By: Dr. Eden Naby Frye
I just listened to the CD of Malek Rama Lakhuma (The Handsome Prince) that was recently issued by Mesopotamian Night. This is the first of a duo set from Mesopotamian Night 2012, a concert hall performance held at the Center for Performing Arts in Mountain View, California. The date of the musical performance, Saturday February 18, 2012, marks a turning point in the professionalism of Assyrian cultural performance.
Listening to the CD, I can appreciate the music more even than at the performance nearly a year ago because I am not as starry-eyed about that spectacular visual experience. Even when the DVD of the performance is released, hopefully soon, it will not have the magic of that performance on stage when a cast of singers, dancers and a fine orchestra really gave us a first class performance.
But the CD is of good quality with the mellow narration by our Turlock based poet, the wonderfully cooperative Yosip Bet Yosip active in promoting Assyrian poetry at the World Poetry Congress. Yosip Bet Yosip’s narration is indeed an homage to the life of Hannibal Alkhas (1930-2010), the scion of generations of Assyrian cultural activists. Known widely as a painter, Alkhas’ poetry is less known outside his native Assyrian community simply because few people outside our community know our language and poetry is an artistic medium heavily dependent on language.
That is one of the reasons the Mesopotamian Night performances are important for our cultural advancement: we can bridge from Assyrian neo-Aramaic poetry to attract a wider audience through music. But first we have to rediscover our poets: in this case the discovery of this Hannibal Alkhas poem, Malik Rama Lakhuma is owing to the publication by Marcel Josephson of Alkhas’ unpublished poems, among which was this wonderful folkloric poem now so well adapted to stage performance.
Discovering our poets and musicians is the subject of the second disk in the set that is available so reasonably ($15.00). The series of Assyrian songs by the poet Misha Ashoorian and composed by Vania David have received modern interpretation and orchestration by Edwin Elieh and are sung by five of our contemporary entertainers, including Salem Sefo. That the original author Misha and composer Vania could be viewing the performance from the first row is a credit to the organizers. Let us see more of our 20th century recoverable poets’ works reinterpreted for contemporary audiences.
And by all means, let us see and hear from the lovely Shamina Khangeldy and the rest of the talented cast of Malek Rama, especially Fred Elieh.
The Naby Frye Assyrian Fund for Culture is pleased to have been offered an opportunity to fund, in part, this CD.