2016 Naamani Lecture to Focus on Music

Galeet Dardashti will deliver the 2016 annual Naamani Lecture at the University of Louisville Planetarium on Sunday, April 17 at 2 p.m. Her talk, “Sacred Music Hits the Israeli Pop Charts: Money, Music and Mizrahiyut,” concerns music, culture, and minority identities in Israel.

A cultural anthropologist by training, she is currently a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s prestigious Taub Center for Israel and she has published extensively on Israeli music, media, identity, and coexistence efforts.

Dardashti comes from a long line of Persian Jewish vocalists including her grandfather, Yona Dardashti, who was a cantor and renowned singer of Persian classical music in Iran during the days of the Shah; and her father, Farid Dardashti, once a pop star in Tehran and now a well-known cantor.

Significantly, Galeet Dardashti is the first woman in her family to make her own accomplished mark in music. She heads the electrifying all-women Mizrahi band “Divahn,” which blends traditional Middle Eastern music with modern style.

Her wonderful solo project, “The Naming,” features beautiful Middle Eastern melodies and women’s stories. Singing in Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian and Arabic, this work interweaves the stories of women from the Bible and from Dardashti’s Persian Jewish family with the struggles for equality of other Middle Eastern women.

As one reviewer wrote, “her music recalls both the creative power of the voice and a near-divine ability to bring women to life. Dardashti’s Persian-Jewish heritage and academic training come together in a beautiful and yet theologically provocative recording. The music is at once traditional and radical.”

Other critics have written that “Dardashti’s voice is exemplary, floating into earthy and nasal tones seamlessly, as called for by her Near Eastern style of music. Her stage presence is commanding” and her “sultry delivery spans international styles and clings to listeners long after the last round of applause.”

It is not often that our community has an opportunity to be so vibrantly reminded of just how multicultural the Jewish world has always been, specifically that Iranian Jews have a history dating back nearly 2,700 years. Too often, our inauspicious present moment allows us to forget the fact that Jews in Iran enjoyed a multifaceted experience intimately interwoven with the Islamic traditions surrounding them.

Jewish Studies of UofL and the Naamani family sincerely hope that many will attend this event and learn about that exciting past as well as Israel’s dynamic cultural present. And enjoy our great musical heritage! As music critic Alexander Gelfand observes of Dardashti’s remarkable work, “Jews have been living in the Middle East and surrounding regions for a long time; the longest time, one might say. And it would be nice if their unique traditions, musical and otherwise, were better known and more widely appreciated within the broader Jewish community.

Dardashti intended “The Naming” to call attention to some of the biblical female figures that have been slighted or distorted down through the ages, but she has also succeeded in calling attention to a vast body of music that has for many years been given relatively short shrift by Ashkenazim like me.”

The Naamani Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1979 to honor the memory of Professor Israel T. Naamani, key educational figure, scholar and teacher at the University of Louisville, and beloved Jewish community member. The series is supported by donations to the Naamani Memorial Lecture Fund.

The community is invited to this free multimedia event on Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m. at the UofL Planetarium. There is plenty of parking and the venue is disability accessible. Refreshments will be served. RSVP to Shari Gater shari.gater@louisville.edu.

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