with your strong arms.

The widow:

You heard the wailing song brought on the wings of the wind. All are waiting to be delivered. They are calling your name with one voice. Bring them freedom lest their hope dies completely.


Our men and maidens
She has stolen from us,
Their lives are entombed,
In mountain cliffs;
If Shamiram could hear,
Bitterly would she weep for her kids;
Captive in their own land;
Rage is swelling in my chest,
It enflames my body;
It burns me like a fire ablaze.
If I do not put an end to Shidda,
Then it’s best to lie down and die
As I would not be,
The son of Gilgamish, the Ninevite.

[1] Actually there is a charming scene in the book depicting a debate between different trees each boasting of being the greatest.

End of Book I

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AAS-A Online Order Page

The wait is over!!!  The Mesopotamian Night DVD and CD products is now available for sale

CD ONE: Classic Music & Opera
  1. The Star-Spangled Banner
  2. Roomrama Nineveh
  3. The Memories of Fatherland
  4. Festival
  5. Tears of the Beloved
  6. Gilgamesh Assyrian Opera (Overture, Bull of the Heaven)
  7. Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer (excerpts, English)
  8. I, The Lady
  9. Ballet: The Huluppu Tree
  10. The Drinking Song
CD TWO: Walter Aziz
  1. Khiltit D'Omtan (Mistakes of our Nation)
  2. Khayin (Unfaithful)
  3. Tera D'Khoubba (Love Bird)
  4. Ana Yadin Mani Eawin (I Know Who I Am)
  5. Parpoolen Biakh (I am Beggin You)
  6. Guitari (My Guitar)
  7. Lewa Shoopro (It Wasn't Her Beauty)
  8. Yama Shleeta (Calm Sea)
  9. Tanzara (Folk Dance)
  10. Riqdit D'Khouyada (Unity Dance)
CD THREE: Ashur Bet Sargis
  1. Bratad Shamiram (Daughter of Samiramis)
  2. Alo La Metdeeli (Could Not Reach Her)
  3. Tanee Le Luy Luy (Sing Me a Lullaby)
  4. Len Bikhshawa (I Don't Think So)
  5. Sara D'Matan (Our Village's Moon)
  6. Dakhy Ghamshoghatly & Dor Kissly(how You Left Me & Return to Me)
  7. Gipta D'Anweh (Grapevine)
  8. Tdowa/Righda Ghalibota/Prokh Rama (Wish/Dance of Victory/Fly High)

MN DVD Cover Image

MN CD Front Cover Image

MN CD Back Cover Image

An Appeal for Sponsorship of 2009 Mesopotamian Night Concert

Dear friends and sponsors of The Mesopotamian Night musical fund raiser

In this letter I am going to give you a short report on our recent progress on the Mesopotamian Night project that started three years ago. I am hoping I will be able to convince you to remain or be our sponsor for 2009 concert which will be held in Modesto, California on August 15, 2009 at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

Mesopotamian Night 2008 had quite a few fruitful results. Our fund raiser contributed over $60,000 to general funds of the Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A). AAS-A spend more than $750,000 on Assyrian Chaldean causes in 2008. Our Central Valley Chapter was part of this success story. We managed to premier excerpts from the first Assyrian Opera Gilgamesh (a work in progress pending on availability of funding) . We managed to orchestrate and revive classical Assyrian folklore songs already forgotten by our people among them four William Daniel songs. We also managed to perform the Assyrian National Anthem “Roomrama” in its orchestrated form not heard before. We demonstrated that combing Mesopotamian inspired art forms and music and western art forms and music is possible and produces fruitful results. One example was the beautiful ballet interpretation of the Mesopotamian myth of the Hullupu Tree. We demonstrated that our pop music has more potential and can go beyond our regular performances at parties and weddings. We managed to produce a DVD and a CD product from our 2008 concert with a quality that is unprecedented in our community thanks to talented Assyrian artists who were inspired to help us achieve this goal. We created a project that many experts in our community and outside our community cooperated to create an unforgettable event. This included musicians, film makers, composers, singers, performing art organizations, etc. This spirit of team work was by itself a major milestone and great experience moving forward.

For the Mesopotamian Night 2009 project we plan to bring in a 50-piece orchestra that would perform the following pieces: Assyryt: Symphonic Suite Assyria - We have funded and completed the creation of two symphonic suites based on the composition works of the Assyrian composer Paulos Khofri. Assyryt will be a major part of MN-2009 concert. The Opera Qateeni: This project which was started two years ago finally has come to fruition. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of a French composer that we were able to inspire to take on this important project. This opera is based on the three volume epic poem Qateeni Gabbara by Rabi William Daniel. We will present one full act of the opera based on chapter seven of the epic: In Malik Tooma's castle. The Overture from the Gilgamesh Oratorio: This is a new project initiated by Rev. Samuel Khangaldy of San Jose CA. The Death of Enkidu Opera Scene from the Gilgamesh Assyrian Opera: This is the continuation of the work on Gilgamesh Opera by John Craton based of Rabi Adddai Alkhas's Assyrian Aramaic version. More Assyrian folklore, classical and popular songs: We are again bringing an interesting array of Assyrian singers to perform at our concert using the 50-piece orchestra. Currently the challenge for the production of our 2009 Mesopotamian Night concert is attracting more funds for the orchestra and other production costs.

We would like to ask you to participate in the success of our project by being an sponsor for our project. While all sponsors will be recognized and mentioned in our program book, we have offered honorary membership in our organizing committee for all sponsors who donate $2500 or more. I appeal to you to join us this year to push the Assyrian art and music one step further. If you have any question you could contact me by my email or my cell phone 209-606-5438. The donations could be sent to AAS-A Central Valley Chapter, P. O. Box. 579843, Modesto, CA 95357. Please write in memo “Mesopotamian Night 2009 Sponsor”.


Tony Khoshaba

Assyrian Aid Society – Central Valley Chapter President
Mobile: 209-606-5438
Home: 209-579-2740
AAS-A Chapter mailing address: P.O. Box 579843, Modesto, CA 95357

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The movie "We Are Assyrian" in Theaters!

"We Are Assyrian: A Journey of Mesopotamian Night" is coming to Modesto again this time sponsored by Domara Orchestra and the Hollywood Connections Center. The date is May 24th during California Assyrian state convention. The details and the tickets are available from The State Theater. Support our young Assyrian artists by going to this event. The tickets are only $10. The Mesopotamian Night DVD and CD will also be available for sale.