Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mesopotamian Night Talk on Appadana TV

Be sure to tune in Sunday night for a lively discussion about Mesopotamian Night 2009.

Time: 7:00 - 8:00 pm
Date: Sunday, August 2nd
Channel: Appadana Satellite TV

For more information call AAS-A at 209-606-5438

Proceeds from the performance and auction benefit AAS-A education projects in the Homeland.

The Mesopotamian Night 2009 concert is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

The Assyrian Aid Society of America is a charitable 501(c)(3) non profit organization dedicated to assisting needy Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs in northern Iraq and around the world. Since 1991 AAS-A has raised nearly $8 million in donations and grants to build schools, staff and supply medical clinics, facilitate life-saving surgeries, rebuild homes, irrigate farmlands, bring electricity to rural villages and implement a host of other vital programs and services.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


By: Obelit Yadgar

The Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh has been the subject of operas by Bohuslav Martinu, Franco Battiato, Rudolf Brucci, Rosella Simorari, and John Craton, whose version remains a work in progress.

The only one of the operas sung in Aramaic, the language of the Assyrians, is Craton’s, based on the translation of the epic by Addai Alkhas. The Assyrian Aid Society (AAS-A) commissioned the opera.

Excerpts from Gilgamesh were premiered at the 2008 Mesopotamian Nights gala concert, in Modesto, California. This year, at the third annual musical gala, Gilgamesh returns to the stage with the Duet of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, with soloists and the Gottschalk Music Center Orchestra conducted by John Kendal Bailey.

Myths, legends and stories abound about the life and adventures of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk in Babylonia, who lived around 2,700 B.C. Some were written in Sumerian about 2,000 B.C. Others existed in long poem form in Hittite, Hurrian, and in Akkadian, the language the Assyrians generally spoke before switching to Aramaic sometime around 1,000 B.C. The epic was written on clay tablets in cuneiform, an ancient script using wedge-shaped figures.

In time the Sumerian version of Gilgamesh was incorporated into the longer poems. Today some survive to various degrees. The best preserved is a series of 12 tablets written in Akkadian that make up the Epic of Gilgamesh as we know it. The tablets were unearthed in Nineveh, in present-day northern Iraq, in the ruins of the prized library by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-633 B.C.). The Medians destroyed the magnificent library in 612 B.C. at the fall of the Assyrian empire.

The authors of all versions of Epic of Gilgamesh are unknown, except for that of the 12 tablets, written in Akkadian. He was one Shin-eqi-unninni, now considered history’s first known author. Since its first European translation in 1876, the Epic of Gilgamesh has been offered in scores of languages and appeared in numerous forms, including novels, plays and operas. More than 10 versions of the epic alone have been published in English.

When completed, the chamber opera will be approximately 60 to 70 minutes in length. Since he does not speak Assyrian, Craton uses the English translation of the epic with assistance from Tony Khoshaba of AAS-A. “I had known of the epic since an undergrad and considered it as a possible source for an opera for some time,” explains Craton. “I envision my own version to be something of a synthesis between a cantata and a dramatic work.”

Assyrian history is plum with a treasure of stories and characters to be immortalized in operas. Not just any operas, no, but Assyrian operas, sung in Assyrian. Imagine how richer our nation would be with our own catalogue of great operas. More than our nation, but the world that seems to have a short memory when the name Assyrian is mentioned.

Even though Gilgamesh is only one Assyrian opera, it still is a good start for our nation to once again try to take a bow for the magnificence of its art.

Monday, July 27, 2009


By: Obelit Yadgar
French composer Michel Bosc can easily see Qateeni Gabbara, a work still in progress, becoming the first Assyrian National Opera. “It’s a very melodic and colorful opera that also has a universal appeal,” he says.
Scores of great European masters wrote operas based on historical Assyrian characters and legends. Semiramide, based on the legend of the Assyrian Queen Shamiram, especially comes to mind. At least 10 composers that I know of wrote operas titled Semiramide, based on the topic of Shamiram. Rossini, Ziani, Cimarosa, Gluck, Salieri, Porpora, Respighi, Paisiello, Mayberbeer and Handel all produced their own musical versions. Rossini’s Semiramide is the most famous.
Other operas based on an Assyrian topic include Verdi’s Nabuco (Nebuchadneser), and Henry Becque’s Sardanaple (inspired by Lord Byron’s Sardanapulus).
It is presumptuous to consider these Assyrian operas, especially since they are not sung in Assyrian. Qateeni Gabbara, however, is sung in Assyrian. An opera in Assyrian? And why not? We really have not changed from our ancestors, who produced magnificent works of art. We are the same people, and many of us have the same passion about the arts as did our ancestors in Mesopotamia. It’s just that some of us reach out a little harder to find them. Thus the Assyrian opera Qateeni Gabbara.
Currently only the overture and Act I of the opera are completed, but two more acts remain for composer Bosc and librettist Tony Khoshaba to finish. Although Bosc is not Assyrian by birth, his heart is near to that of ours. “Qateeni Gabbara is one of my dearest pieces and I have great ambition for it,” he adds. “Thanks to Qateeni I have Assyrian friends and I feel a little Assyrian, too, in my heart.”
“Now that we have funding for 2010 through the Irvine Foundation,” says Khoshaba, “we will start Qateeni’s completion. As soon as I finish the libretto for another act, Michel will compose the music.”
“It must become a real opera and I hope we’ll give it to real opera houses to perform,” adds Bosc. “I am extremely proud of it and I can’t wait to compose the second and the third acts.”
The opera is based in part on the Epic of Qateeni Gabbara by the late Assyrian musical and literary figure William Daniel. Comprising about 6,000 verses in three volumes, the epic was inspired by the Qateeni Gabbara folk tales known to have flourished in the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq and some of the lands beyond.
“There are linguistic and cultural indications in the language that refer to tribal dialects, particularly the Tiari dialect of the mountains of Hakkari and the mountains north of Iraq,” says Assyrian scholar Edward Odisho.
The Qateeni Gabbara folk tales were sung by men and women in simple rhythm and framed with extensive Assyrian folk imagery. “No music in the real sense,” Odisho maintains. “Very simple rudimentary and repetitive rhythmic patterns. At times the style and metaphors are simple. However, in many instances they are very sophisticated and sensationally impressive.”
As the Qateeni Gabbara folktales lived on through the Assyrian centuries, they were never written down, says Assyrian scholar Arianne Ishaya. “The tales belong to an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation, and evolved in detail and poetic style by additions and deletions to suit the condition of each generation, the main theme and the main characters always staying the same.”
Ishaya also notes that Qateeni Gabbara focuses on the theme of good and evil. In the end, selfishness, deceit, arrogance and cruelty toward the weak, presented in the form of the female demon Shidda, are defeated by the powers of mercy, courage and selfless love, portrayed by the national hero Kateeni (Ishaya says Daniel used that particular spelling for the hero’s name). “In one way they are morality tales,” she adds. “In another, they are a message of hope to an oppressed minority.”
Daniel first came across the Qateeni Gabbara folk tales in 1946. His profound impression of them led him to write an epic based on the Qateeni character, Odisho points out. Subsequently he used the core of these Assyrian folktales, embellished them with stylistic and poetic ingenuity, and artistically transformed them into a complete epic.
“In the genre of epic poems,” Ishaya says, “its poetic beauty is unparalleled in the Middle East, and is in every way comparable to Greek masterpieces.”
Khoshaba discovered the Qateeni Gabbara folktales and William Daniel’s writing in his school years in Tehran through his Assyrian literature teacher Rabi Nimrod Simono. When he and his dear friend Sargon Ishoo left for America, Khoshaba recalls, they promised Simono they would never let the message of Qateeni Gabbara die. “Now twenty years later,” says Khoshaba, “I have an opportunity to fulfill my promise. I dedicate this effort to my late teacher Rabi Simono and my late friend Sargon Ishoo.”
Khoshaba chose to begin the opera with Chapter 7 in Book I of the Epic of Qateeni Gabbara. In the chapter, the feudal warlord Malik Tuma — who also is Qateeni’s uncle — challenges young men to destroy the demon Shidda.
Ishaya’s translation of Malik Tuma’s challenge in the chapter reads: “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, 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?”
Here also, Qateeni meets his uncle for the first time, and accepts the challenge. This chapter is the story’s core, explains Khoshaba, when Qateeni begins his quest to destroy Shidda.
On the way, Qateeni encounters a large crowd that tries to prevent him from going against Shidda alone, including a woman who has lost her sons to Shidda, Ishaya notes in her translation of Scene III from the act. “This scene is a beautiful duet between Qateeni and the widow,” she says, “and where Qateeni gives hope to the people.” The scene ends with the choir of Shidda’s captive’s and Qateeni’s aria.”
Since Bosc does not speak Assyrian, one of the most important challenges he faced in writing the music was grasping the heart and soul of the Assyrian language. “The relation between language and musical thought were different from the usual,” he says. “I had composed in Latin, Spanish, English, Italian and French, languages I know.” He studied Assyrian, and had the opera’s text read to him. “We had special notation to help me with the Assyrian language,” he goes on. “To free my imagination, I had to forget that it was not my own language.”
Although an Assyrian opera, Qateeni Gabbara is written in Bosc’s own musical style. “Being honest is a promise of success,” he believes. “I wanted Qateeni to become one of my masterpieces.”
Perhaps it will.
“I envision the Mesopotamian Night project ultimately producing full-length Assyrian operas,” says Khoshaba. “But three things must happen to make this dream possible: partnership with an opera company, more funding, and excitement in the community to support full opera productions.”
The health and vitality of our performing arts is another way of showing the world that even though the Assyrian empire fell in 612 B.C., the Assyrian people did not, and that our arts continue to flourish. All one has to do is to reach out for them. Qateeni Gabbara is worth the effort, because it says a lot about who we are and where we come from. As the master of ceremonies and an Assyrian, for me, Qateeni Gabbara is one more nugget in the treasure of Assyrian performing arts to discover.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Calligraphic Pieces for Auction in Modesto Event

Below are four beautiful pieces donated by Rabi Issa Benyamin which will be on auction on August 15th at the Mesopotamian Night event. 

Addai Alkhas, Poet, Writer, Scholar
 Size: 29 x 26, value $1200

Qateeni The Great 
Size: 30 x 28, value $1200

Paulus Khofri, Artist, Nationalist 
Size: 28 x 26, value $1200

William Daniel 
Size: 28 x 26, value $1200

Friday, July 24, 2009

Experience the Symphonic Suite Assyria

The Modesto Courtyard by Marriott is a proud sponsor of the Symphonic Suite Assyria, and to show our support we are offering the discounted rate of $79.00 per night for anyone attending the concert. Enjoy an evening of classical, folklore, and popular Assyrian songs, and relax at the Courtyard by Marriott Modesto.

To take advantage of the special $79.00 rate, please call (209) 577-3825 and mention the Symphonic Suite Assyria.

Courtyard Modesto
1720 Sisk Road, Modesto, California 95350
Phone: 1-209-577-3825
Fax: 1-209-577-1717

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emanouel Bet-Younan: Nationalist, Humanitarian ~ Celebrity Style

Emanouel Bet-Younan is our guest Assyrian pop singer at the Mesopotamian Night 2009 concert in Modesto. Below Helen Talia an Assyrian activist and writer from Chicago gives us an interesting account of his life.

Emanouel Bet-Younan was fourteen years old when he took center stage to sing on an Assyrian television show in Kirkuk, Iraq where he was born and received his education.

A youth then, he formed his first band in 1981 under the name Shamiram and began performing at private Assyrian weddings and parties.

With uncertainties in homeland, Emanouel took refuge in neighboring Iran, but found himself in Greece in less than a year, where he continued to perform at private functions and national holidays ~ Assyrian New Year (Kha B’Neesan, Assyrian), and Assyrian Martyr’s Day (Shawwa B’Tabbakh, Assyrian).

Unsettled, yet focused on his path, Emanouel’s next journey took him to New Zealand, where he lived for five years and scraped all that was left from his past to reestablish himself as an Assyrian artist in Diaspora.

An artist whose work has a strong foundation in the Assyrian political movement and roots in humanitarian projects, his first album, a transparent determination of the survival of his people in Iraq, “Shighda mn Garbya” was produced in 1994 in Sydney, Australia where the artist was living at the time and performing regularly at the Assyrian Culture Club and the Assyrian Nineveh Club.

With the album soaring internationally and the artist enjoying the much-deserved fame, the Assyrian Democratic Movement hosted Emanouel in Chicago where he performed for the first time before a sold-out audience at a charity event.

Following his groundbreaking performance in Chicago, the doors to Emanouel’s musical career quickly began to open. Earning international recognition within the walls of the Assyrian community, he began to tour within the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia, building an ever tall order of philanthropy for any artist to follow in his footsteps. Emanouel, the first Assyrian artist to lend his voice to thousands of fans in the Nineveh Plain (Dashta D’Nineveh, Assyrian) has helped pave the way for humanitarian missions in homeland Iraq and built charitable alliances by pairing the Assyrian Democratic Movement with the Assyrian Aid Society to help build awareness and raise funds that were desperately needed to build the Assyrian dream in Iraq ~ an education system, its transportation and student housing, day-care centers, orphanages, pharmacies, food and medical supplies, to say the least, throughout cities and villages in the Northern region of Iraq.

With the execution of work in motherland Iraq, the message had clearly been delivered when Emanouel snatched the Assyrian musical charts for the second time with his follow-up album “Agarta Qa Yimma,” produced in 1996 where the artist made Chicago his new home.

In the following years, joined by other singers, Emanouel performed in the Assyrian Song Festival in Chicago for two consecutive years. But even after accomplishing this much success, he continued to live his life in the fast lane, shifting gears between family and career, a humanitarian during the day and an artist by the evening, while making one country after another his home.

Apparently, he needed to settle some old scores with the recording of his third album, “Durara Mzayna.” The success of this album is without a doubt owed to the river-deep, mountain-high voice of the artist himself, but greatly indebted to the contributions of some of the most credible lyricists of modern Assyrian songs ~ Rabi Yousep Bet-Yousep, Ninos Nirari, Jaklin Pityo, Orahim lazar, Wilson Lilu, Yousip Menashi, Sargon Esha, and Macksud Ishaia, and the sounds of Alan George, Dawod Barkho, and Billy Warda.

His second trip to Iraq in 2005 waved sounds of freedom from the East to the West as Emanouel visited motherland Iraq once again to commemorate the Assyrian New Year (Kha B’Neesan, Assyrian). This trip was immediately followed by his Middle-East tour to Syria, Jordan and Iraq where he performed at several concerts to promote the Alrafedaen 740 ballot representing the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq’s National Election.

Earlier this year, Emanouel traveled to Iraq yet again to perform in Baghdad, Baghdeda, and Telesqoph to celebrate the grand opening of Ashur TV satellite and to raise awareness on the importance of participating in the then city elections.

Today, Emanouel is happily settled with his wife Jacklin and daughters Kiana and Shanna in Arizona, and continues on the same path of nationalism and charity that began more than twenty years ago. His fourth album titled “History Repeats Itself” translated (Tasheetan Bitnayela L’Ganoh, Assyrian), is due to be released soon.

Helen Talia, Chicago

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mesopotamian Choir Ensemble

Thanks to hard work and dedication of Pastor Samuel Khangaldy who has been helping us tirelessly in the past eight months with the Mesopotamian Night 2009 event, the Mesopotamian Choir Ensemble is shaping up quite nicely and they are working hard to perform on August 15th at our event. Below is the profile of this choir group.

Nancy Isaac, Soprano

Nancy Isaac was born in Hamadan, Iran where she started her musical career. At the age of fifteen she was part of an international choir and has been in choir both in church and the Assyrian community ever since. She moved to the United States 1967 where she worked closely with Rabi William Daniel in Chicago and later with Maestro Nebu Issabey where she studied voice. She currently resides in San Jose, California.

Ramin Ekhtiar, Bass

Ramin Ekhtiar was born in Tehran, Iran in 1972. Soon thereafter, Turlock became home base when he and his family came to the United States in 1978. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing in 1995 and his MBA in 1998. He has been singing in one production or another since early childhood at Turlock Christian School. He sang with the Reverand Freidon Esghagh from 1984 to 1988. Shortly after he joined the Nineveh choir under the direction of Nebu Issabely and has been a member since. He currently resides in San Jose, CA.
Fred Elieh, Tenor

Born in Tehran, Iran, Fred came to the United States at the age of nine. He lived in Modesto before moving to San Jose in 1996 where he earned his Bachelors of Science degree from San Jose State University. At the same time, he immediately began involving himself in the Assyrian community. As a proud member of the San Jose-based Nineveh choir, Fred has participated in many concerts and performances in the Assyrian community. In recent years, he produced “Nineveh”, a DVD of the song he wrote and performed dedicated to raising awareness of our fellow brothers and sisters in present day Iraq. In collaboration with the Assyrian Aid Society of America, all the proceeds from the sale of the DVD were distributed to our people in need throughout our homeland.

Fredrika Giv, Alto

Fredrika Giv was born in Tehran, Iran but moved to Australia at the age of two. She grew up in Sydney where she earned her Bachelor of Computer Science and Master of Design Science from the University of Sydney. Fredrika is an accomplished pianist having completed her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and is recognized as an accredited piano teacher since 1998.

As a member of The Assyrian Australian Academic Society, she performed and coordinated musical pieces in Assyrian and English at various events. Her performances included singing, playing the piano and saxophone. Prior to moving to San Jose in 2008, Fredrika was involved in the Assyrian community, organizing networking and cultural events for the Assyrian youth.

John Khangaldy, Bass

John was born and raised in Ahvaz, Iran. During his time at the National University of Iran, John began his classical music career at the Rodaky Opera Hall in Tehran. He performed classical Assyrian folk music with a variety of musicians such as Lorraine Davis and Pastor Fereidon Es-Haq. In 1980, John became a member of the Serinas Quartet with whom he sang a number of international folk songs and performed many concerts. In 1985, John and his family relocated to the United States where he returned to school and received his AS degree in Electronics and Computer Technology from John F. Kennedy University. He has spent many memorable years performing with the well-known Nineveh Choir. In recent years, John continues his passion for music and people with different music ministries through church.

Ninwa Tatavossian, Alto

Born in Berlin, Germany, Ninwa came to the United States at the age of four. Since moving to the United States, Ninwa has been involved in the Assyrian Community, she currently holds the position of Treasurer for the Assyrian American Association of San Jose. Ninwa studied piano under Reverend Samuel Khangaldy and is a proud member of the San Jose-based Nineveh choir. Ninwa earned her Bachelors of Science in Commerce from Santa Clara University and currently lives and works in the Bay Area.

Peter Ibrahim, Tenor

Peter was born and raised in the Central Valley. In 2006, he earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science from California State University, Stanislaus. Peter is currently pursuing a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University. He has been a steadfast supporter of the Assyrian Aid Society and is honored to be a part of this choir. He hopes that the classical Assyrian music performed at the Mesopotamian Night events will revive a sense of nationalism and pride within our community.

Ramona Lazar, Soprano

Ramona was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. She finished her education in Tehran as a dental hygienist. She began singing in 2003 with Assyrian choir in Tehran and began taking private voice lessons. Since 2006 she has been a member of Modesto Symphony Choir. She is looking forward to being more involved with Assyrian classical and folklore music.

Shamina Khangaldy, Alto

Born into a musical family, Shamina took to music at a very young age. She began taking piano lessons from her uncle, Pastor Samuel Khangaldy, at age seven and with the help of her father taught herself to play the guitar at the age of thirteen. Shamina began writing her own songs soon after learning the piano and guitar. She has been involved in various musical activities throughout the years including playing the lead role in her high school’s spring musical of Beauty and the Beast and singing in her high school’s competition choir. Growing up in the church, worship through music and youth ministry have always been great passions for Shamina. Today, she plays in the worship band and is a member of the high school staff at her church, Calvary Church Los Gatos. Keeping her love of youth ministry alive, Shamina is also a student at San Jose State University where she is majoring in Liberal Studies – Preparation for Teaching with a minor in Mathematics in hopes of becoming a middle school Math teacher.

Beneta Rameshk, Soprano

From a young age, Beneta Rameshk with selfless devotion has dedicated her talent to praising God and bringing joy to her people. At the Age of 15 she joined the Assyrian national choir in Tehran. For seven years and under the direction of Mr.Emil Malek and Aria Zand she contributed to the growth and recognition of the choir as a beacon of Assyrian talent and nationalism.

Sargon Rameshk, Bass

Sargon Rameshk was born in Hamadan, Iran. He has been singing for thirty-five years. He started his musical career by singing in the Assyrian Evangelical church choir. He later joined the choir of the Ambassadors of Christ and for seven years sang with the Assyrian-Iranian National Choir. In 2009 he moved to Modesto, California and is continuing his singing career.

A Message from AAS-A President Narsai M. David

Mesopotamian Night has now become a summer tradition in Modesto, and what a tradition it is!

For the third consecutive year Tony Khoshaba and the AAS-A Central Valley Chapter team have designed an extraordinary evening of both high culture and popular culture celebrating our wonderful and rich Assyrian heritage. The range of performers and talents involved at every level is staggering. If the previous two Mesopotamian Nights are any indication, hold onto your seats and prepare to be amazed.

At the same time, however, please keep in mind how important the money raised through events like this is for our education projects in the Homeland. The beginning of the new school year for our Assyrian schools in northern Iraq is only weeks away yet already we are learning of looming budget deficits and lagging financial support from the local and national governments. Without your help, without the funds raised by events such as this, the Assyrian schools we have all worked so hard to build and maintain over the past decade will be in jeopardy. Education is crucial to the future of Assyrians in our Homeland and to the continued flowering of Assyrian culture.

Narsai M. David

President, Assyrian Aid Society of America

Friday, July 10, 2009


Assyrians are a nation of dreams, and when those dreams include vibrant performing arts, we are the richer for it. After all, a nation’s art is its soul.

Imagine the spirit feasting on Assyrian symphonic music, opera, ballet, theater and film, presented by world-class artists. It is not all that far-fetched. We need only to look back in our history and see the rich art our nation is capable of creating. It still can, and does. It only takes a keen eye and a proud heart to reach out for it.

Perhaps the third annual Mesopotamian Nights Gala concert, presented by the Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A), Central Valley Chapter, is the road on which some of our performing arts will flourish. This year’s event takes place on August 15 at the Gallo Center for the Arts, in Modesto, California. The evening promises an exciting bill of Assyrian classical and popular music, along with an art auction. Proceeds will benefit needy Iraqi Assyrians.

Following the Mesopotamian Nights Gala tradition, the program highlights two distinct sides of our culture. The first half of the concert showcases Assyrian symphonic, operatic and folk music with soloists, chorus and the Gottschalk Music Center Orchestra conducted by John Kendall Bailey. For those who have never heard Assyrian music performed by a large symphony orchestra, the evening promises a dazzling surprise. No less of a surprise is an evening of Assyrian operatic music — sung in Assyrian.

The second half romps through a field of Assyrian popular and traditional music performed by recording artists Lida Lawandoo and Emannuel Bet Yonan, accompanied by the full orchestra.

Every dream rings with possibilities. A vibrant portrait of Assyrian performing arts is no different. It all has to start somewhere and then keep on going, armed with the strength of the artist and the nudging of our people. As master of ceremonies, I invite you to an evening at the symphony as you’ve never experienced.

See you at the concert.

Obelit Yadgar
Master of ceremonies

Monday, July 6, 2009

Guest Article by Paul Caldani

The following article has just arrived from Paul Caldani a student of Rabi Paulos Khofri. The article is in Farsi but we will soon publish it in English as well.

بیاد استاد و فرهیخته عالم موسیقی فولكلور آشوری رابی پولوس خفری

هروقت نامی از این زنده یاد برده میشود . بیانگر غرور این ملت شریف است كه در بطن خود چنین فرزندی را پرورش داد وجزو افتخارات فرهنگ و هنراین ملت محسوب میشود. زمانی من با این اسطوره هنری آشنا گشتم كه بیش از ۱۲ سال نداشتم. او اولین معلم و مربی موسیقی بنده بود. با توجه به اینكه در آن سن و سال سابقه كمی دردنیای هنری داشتم ولی شیفته دانش او گشته و دریافتم كه دانش هنری او نه تنها در حیطه موسیقی بحد كمال بود بلكه در زمینه های نقاشی و سرودن اشعار آشوری ید بسزائی دارد. اگر به كارنامه هنری این هنرمند نگرشی داشته باشیم .پولوس خفری فرزند پدر هنرمند ی بود كه موسیقی را بخوبی میشناخت و موسیقی در خون او جریان داشت اما پولوس خفری كه نشانی از پدر در بر داشت با علاقه وافری در دنیای موسیقی فوكلور آشوری سیرنمود و از همان نوجوانی در احیای موسیقی فولكلور آشوری نهایت كوشش را نمود. با تشكیل یك گروه در آبادان كنسرتهای متعددی را اجرا كرد كه منافع آن را دراختیار جمعیت آشوریان آبادان گذاشت تاباشگاه و مدرسه ای در آن شهر احداث نمایند . او دریافت كه دامنه موسیقی وسیع است لذا به فراگیری موسیقی كلاسیك پرداخت و مراحل آن را تا سطح هارمونی و اركستراسیون با موفقیت طی نمود .پس از اخذ مدرك در موزیكولوژی پولوس خفری باكلوله باری از دانش موسیقی به مرحله دیگری از موسیقی آشوری قدم نهاد با جراتی كه در وجود او بود به نوشتن قطعاتی فولكور آشوری پرداخت و زیر بنای موسیقی فولكور آشوری را دگرگون كرد و بر مبنای ساختار صحیح موسیقی كلاسیك به نوشتن قطعات اقدام نمود وبه جامعه هنری ارائه داد . او با استفاده از تكنیك پلی فونیك وهارمونیزاسیون چندین كنسرت در ایران اجرا نمود كه خاطره آن هنوز نه تنها در ذهن من است بلكه د ر ذهن اغلب بازماندگان نسلهای قبل از من نیز باقی مانده است . بیاد دارم در كنسرتی كه بین سال ۱۹۶۰و ۱۹۷۰ اجرا شد . ملودی ها وا شعار این كنسرت برگرفته از طبیعت و زندگی روز مره و آداب و روسوم قوم آشور بود و گروه همسریان این ملودیها را به نحو احسن اجرا نمودند. پولوس خفری در نوشتن ملودی ها و آهنگسازی وسواس خاصی داشت .او براین باور بود كه .ساختار موسیقی فولكور بایستی بر اساس موضوعی نوشته شود و در چهار چوب فرهنگ و آداب ورسوم آن ملت و قوم باشد. همین باعث گشت كه آثاری را بیاد گار بگذارد كه به فرهنگ آشوری عطف دارد٫ اما متاسفانه به جز تعداد معدودی كه ضبط و اجرا شده است مابقی آثار او هنوز ارائه نشده است و این بر گردن فرزند هنرمندش مارگریت خفری و شاگردان او است كه این ٱثار را ارائه دهند و نگذارند گرد و غبار بیش از این روی این آثار را بپوشاند. در اینجا شایان ذكر است كه هنر موسیقی پولوس خفری فقط در موسیقی آشوری خلاصه نمیشود بلكه در تنظیم سرودهای مذهبی خدمات شایانی را ارائه نموده است . كه سالیان درازی است در كلسیا های اقصی نقاط دنیا ٫ آثار وی را در مراسم های مذهبی اجرا میكنند .كارنامه هنری او مملو از آثار جاودانه است و میتوان گفت كه پولوس خفری در كلیه زمینه های موسیقی تبحر داشت . گوشه ای ازكارنامه موسیقی او را میتوان به نوشتن چندین ملودی در موسیقی سنتی ایرانی اختصاص داد. او با استفاده از دستگاه های موسیقی ایرانی قطعاتی را نوشته و ا جرا كرده است كه در هر یك از این قطعات حدیثی نهفته است. گفتنی های زیادی را میتوان در مورد این موسیقدان و فرهیتخته عالم هنری كه بر خاسته از ملت آشوراست بیان نمود ولی قلم من قاصر است كه بیش از این از اوسخن گویم وكلام خود را با این جمله به اتمام میرسانم. پولوس خفری فرزند خلف قوم آشور طی هفتاد و اندی سال زندگی حیا ت بخش موسیقی فولكلور آشوری میباشد و آثاری را از خود بجا گذاشته است كه هرگز روی كهنه گی را بخود نخواهد دید و شنیدن این آثار در هر
مقطع زمانی لذت بخش میباشد
یادش گرامی باد و جاودانه باد نام پر افتخار او

پل كلدانی لس آنجلس ۲۰۰۹

About Paul Caldani

Paul Caldani (پل كلدانی) (Musician, radio personality, Assyrian scholar, and author of non-fictional Iranian folk tales) was born on May 25, 1949, in Sanandaj (سنندج), Iran (ایران).

Growing up, he was always surrounded with music and he eventually taught himself to play the Tonbak (تنبك) and the Daf (دف) (Persian Instruments)[1] at the age of six, and went on to perform many concerts in Iran. In 1958, an Iranian TV children's program invited him to perform live Kurdish dance on TV where he performed Kurdish dance and playing the Tonbak and Daf until his late teens. Later, impressed by the music and he developed an intensive fascination with Iranian folk music (موسیقی محلی ایران), specifically Kurdish dance and Kurdish music. At the age of 19, he became interested in learning to play the piano, organ and keyboard. Within 2 years he became fluent in playing all three instruments under the direction of his music teacher, maestro Paulus Khofri. In addition to dedicating his life to music, Paul obtained his B.A. degree in business management and in 2004 a master's degree in education curriculum, both with honors.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Qateeni Gabbara: A William Daniel's Legacy

Mr. William Warda who has been helping us with translation of Qateeni poems in the following article give us a deep insight into the story of Qateeni Gabbara. We appreciate Mr. Warda's commitment and dedication to help us push the Qateeni Opera project ahead. We are hoping in the coming years we would be able to bring this fascinating story on stage as a full opera.

About William Warda

William Warda was born in Iran. In 1963 he arrived in the U.S. and continued his education at the Roosevelt University in Chicago. For many years he has been active member of various Assyrian organizations. For the last three and a half years he has served as the president of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California. He has written a number of articles about various aspects of the Assyrian history and the plight of the Assyrians in Iraq. Since 2004 he has managed the website which is an archive of articles about the plight of the Assyrians in Iraq. He became interested in William Daniel's Qateeni Gabbara when it was first published in 1961, he enjoyed reading it more than any other book he had read in the Persian language or English. To acclimate Assyrians who can not read this book because they are not able to read the Assyrian Language, in 2004, he translated into English the chapter seven of the first book , titled “In Tuma's Castle”. That year it was published in the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Studies. The pdf file of that translation is available for download at

Since then has translated in English most of the other chapters. He plans to publish translation of the entire book in the future.

The Story of Qateeni Gabbara

Qateeni Gabbara is William Daniel's most important contribution to the Assyrian literature, in the tradition of Homer and the Persian Poet Ferdosi he has saved an important literary heritage of his people. Qateeni Gabbara is one of the many legends narrated for centuries by the story tellers in the highlands of Hakkari, and towns in the plain of Nineveh which since then most have been lost from memory because they were not written down.

According to William Daniel, in the mountains of Hakkari, story tellers traveled from one Assyrian village to another especially in the winter months when the inhabitants of these villages were homebound because of deep snow and freezing whether to tell stories of love, courage, betrayal and incredible bravery,.

Epics such as Qateeni are narrative poetry which recount the exploits of national super hero. This form of literature predates even the art of writing, the oldest of such epics is the story of Gilgamesh written at the earliest days of writing but has continued to fascinate humanity to this day, because it deals with issues of life and death, compassion and adventure which still fascinate us thousands of years later.

William Daniel’s Qateeni consist of 7000 verses rich with fascinating imagery, metaphors and innovative poetic techniques in various forms. It was not until 1946 when Daniel became aware of the heroic story of Qateeni Gabbara, and decided to retell it in his own poetry. In doing so he introduced new forms of verse rich with fascinating imagery and innovative poetic techniques in various forms which attest to his deep knowledge of the language, extensive vocabulary, grammar, and technical knowledge necessary to write delightful poetry by using rhyme, rhythm, melody and majestic choice of words to describe physical and spiritual concept that otherwise are difficult to communicate. Although Daniel was not the first writer or poet of the vernacular Assyrian language but he has shown how to write a story in verse which is captivating and fun to read. The contemporary Assyrian language was not used as literary language until the 19th century, before then the classical Assyrian language known as Syriac was the literary language of the church. It’s grand masters were primarily concerned with verses related to religion and the praise of the divine icons. Because of constant depredation against Assyrians there were no educational institutions where the ordinary people could learn to read and write their own language, William Daniel’s Qateeni Gabbara was published in three books by the Assyrian Youth Literary Society of Iran starting in 1961, along with writings of other unpublished Assyrian writers.

Unfortunately very little of the pre-William Daniel original folkloric legend has survived, because most of the Hakkari Assyrians were massacred during World War One and the survivors were forced to abandon their homes in the highlands and escape to Urmia in northwest Iran where another equally persecuted Assyrian community lived.

According to Yonan Hozayya, from Iraq, some segments of the legend are still being sung by the Assyrian villagers living in the plain of Nineveh in places such as Algush. Tilkeep, Baghdida, and others. Comparison between the random example provided by Yonan Hozayya versus what William Daniel wrote indicates that perhaps with certain exceptions he has preserved the basic elements of the original story as can be seen in the following versus:

The original

Qateeni the Mountain Splicer
His width the length of poplar
Day and night he is on the move
He is the great of the greatest
Jumps from roof to roof
Walks from one plain to the next
And drinks the vine from barrel

William Daniel’s version:

Behold the Assyrian,
Coming down from the highland
Each of his shoulders is a yard
The earth sinks beneath his stride (92)
Qateeni the Mountain Splicer
His chest is strong as stone
He drinks wine by barrels
Is there one among the braves
Who will fight with Qateeni,
Qateeni the Mountain splicer?. (98) (book one chapter seven)


He Ascends to the Lillita's orchard
The most frightful Lilitha
To picks an armful of the scented plant
Holding it in his wide hands
Its smell gives the blind eye sight
Resurrect from grave those who died

William Daniel’s version:

To ascend the frightful mountain
His head wrapped in gloom
Find the Shidda as she sleeps
with his arrows cause her doom (207)

Pick from its garden and bring
An armful of the plant of life
Which restores a blindman’s sight
It’s smell revives those who died. (215) (book one chapter seven)

Like most Assyrian poets of the 20th century William Daniel was driven by nationalism. His epic hero is willing to sacrifice all he has to liberate his people from the evil forces bent on destroying them. In other words Qateeni symbolically represents the Messiah that every Assyrian undoubtedly has hoped would come to save his people from the eventual extinction. In many ways Qateeni is similar to the popular American super heroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the X-Men and a host of others who are dedicated to ensuring social justice.

Throughout Daniel's Qateeni the message of deliverance is repeated in different forms. Such sentiments may sound a bit melodramatic to the contemporary reader but William Daniel like Fraidon Atouraya, John Alkhas, Addi Alkhas, Baba Bet Lachin and other Assyrian poets of his generation had first hand knowledge of the horrors inflicted on his nation during World War One.

Though Assyrians have suffered countless persecutions, the massacres of World War One have had greater enduring influence on their psyche. Because not only two third of their population was lost, the surviving population was driven out its homeland and scattered around the world. If not for the presence of the American and the French missionaries in Urmia who provided refuge for the unfortunate people the entire Assyrian population of that region would have been wiped out. It should be noted that Assyrians of the Chaldean Church and Syriac Orthodox Church also known as Suryoyee suffered similar fate in the cities and the villages of Turkey.

William Daniel born in 1903 lost his mother when he was only three years old. His father a prominent physician died from a malignant disease while caring for others dying form typhus, typhoid and other contagious infirmities resulted from taking refuge in crowded and unsanitary quarters. His three sisters disappeared along with thousands of other young Assyrian maidens who were forced into Islam. Some were sold as slaves in lands as far away as Lebanon. He was fifteen years old when the entire dispirited Assyrian nation left behind all they had and fled in disarray toward Mesopotamia later known as Iraq. But even then they were hunted down and killed by the military forces of their predators. It is natural that these tragic events will lead to a desire by him to exact revenge in writing for the injustices inflicted on his people, throughout the Epic of the Qateeni. If there is one thing which sets this epic apart from other super hero legends is the symbolic fusing of a heroic tale with real life struggles of an oppressed and persecuted people.

William Daniel's Nationalism was evident long before his work on Qateeni Gabbara. In spite of all the hardship he was able to travel to Europe and receive a valuable education in the classical music. Unlike thousands who had gone to the Western countries and had stayed he returned to Iran to enrich the cultural heritage of his people. In the early nineteen forties he organized the first Assyrian musical group which preformed Assyrian folkloric dances along with songs and music composed by the master. He published a music book in 1944 titled "Zahrirah D' Umanuta" or "Sun-rays of Art" which contained the music and the songs of his performances .

In translation to another language one can easily duplicate the meaning of the words and sentences but recreating the rhyme, rhythm, the mood and the music orchestrating in the reader's mind is something else. This translator does not pretend to be a poet. However, he has made a limited attempt at translating it for the sole purpose of offering those who cannot read the Assyrian language a rough idea of what Qateeni is all about. To truly enjoy the beauty of William Daniel's poetry, one has to read it in Assyrian language.

National awakening of Qateeni begins when his mother inspires him to use his wisdom and his super power to liberate his people from the evil of the tyrannical forces bent on destroying it .

In a tender moment she tells him:

There are select people
Chosen for great deeds
The good book has told
A prophecy uttered
On such 'n such peak
Since the days of old.
Who is a great man
You or another,
I don't know for sure
With leading foresight
The weak and the strong
Their pains he shall cure
Are tearing my heart
Two opposing wants of motherhood and care
To remain by my side
Or for you to dare
Helping our people in despair ( volume 1, book 1, p.33)

From then on it was the realization that his people have been brutally oppressed and enslaved which made Qateeni even more determent to push forward.

Soon the enslaved learned that Qateeni is on his way to liberate them:

The angel of God, on her wings of cloud
Delivered the song to the Satan's land
kindled the hope of the enslaved crowd
their message came back. promptly n' loud
Song of the enslaved toiling under yoke
Was heard by Qateeni, as they spoke
"Alas the burden is heavy no end is in sight
shouldn't on our life shine some light?
where is the one' to free us will come ?
To cut the shackles form our legs and arm
O brave for whom we have waited for long
Destroy this tyrant may your might grow strong"
(volume 1, book 1, p. 71)

In a moment of despair Qateeni seeks God's help.

O! Ashur of Nineveh and Marduk of Babylon
Known by other names equally divine
Yahweh hear our plea let this evil decline
Stop this anguish, let your blessing shine
My mighty arms are from you
A heart strained with my folks pain
Help me set down the devil's sun
Or take away the gifts I gained
No joy is greater than saving my nation
even if I die while setting her free
Give me death but avert the ruin
Of the core and shoots of this holy tree
(book 2, volume 1 page 30)

William M. Warda

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Video Clip from AAS-TV about Mesopotamian Night 2009

AAS-A Berkley office has started producing some video clips about Assyrian Aid Society activities. In the following clip Mr. Narsai David AAS-A president and Mr. Tony Khoshaba AAS-A Central Valley Chapter president chat about the upcoming Mesopotamian Night 2009 concert.