Thursday, December 1, 2011

Singers at the Fifth Annual Mesopotamian Night

Five Assyrian singing talents will be performing the Assyrian songs of Vania David and Misha Ashoorian at the fifth Annual Mesopotamian Night concert. In the article below Sargon Alkurge has gathered a summary of their biography and artistic accomplishments.


Lazar was born in Beirut, Lebanon to Assyrian parents, Hormiz and Chima Malko. His Family decided to immigrate to the USA and after spending four years in Greece, they arrived in Chicago, Illinois in 1980. That became their new home and they lived there since then. At a young age, Lazar remembers how fascinated he was listening to his father singing and playing the “Oud”, a Middle Easterner pear-shaped stringed instrument, as he was a big fan of the legendary Lebanese singer Farid Al-Atrash. It wasn’t long until Lazar discovered his passion for singing so he joined the Choir group at the Assyrian Church in Chicago. When Lazar was still in high school, his brother introduced him to a group of Assyrian youth that was looking for a singer for their newly formed band. For the next four years he performed with the band at Assyrian parties and weddings. He received many positive response and attention from the Assyrian community in Chicago for his exquisite vocals and talents. It was just a matter of time until Lazar decided in early 90’s to turn to solo career and began to sing professionally. He also started to pursue his dream of making an album of his own. That dream became reality in 1996, when he released his first album titled “Murre Kha Khabra” which marked the beginning of a very successful career.

In addition to his singing talent, Lazar has composed almost all of his songs and wrote many of the lyrics. His songs became instant hits and popular among Assyrian music fans nationwide. He continued his success and so far he has produced six albums including his latest 2011 album “Kasreh Rameh”. Lazar has worked with great musicians and song writers’ icons like Ninos Nirary, Odisho Younan, Nimo Marcos and many others to ensure quality music that Assyrians would be proud of.

Albums released so far
  • 1996 Murre Kha Khabra
  • 1999 Lazar 
  • 2003 Free To Dance 
  • 2005 Ashtar
  • 2010 Greatest Hits
  • 2011 Kasreh Rameh


Salem was born in Kirkuk, Iraq and he started to play the Guitar at a very young age. In 1978 he joined his first band, the Bee Band and his musical career advanced when he became the lead singer of his second band, Sweet Band. His career was interrupted when he and his family decided to leave Iraq. He arrived in Chicago, IL and made it his new home since. It didn’t take long until he restarted his musical career and pursued his ultimate dream which was to come out with his own CD. The dream became true when he released his album debut “Bet Nahrain” in 2001 which was an instant hit. He continued his success and produced three more albums the most recent in 2010 titled "Khaeya Atour."

Salem is a very talented musician that is admired by many other singers because of the quality music he produces for them. Most recently he contributed six musical melodies for Emanouel Bet Younan hit album “Dyouta”. This musical talent runs in the entire Sefo’s family, Salem’s younger brothers Wesam, Ashur and son Audisho Sefo are also great musicians and members of the well known band The “Bandoleros”

Albums released so far
  • 2001 Bet Nahrain 
  • 2004 Where Is The Love
  • 2007 Bzamrin Boot Shooprakh
  • 2010 Khaeya Atour 



Tony was born in 1972 in Kirkuk, Iraq. His father was a truck driver for an oil company, and his mother was a housewife who took care of raising Tony, four sisters and three brothers. His brother James was his role model while he was growing up, he taught him everything about singing. He started his singing career in 1988 in Kirkuk and two years later he went to Baghdad to join "Ashur King's band" that performed at Nineveh and Ashoor's banquet halls. In 1997, he left Iraq and lived in several other countries, significantly in Holland and Jordan, until he settled in Hamilton, Canada. In 2000 he restarted his singing career in his new home performing alongside keyboard player Wail Yako. Tony instantly became popular and in demand at Assyrian parties, picnics and weddings in Canada and all around the world.He has released four very successful albums with lyrics written mostly by his brother James Gabriel and three live albums.

Albums released so far - 
  • 2004 Qaala D' Qarna
  • 2007 Khoba Khata
  • 2009 Tony Gabriel 09
  • 2011 Khloola


Jowan was born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Chicago, IL where she currently lives. Since she was a little girl, Jowan would always say that her dream is to become an Assyrian artist known around the world. That dream became true, at the age of 21 Jowan released her first album and not surprisingly she called it "A Dream Came True (Khulma el shrara khdreh)". Her career moved ahead and she started to perform all around the world. Her second album "Khayen" released in 2009 was a smash hit with song "Zowaa" receiving a national recognition and admiration. This year Jowan has released her third album Called "Basa Ya Donyeh" with collaboration of many of top Assyrian musicians and lyrics writers.

Albums released so far - 
  • 2004 A Dream Came True
  • 2009 Khahyin
  • 2011 Basa Ya Donyeh


"Oh, my God, it was unbelievable. It has always been my dream to become a singing star, and in that moment, my dream came true," Rita Toma Davoud said after wining the first ever "Assyrian Superstar," an "American Idol"-like competition held in Chicago back in May 2006. Two years later she released her debut album “Gashaqtet Khoba.”

The distinguished writer Helen Talia once wrote “I feel that in given time and with enough performance maturity, our beloved Rita can accomplish great musical heights. She most certainly has the vocal charm and softness to be adorned as Assyria’s Ambassador of Peace.”
Rita was born in Duhok, Iraq, raised in Detroit, MI. and after getting married she moved with her family to Phoenix, AZ. She is currently working on her second album but no release date has been set.

Album released so far - 
  • 2008 Gshaqtet Khoba

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A clip from "Malek Rama" Musical Rehearsals

"Malek Rama: The Handsome Prince" is a musical based on poems of Rabi Hannibal Alkhas. This musical is commissioned and sponsored the Assyrian Aid Society of America thanks to a generous grant from "Eden Frye Assyrian Fund for Culture". The composition is done by Edwin Elieh and 15 volunteer singers from California are currently rehearsing. The musical will be premiered in Mesopotamian Night 2012 event at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts on February 18th.

The following clip is an excerpts from a recent rehearsal with a few interviews of the singers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introducing Youbert Lazar's Nastaligh Art

Calligraphist Youbert Lazar might not be well known to Assyrians around the world but he is a familiar name and face among the Iranian art community. This year, the Mesopotamian Night team has approached him and we proudly announce that his donated art will be auctioned at our event. We welcome him to a growing number of artists joining us for a spectacular display of Assyrian arts and culture. Mr. Lazar has also made efforts to join the small club of Assyrian Calligraphy artists. In his private communications Rabi Issa Benyamin has always admired and commanded his artistic talent and has encouraged him to also contribute to Assyrian calligraphy.

Youbert Lazar Biography

Art is the reflection of beauty. Calligraphy, the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner, is a type of fine art. One of the most beautiful and complicated forms of calligraphy is the art of Nastaliq, which is traditionally considered to be the most elegant of the Persian scripts. Your eyes will enjoy watching the words dancing together with their natural curves in harmony. It is known as “The Bride of the Calligraphy Scripts”.

Youbert Lazar was born in 1946, Urmi, Iran. He, accompanied his family, moved to the beautiful historical city of Hamedan in 1950. His passion for lettering began with the learning of Nastaligh handwriting at the primary school. He practiced calligraphy imitating beautiful scripts enthusiastically. He was always applauded by veteran calligrapher Hasan Asasi. In 1958, his high school literature teacher, Ahmad Ghayemi, encouraged him to begin practicing under tuition of Ghlolam Hosein Homayouni, one of the most well-known Iranian mentors. A few years later, he continued learning of calligraphy under tuition of Bahman vakiliyan and he became a member of the Hamedan Calligraphy Society. At the same time, he started teaching and calligraphy for advertisement signs. Traveling to different cities of Iran in 1963, he started topography and cartography.

He then migrated to America and settled in San Jose, North California and continued cartography. Since then, he has been collaborating with various magazines and media regarding calligraphy, tutoring and teaching in Persian schools. In recent years, he held some local exhibitions which were applauded by Iranian community in America.

MN2012 Auction Art Piece

Text: Hafez poem
Size: 2 ' 6 " x 3 ', Ink, value: $1500

Below are some other art pieces of Mr. Lazar

Friday, November 4, 2011

MN2012 second video ad

5th Mesopotamian Night will present the Assyrian songs 0f 1970s by composer Vania David and lyrics writer Misha Ashoorian. The songs are orchestrated by Edwin Elieh. Assyrian singers Rita Toma Davoud, Jowan David, Salem Sefo, Tony Gabriel and Lazar Malko will perform these songs at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 18th 2012. The event is sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society of America, a 501c California organization. Tickets are available for sale at box office and at this web site.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our latest ad for MN2012

Malek Rama: The Handsome Prince is an Assyrian musical based a poem by late Hannibal Alkhas and composed by Edwin Elieh. The work is commissioned by Assyrian Aid Society of America thanks for a generous grant from the Naby Frye Assyrian Culture Fund and in honor of Mishael and Lillie Naby. It will be premiered on February 18, 2012 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts in Bay area California. Tickets are available for sale now at box office and at this link.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mesopotamian Night 2012 Tickets Now Available

Finally our team finalized the ticket prices at out fifth Annual Mesopotamian Night concert. To purchase you tickets early on and ensure bets seating please use the link below:

As of next week the tickets will be available at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts website as well as the box office.

If you have any questions please contact us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mesopotamian Night to Celebrate the Assyrian Songs of Vania David and Misha Ashoorian

It is a pleasure to announce that the Mesopotamian Night team will present the Assyrian songs of Vania David and Misha Ashoorian in its fifth annual event to be held on February 18th 2012 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. These songs will be performed by five well known Assyrian singers in their honor and for their contribution to Assyrian music and song writing.

The orchestration and arrangement of these songs has been commissioned to the young Assyrian composer Edwin Elieh through financial support of our generous sponsors in particular Vladimir and Monica Moghadassi.

It is also a pleasure to inform you that Walter Aziz who has continuously contributed to our Mesopotamian Night project through his artistic talent has taken the responsibility for song selection and coordinating with our Assyrian singers for this historical performance.

Below we would like to entertain you with brief biographies of Rabi Vania David and Rabi Misha Ashoorian. We are very grateful they have given the Mesopotamian Night team the permission to present their work in our upcoming concert.

More information will be announced soon.

Vania David

Vania David (Vania Ishou Davoodi) was born in the Assyrian village of Saatloovi, Urmia, Iran in 1936. Right from the childhood, Vania was a gifted child with special interest in music. As years went by, he grows to become a young man who took pride in his heritage as an Assyrian and developed a passion for Assyrian folk music.

From the teenage years he worked hard to support his desire to learn music. After more than a year and half of hard work, Vania was able to save enough to buy his first musical instrument, an accordion. From the beginning, Vania was determined to take instructions and learn the art of music correctly.

By the time Vania was 18 years old, he had already started to compose musical melodies that clearly reflected his love for his people and his original taste and creativity. It was not too long before the officials in the most prominent radio station in Tehran at that time noticed this young artist and recruited him to write music for the radio broadcast, a position that was highly respected at the time, Vania managed to write over 25 original pieces of music for radio Iran which mostly were performed by professional musicians and were recorded with the beautiful voice of famous Assyrian vocalist, Albert Khoshaba. Vania's exceptional talent and his unique melody were so evident to the radio Iran's officials that they offered him a permanent position on staff. However, Vania's love for his people was so strong that made declining this offer an easy decision. He was determined to use this God given talent for his people rather than his personal fame and profit.

After leaving radio Iran, Vania embraced his heritage and started to write Assyrian songs that clearly captured the hearts of all who heard them. In 1962 Vania met his soon to be wife, Joan, a young Assyrian teacher. She was the perfect made for a passionate musician. Over the years to come, Joan's love and support enhanced his ability to apply himself to his call. While Vania was fully engaged in his career as a dentist, he founded “The Assyrian Folk Choir”. Vania along with his very close friend Misha Ashoorian who was one of the most known poets in the Assyrian community managed to gather a group of 75 Assyrian men and women and perform some of the most authentic and original Assyrian folk music concerts. Over 25 concerts were performed in various cities of Iran where Vania's melodies were showcased.

The history of Assyrians in modern days is full of sweet sounds of Vania's melodies. Over 220 original songs were written by Vania over the past five decades out of which over 160 have been performed by various Assyrian vocalists. In 1979 Vania took his talent to a new level and wrote a a classical piece called “The Greatness of Bet-Nahrin”. In this classical piece Vania brought the world of Assyrian folk melody and introduced to the world of classical music, a master piece in the history of Assyrian music. In 1981 Vania concluded his activity before taking a back seat in the world of Assyrian music by writing a book featuring 25 of his most cherished songs.

Vania's compositions have continued to mesmerize Assyrians since 1970s and can be considered some of the best Assyrian songs capturing the essence of Assyrian folkloric traditions. Currently Vania David lives in Los Angles California. Now after 30 years of departure the melodies of Vania David once again will be echoed on stage by a new generation of Assyrian vocalist performed with a symphony orchestra to once again relive the memories of the past.

Misha Ashoorian

(By: Homer Yonan -- Assyrian Yellow Pages by GRAFEEX, 1997 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

At only seventeen, he wrote his first poem which was clearly indicative of his ephemeral passion for love and affinity to nationalism. Little did he know the few lines he had created would pave the way for a lifelong contribution to the world of Assyrian art. Today, the collection of his work has without a doubt become of one of the pillars which support the structure of Assyrian literature, music and theater.

Misha Ashoorian was born in November of 1934, in Hamadan, Iran. An ordinary child, he grew up like most of his peers obtaining his elementary education at a local school. He completed his high school in his place of birth and upon graduating he relocated to Tehran.

Misha was granted admission into the Finance Department of ICS Institute of Great Britain. He completed his studies through the correspondence program and was awarded a degree in the field of Cost Accounting. In addition, Misha also attended the Institute of Fine Arts where he learned the skills and techniques of theater and acting.

An accountant by academic background, Misha's passion for writing and acting kept him involved in the professional arena of theater. He soon found himself a colleague to some of the most prominent theatrical figures in Iran. His worked ranged from drama to scriptwriting, acting to directing and theater to motion picture. Ashoorian continued to work as a scriptwriter with directors such as Samuel Khachikian. He was one of the seven certified official scriptwriters of the Actor's Syndicate of Iran, and hosted Queen Farah during her visits to the organization.

Perhaps what is the most impressive about Misha's artistic career, is his constant devotion to Assyrian culture heritage. By combining his writing skills and literary knowledge, Misha has managed to compose over 200 nationalistic and love poems in the Assyrian language. For over four decades,
Ashoorian's work has been counterpoising the music of Assyrian masterminds such as Soren Mayelian, Vania David, Sargon Mayelian, and the classical talent Maestro Nebu Issabey.

Aside from achievement in the field of literature, Misha has been devoting his recent years to the study of philosophy and meditation. He has developed a profound understanding of different schools of thought, namely Zen, TM, Yoga, and Sufism. He is often invited to deliver his thoughts and present his views in various group gatherings.

In his own words: “My passion and enthusiasm for writing is derived from the endless love for my people. To love and to give to my nation, is how I will accomplish immortality of my culture and ensure its existence. We, the Assyrians, have contributed to the world the greatest of all times: wisdom. We ought to be proud and continue sharing our talents with mankind. In life, individuals should not feel bound by uncontrollable circumstances and shortfalls. Goals and objectives are achieved through hard work and determination. One should always rely on his or her own inner-self to realize the final fruition of their work.

Misha Ashoorian currently resides in San Jose, CA. His work has left an everlasting influence on contemporary Assyrian art and culture. His work will continue to be a source of inspiration to Assyrians worldwide.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paul Patou's "Malek Rama Lakhooma" Painting

Paul Batou in anticipation of the upcoming Mesopotamian Night's feature presentation, has painted the following piece for the Mesopotamian Night project. This piece is available to be purchased form the Assyrian Aid Society of America for $2500 (includes framing and shipping).

The size for Malka Rama Lakhooma is 40x30 Acrylic on Canvas.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mesopotamian Night 2012 AD form

Dear Friends,

In order to execute our next Mesopotamian Night event in San Jose, California we need your support and sponsorship. The form below is designed for ADs in our program book.We will also advertise for your business in our website for free.

Mesopotamian Night Team

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A New Clip from MN2010 DVD

Thanks to Sargon Alkurge for creating the following promotional clip from MN2010 DVD. Please order your copy and support this important cultural project.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hannibal's “Malek Rama Lakhouma”: The Tall Handsome Prince

The excerpts below are taken from the book “Hannibal Alkhas: Selected Works of Poetry” which was type set and published by Mr. Marcel Josephson in San Jose, CA in 2010 and is available from website.

The poem “Malek Rama Lakhouma” (The Tall Handsome Prince) is currently being used for the creation of a musical by Mr. Edwin Elieh. Mr. Josephson continues his role as a consultant to Mr. Elieh on language matters. He has also provided a full translation of the poem which will be used by the Mesopotamian Night team during the production of the musical.

We would also like to thank Ms. Anna Alkhas for giving us the permission to use the poem in the creation of this musical.

In the context of this magnificent fairy tale, a reasonable translation for the term “Malek Rama Lakhouma”, the main character of the tale would be “The Tall Handsome Prince”. This tale is about envy, wicked-thinking, conspiracy, deception, viciousness, and finally the triumph of good over evil. It is the tale of three unfortunate sisters sitting down for weaving in their poor cabin; one wishing to become a queen to weave a tie for pants that every woman and her husband can use to wrap their pants, one wishing to become a queen to cook a noodle dish that whoever ate from it would admire the good taste of it, and the third wishing to give birth to a warrior to become a king. In our language words the tie for a pair of pants (tekta) and the noodles (rekta) rhyme so nicely that with Hannibal’s immaculate creativity give an amusing opening to this poem.

It so happens that the king was passing by and overhears the conversation of three sisters. He marries the third sister and hires the other two to do the weaving and the cooking in the palace. King was at war and had to leave right after the marriage ceremony. It comes the time that his wife gives birth to a healthy boy. She sends a message to her husband to share the good news but the message was intercepted by her two sisters and her mother-in-law. They re-wrote the message stating that the newborn was a monster. First he got disappointed and wanted to have the newborn’s life terminated but he soon changed his mind and sent a message asking newborn to be saved until king’s return. The conspirators intoxicated the messenger and changed the content of the king’s message to read “get rid of the newborn and the mother; leave them to the sea”.

The newborn and mother were put in a basket and left afloat on the sea. The basket finally beaches at an island where the boy has grown into a young man. The islanders ask him to become their prince. Upon beaching at the island, in search for food in the woods, he rescues a pigeon that was just about to be killed by an eagle. To return the favor, the pigeon would grant him any wish he asked for. Many ships originally from the land where his father ruled would pass by his island and he would ask the sailors to anchor and he would host them very generously.

Upon their sail away he would feel homesick missing his father. Each time the pigeon would convert him to an insect so that he could travel unnoticed with sailors to his father’s land to see him. Each time the sailors would report to king how greatly they were treated by the prince of the neighboring island. They would also describe the magnificent developments they would witness on the island and would notify the king that the prince has extended an invitation to the king to visit the island.

The envious two aunts and the grandmother, each time would undervalue the developments on the island by saying that they have heard of something even more miraculous in other lands. The prince as an insect would sting one of the three envious conspirators each time. The sailors of the next ship would describe the actual occurrence of what conspirators had mentioned they had heard. And each time another conspirator would get stung.

At last, the king decides to visit the prince where he comes face-to-face with his wife and the entire plot is revealed. This imaginative work has many repetitions such as many ships pass by and many sailors get treated so highly; and yet, each repetition has its own uniqueness showing progression and continuous improvement of environmental conditions influenced by man. Except in the beginning where some of the most inferior inclinations of human being are demonstrated, the rest of the poem illustrates hope, development, and advancement. At the climax of this constructive trend, it is very remarkable to see how skillfully Hannibal brings Gilgamesh on the scene within the setting of this entirely fictional work.

This work also very brilliantly reveals a son’s desire to see his father who has been away from him for a long time. In my view, the main character of this tale and Hannibal share same feelings in regards to being away from father.

About Marcel Josephson (Bet-Yousef)

Born in Abadan (Iran), Marcel grew up and completed his high-school education in Urmie (Iran). He earned his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Sahrif (formerly Arya-Mehr) University of Technology in Tehran (Iran) following which he attended the military service. After working for 10 years in Iran, the last eight years for NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company) in Ahwaz, Marcel immigrated to Canada. He lived in Toronto for six years, immigrated to US in 1993, and settled in San Jose, CA. Marcel earned his masters degree in engineering management from Santa Clara University. He works in Silicon Valley in high-technology sector and is a registered professional engineer in Province of Ontario (Canada) and state of California.

From young age, Marcel was involved with Assyrian community and organizations. He was an active member and served on the executive boards of Society of Assyrian College Student, Society of Assyrian College Graduates, Assyrian Association of Ahwaz. Marcel was also the chairman of the Education Committee of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose 2006-2010.

Marcel developed a passionate love for our mother language and Assyrian literature from young age. In recent years this passion has produced many publications. Marcel created multiple on-line books and other teaching material with exceptional accuracy and quality so that any fellow Assyrian anywhere in the world can conveniently print and use the material to learn or teach our beloved mother language. This material is available from Assyrian American Association of San Jose's website. He also published a booklet of two poems by our prominent artist, the late Hannibal Alkhas (1930-2010). The most significant publication that Marcel has so far had is the "Selected Works of Poetry" of Hannibal Alkhas. This book was published some eight months before the passing of Hannibal and had greatly pleased the artist.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making the Musical Malek Rama: Assyrian community cooperation to promote Assyrian art

Eden Naby

In preparation for the next Mesopotamian Night musical event, the Assyrian Aid Society of America commissioned the Assyrian musician Mr. Edwin Elieh to create a musical based on a fairy tale poem by the late Rabi Hannibal Alkhas.

This commission has been made possible by the generous support of the Assyrian Culture Fund, financed by Eden Naby (Frye). Our goal is to premiere this work at the next Mesopotamian Night event in Winter, 2012.

In the article below, Dr. Eden Naby tells us the back story behind the creation of “The Musical Malek Rama” and something about the persons involved.

In May 2010 when I heard about a group of people in Ohio who pooled their funds to commission a musical piece, it struck me that this was another way to support Assyrian culture in the absence of institutions that are able to fund contemporary Assyrian arts. Therefore I decided that one way I could honor the lives of my parents (my mother would have loved this idea) was to commission music by an Assyrian composer based on an Assyrian poem.

Since Hannibal Alkhas was still alive at the time, and I had just met with him at his home in Turlock to discuss his paintings, I thought one of his poems might be set to music and performed at Mesopotamian Night. This way I get to honor my parents, put into wider circulation an Assyrian poem, and provide an opportunity for an Assyrian composer to create art music.

I had no thought that this idea would engender a musical.

I would have been happy to have simply a song. But always innovative impresario Tony Khoshaba has taken my initial idea a few steps further.

I am looking forward to hearing this charming legend by Hannibal Alkhas take a new life in the hands of Edwin Elieh and soar to pleasure an audience.

My hope is that others among Assyrians will see commissioning as a way to foster our culture while honoring their family. The idea is simple, and I hope, infectious.

Malek Rama the Poem

Very much in the style of Hannibal Alkhas’ paintings from his modernist period, this long poem tells a story – a fairy tale – with all the elements of magical stories with which we have become familiar from the epic of Gilgamesh to the story of Cinderella and on to the Harry Potter book and film series. There are good people, evil people, the intervention of magical personages and the triumph of good. Into the story enter strong family values tainted by jealousy and lies, moral instincts that are rewarded, and natural elements that anthropomorphize to help the innocent.

In true fairy tale and epic fashion, the poet introduces formulaic repetitions, and the simplicity of the equation of good with beauty and its opposite with evil. The description of places and characters merges the pre-Christian and Christian phases of Assyrian history without however, identifying any of the characters as Assyrian except by association as with Gilgamesh. The poem is part of a collection of the works of Hannibal Alkhas produced by Marcel E. Josephson in San Jose, CA.

Project Biographies:

Hannibal Alkhas (1930-2010):

Poet: Hannibal Alkhas (1930-2010), Assyrian painter and poet, was born in Kermanshah, Iran into a learned family that produced two cultural pillars of modern Assyrians, his father, writer and publisher Addai, and his uncle Jean (John), a famed Assyrian poet of the 20th century. Addai and his bride met and married away from their original homes in Urmiah due to the genocide against Assyrians in west Azarbaijan and Ottoman Turkey between 1914 and 1918.

Rabi (master, teacher) Hannibal spent his early years in Kermanshah, Ahwaz and Tehran. In 1951, he left for the United States in pursuit of higher education. After first studying philosophy, he earned his BA and MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1959 he returned to Iran and began teaching at the Tehran School of Fine Arts. During that time he established Gilgamesh Gallery, the first modern art gallery in Iran, where aspiring young artists received recognition. In 1963, he returned to the US and taught at Monticello College and served as chairman of the art department. He returned to Iran in 1969 and settled into teaching at Tehran University for eleven years. Returning once more to the US in 1980, Hannibal spent twelve years teaching the arts at the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock, private colleges and the UC Berkeley and UCLA.

This multi-talented Assyrian, steeped in his Assyrian and Persian cultural heritage, has been honored frequently in Iran and by the diaspora Assyrian community with exhibits and publications of his poetry. His CD, Urmie, (with Helen Vincent) pays tribute to his family’s roots in the now mostly lost Assyrian village communities of Urmiah and Salamas.

A collection of his poems appeared in 2008 under the direction of Marcel E. Josephson as Selected Works of Poetry in Assyrian Aramaic and in English translation. “MalekRama,” a fanciful legend based on Assyrian rural relationships and customs, is one of the poems included in this collection.

Alkhas’ painting, “Crucifixion,” has gained fame as modern representation of the suffering of the innocent, in which he included his own Assyrian people. His” Ziggurat” series is featured on this website.

A multi volume exposition of his artistic ideas appeared in Persian under the title بی پرده با آفتاب (Without cover in the sun) Tehran: Majal publishing, 1385-1386/2006-2007 (with a brief introduction by Jalal Al-Ahmad [1923-1969] revered Iranian intellectual figure who commented on one of Alkhas’ paintings.

Composer Edwin Elieh:

Edwin Elieh is an Assyrian musician from Urmiah, Iran. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Azad University (Tehran) and currently is studying film scoring at UCLA. His composition style ranges from Classical orchestra to instrumental Rock and Pop music. Edwin writes in different genres of music and combines them to create a unique sound. He has been teaching music and guitar for over twelve years as well as singing and performing in numerous events. His arrangement and orchestration of Walter Aziz’s songs, among other things, was instrumental in the success of the 2010 Mesopotamian Night event.

The Honorees – Mishael and Lillie Naby:

Mishael Simon Naby (1898 –1980), poet and pastor, was born in Golpashan, a rich village outside Urmiah. Mishael was the younger son of Shimun, son of Enviya of the Qirmizi clan. His mother, Sarah, had married the widower Shimun with whom she bore three children Enviya, Mishael and a daughter, Almas. While Enviya immigrated to Chicago before World War I, Mishael and Almas remained with the family. Both attended village schools run by Assyrians as part of the American missionary school system established since the 1840s. After primary school, Mishael enrolled at the Urmiah College for Boys, a boarding school, from which he was one of four Assyrian men to graduate in June 1918, a month before Assyrians fled Urmiah as the Ottoman Army spilled into the town.

Mishael became a prisoner of war as the Assyrian army retreated south. Together with two other Assyrians he escaped the prison camp near Khoy and made his way to Tabriz where he was nursed to health at the American mission. He then left for Hamadan where he was employed as a teacher in the Assyrian refugee schools. He continued teaching in Tabriz while waiting with thousands of others to return to Urmiah.

During this period he became a communist sympathizer and his early poetry reflected particularly his growing atheistic tendency. One of the traumas of his early life was the murder of his father, an old man in 1914, who was marched with other Assyrian men to the Christian cemetery and bludgeoned to death. The other was the carrying away of his young sister Almas to an Ottoman military encampment located outside Khoy.

Mishael might have remained a mathematics teacher had he not inherited several revenue producing vineyards from extended family members who had either not survived the genocide or had emigrated from Iran. At the same time, he was recruited as a student by his mentor, a former teacher at Urmiah College, Rabi Pera Amrikhas (1872-1945), to study theology even after the short-lived seminary run under missionary auspices was forced closed in 1934 by the Iranian government. Thereafter he rejected atheistic communism, and turned from teaching to ministry. He supplemented the meager salary this provided with income from the raisin producing vineyards.

In 1941 he married Lillie (Dooman) Yohannan (1906-1991), and spent winters in the city of Urmiah and summers in the village of Golpashan. He and Lillie had two children – Eden Naby (Frye) and Dante Naby.

Literary Life

Mishael always wrote his poems and essays in his first language, the modern eastern Aramaic vernacular of the Assyrians that was developed as a written language during the mid-19th century by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. By the time that Mishael entered the educational system, classical Syriac was no longer taught in the modern schools. Much influenced by American writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson whose works he read in English at school and after, nonetheless he could not write in English beyond correspondence.

In his twenties, he began to compose verse under the pen name “Yadgar” (Remembrance). Aside from occasional poems and songs, his major work consists of quatrains based on his experiences of World War I and its aftermath. He drafted and rewrote this biographical poetry which often returned to the refrain, “Ya yada kul, aha dakhiy?” (Oh Knower of all, why this?).

By the time these poems were published in 1970 at Ator Publishing in Tehran, he had already changed their tone from skeptical disillusionment with the protective power of faith in God to symbolic verses only alluding to the suffering he had endured as a Turkish prisoner of war. He found peace in “Grace” a female figure whom he associated with the Holy Spirit. The collection, titled Qdila da-šmaya (Key to heaven), consists of a series of works composed between 1920 and 1960.

During the early 1960s, he decided that his poetry should appear in English translation and engaged his children in this task over a period of two years. The verse translation was published as Psalms and Song of a Persian (New York, 1964).

His last published volume appeared in the form of a dialogue in which theological questions were asked and answered. Composed in Persian, his third language after Assyrian and Turkish, نقشه های خداوند (God’s plans) was also published at Ator Publishing in Tehran (1351[1972]) through the efforts of his wife’s cousin, Charles Sayad.

One of Mishael’s earliest works, an essay co-authored with his Turkish Muslim cousin, Beglerbegi, and published in Urmiah during the 1940s, is now rarely found.

An endowment at Harvard University commemorates his life and that of his wife.

Lillie Yohannan Naby (1906-1991), a teacher in Urmiah, was born in Degala, a village within 10 km of Urmiah. Her mother Avigil (Abigail) married Aurahim Yokhannan (of Ada) who was a widower with one daughter. He brought the daughter with him on his second trip to the United States and placed her in a Presbyterian orphanage in Tennessee.

Like her mother, grandmother, aunt and female relatives, Lillie received her education in the village school but graduated from Fiske Seminary. She fled as a young girl with her aunt, uncle and mother south to Hamadan in 1918. A previous attempt to flee north to Russia in 1915 failed due to the outbreak of cholera among the Assyrians massed at the Arax River border. At the time of her graduation from Fiske Seminary in 1925, the school was operating in Tabriz as a refugee school with a much reduced body of students. Like the three other young women in her class, Lillie too became a teacher, a profession she continued after the American schools were forced closed in Urmiah in 1934. She learned Persian in order to qualify to teach at the government high school for girls called Shahdokht.

For nearly twenty years Lillie taught English and home economics. She was an industrious and inventive woman whose home in Urmiah offered hospitality to visiting Americans among whom were many missionaries as well as academics like Carlton Coon an his family. She was also the organist at the Assyrian Presbyterian Church in Urmiah and was admired for her singing.

After moving to Philadelphia with her family in 1953, Lillie worked at odd jobs to maintain family income but did not teach again. When her husband died, she moved to, Modesto, California where she was able to renew childhood friendships with Assyrian women such as Marta Joseph, and be near her relatives. She took part in the Assyrian community and even acted in community plays. During the last two years of her life, she went to live in Massachusetts with her daughter. She is buried in Philadelphia, with her husband and other Assyrians, under a headstone that reads “Asleep, awaiting the Resurrection.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Update On Mesopotamian Night Project

We would like to inform our audience that The Mesopotamian Night Project is going through a re-organization. For this reason by the recommendation of the Board of Directors of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, the 2011 is being skipped but we are intensely working to produce yet another historical musical event in Winter 2012. The details will be announced soon.

The Mesopotamian Night Team

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mesopotamian Night 2010 DVD/CD is now available for Sale

Mesopotamian Night 2010 DVD/CD Set:

Click here to purchase :

The set includes 2 DVDs and 2 CDs

DVD/CD 1: Classical Music & Opera
  • Assyryt Suite No. 2               Paulus Khofri,     Orchestration: Michel Bosc
  • Elegy                                      William Daniel,     Transcription: Sam Madoo, Peter Blauvelt
  • On Assyrian Mountains       William Daniel / Peter Blauvelt,     Transcription: Sam Madoo
  • The Assyrian Legacy            George Somi
                  I.  The Rise of the Great Empire
                  II. The Majesty of the Hanging Gardens
  • Ninos and Shamiram             Michel Bosc,     Poetry: Yosip Bet Yosip
               Overture:   Scenes I, II, III, IV, V, VI
               Ninos: Brian Thorsett, tenor, Shamiram: Liisa Dávila, soprano
  •  Nineveh            Lyrics and Music: Fred Elieh,     Orchestration: Edwin Elieh
               Singers: Fred Elieh and Helena Chanko

DVD/CD 2: Assyrian Folkloric Musical: Walter Aziz
  • Plasha d’Khoorara [War of Freedom] 
  • Leleh d’Sitwa Mitrana [Rainy Winter Night]
  • Dashta d’Nineveh Deyan Eala [Nineveh Plains is Ours]
  • Shara [Festival]
  • Malikta d’Khayee [Queen of my Life]           
  • Libba Shmeeta [Broken Heart]
  • Maptikhanta d’Pala [Fortune Teller]   
  • Manshee [Forget it]
  • Akitu [Assyrian New Year]    
  • Atour Bet Khayah [Assyria shall live]

Monday, January 24, 2011

MN-2010 DVD/CD to be Released Soon

Finally the Mesopotamian Night team is back in track. While preparing our next exciting event we are glad to announce that the DVD/CD product from our last year event will be released soon.