Seher: Sufi Music from Turkey & India, A Celebration of Rumi

Deepak Ram & Neva Özgen Ensemble

The celebratory concerts entitled "Seher - Sufi Music from Turkey and India" and "An Encounter with Rumi" bring together a rare ensemble of musicians including Turkish kemençe player Neva Özgen, Indian bansuri player and composer Deepak Ram, harpist Diana Rowan and percussionist Tupac Mantilla.

Two great musical traditions from Turkey and India meld their sources in celebrating 800th birthday and Unesco’s International Rumi Year. Neva Özgen, one of the few female masters of the Turkish kemençe (fiddle), draws upon the Sufi repertoire inspired by the poet Rumi and recites his evocative poetry. Bansuri flutist Deepak Ram, a senior disciple of the great Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, joins her along with Diana Rowan on harp and Tupac Mantilla on percussion.

Washington DC - April 12th, 2007 at Smithsonian Institute

An Encounter with Rumi: Gardens of the Heart
Thursday, April 12, 2007, 7:30 PM, Meyer Auditorium

Freer and Sackler Galleries
The Sackler Gallery is located at 1050 Independence Avenue, SW

Boston - April 15th, 2007 at Boston University

TSAI Performance Center, Boston University

Sunday, April 15th, 2007 at 7 PM
Presented as part of 6th Annual Boston Turkish Festival
Co-presented with the Boston University International Student Consortium
Festival Site

Deepak Ram

Deepak is an incredibly versatile artist who is well known for his evocative performances in traditional North Indian Classical Music, his collaborations with musicians of other genres, his innovative compositions and for his excellence as a teacher. Deepak Ram's first love is north Indian classical music. Indeed, he is an accomplished soloist. He is a delightful and captivating performer, combining technical mastery with personal charm. He has performed in the United States of America (where he is currently based), South Africa, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Lebanon, Turkey and Holland and had the honor of accompanying his teacher, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, in Geneva, London and Paris.

Deepak began his formal training in bansuri and tabla under Sri Jeram Bhana in South Africa in 1975. Two years later he was off to Mumbai, India to study flute under the late Sri Suryakant Limaye (India’s master flute maker); he simultaneously spent a short time under flautist, Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao. It was in 1981 that his dream was realized when he became the disciple of the celebrated flautist, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (with whom he continues to study from time to time). During this period he also studied tabla under Sri Yashwant Padhye and music theory and voice under Pandit Rajaram Shukla. Deepak earned a Masters degree in Music (MMus) from Rhodes University, South Africa, in 1996 for his thesis, Exploring syncretism between Indian and western music through composition.

Deepak’s versatility is apparent in his numerous collaborations with musicians of various genres. These include performances with jazz pianists Darius Brubeck and Bheki Mseleku, Tunisian oud player and vocalist Dhafer Yousseff and the popular South African band Tananas. On January 1 2000, Deepak performed with South African musicians like Sibongile Khumalo and the Rwandan diva, Cecile, on Robben Island in South Africa’s millennium concert hosted by presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Deepak has six solo albums to his credit and as a session musician can be heard on over twenty five albums. His bansuri can also be heard on movie soundtracks, such as The Fast And The Furious, Matrix Revolutions, India, Kingdom of the Tiger and Stealth.

Deepak’s knowledge of both Indian and western traditions is evident in his compositions which range from pieces for jazz groups, western flute quartets (flute, violin, viola and cello), choral works and ballets to orchestral pieces. His last work 'SURYA' for classical guitar and bansuri, commissioned by the award -winning guitarist Mesut Özgen was premiered at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Deepak is currently working on music for bansuri and string quartet. One of Deepak Ram’s fortes is his ability to communicate his knowledge, making him an excellent teacher. Most recently, he served as visiting professor in Indian Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lectured full time for four years at the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa, and has conducted many workshops in Indian music in the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. He also has several publications to his credit, including an instruction booklet, Harmonium made easy.

Neva Özgen
kemençe (kemenche)

As the daughter of highly respected Turkish classical musician Ihsan Özgen, Neva Özgen was born in Ankara in 1977 and grew up in Istanbul surrounded by Turkish classical music and jazz. Perhaps as a means to carve her own path, Neva’s first expressed interest was in Western classical music and the flute. She learned to play both soprano and alto flutes but soon after entering the Istanbul Technical University Conservatory she switched to clarinet. It wasn't long before her interest in Turkish Classical music overtook her interest in Western classical traditions and she decided to study the kemence, an instrument integral to Turkish classical music. Ironically, it was during this period that her father began to experiment and pursue his interest in jazz and other forms of music. While her father, and main influence, Ihsan Özgen focused on playing experimental, cross-cultural, jazz pieces and taksims (improvisations), Neva pursued her interest in Turkish classical music. She honed her skills as an accompanist and ensemble player studying under Alaeddin Yavasca. Neva has deeply immersed herself in the works and taksims of Tanburi Cemil Bey and her recent influences include composer and performer Munir Nurettin Selcuk and Bekir Sidki Sezgin.

Like many kemençe players in Turkey today, she aims to continue the tradition established by Tanburi Cemil Bey which was passed on to her father. Ihsan Özgen’s influence on his daughter cannot be underestimated and Neva Özgen can be considered a student of what is recognized as the 'Ihsan Özgen school' of Turkish classical music. She has accompanied him in performances of Turkish classical music in Europe, in the United States and Turkey and as Ihsan Özgen moves on to explore more experimental forms of music, Neva is preparing to take over the Anatolia Ensemble. She has already played on two recordings, Aegean and Balkan Dances and Masterworks of Itri and Meragi, by the Turkish classical Anatolia Ensemble which her father led for many years. Neva Özgen is also featured on a recording titled Women Composers and Performers of Turkish Classical Music.

Though Neva’s primary passion is Turkish classical music, she has inherited her father’s adventurous spirit as well as his talent. Neva has performed with Orbestra in England and with American jazz musician Butch Morris’ group in New York alongside Turkish ney player Suleyman Erguner. Recently she performed with Canadian violinist Hugh Marsh, percussionist Ben Grossman and vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon in the Mercan Dede Ensemble which blends Eastern and Western musical traditions. She has also performed with Anatolia Ensemble, Montreal Tribal Trio, Atlas Ensemble, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Nv/Elect.Voices, I²stanbul Authentic Turkish Music Ensemble, Shujaat Hussain Khan, Peter Murphy, Mich Geber, Kudsi Erguner, Frangiz Ali-Zade, Javanshir Guliev, Theo Loevendi, and Karman I²nce among others. Neva believes that a musician must be well versed in the classical works of master composers but she also believes that classical forms of music can be expanded and built upon through improvisation. Truly her father’s daughter, she believes in searching for new idioms through playing with the classics and that all new musical languages are built upon the foundations of the past. Legacy, which is released in September 2001 by Golden Horn Records, is Neva Özgen’s debut album.

Diana Rowan

Harpist Diana Rowan’s playing has been described as having "unusual power and beauty." Her unique sound reflects her upbringing – born in Ireland, she lived in Washington D.C., Europe, and the Middle East before making her permanent home in Berkeley, California. Diana’s classical training combines with her studies in world music to create a compelling, timeless, and original sound. Diana’s exploration of the intersection between art and traditional music inspires her work, acknowledging the harp’s ancient past while building a bridge to its modern voice.  

Having played piano since childhood, Diana classical training culminated in receiving a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance, under her piano mentor, Tchaikovsky prize winner Roy Bogas. Special studies in Baroque performance practice and piano literature were taken with Stephen Schultz of Philharmonia Baroque and Betty Woo of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During this time Diana gave numerous classical piano recitals as well as piano duo concerts, including a performance of the Poulenc Concerto in d minor for Two Pianos with orchestra.

Meanwhile, Diana’s love for Celtic, Balkan and Middle Eastern music found a perfect voice in the harp, and intensive studies with leading lights of these music genres followed, after an initial focus on early music with historical harpist Cheryl Ann Fulton. Diana currently collaborates with Bon Singer, founder of acclaimed ensemble Kitka and premier conductor of Balkan choral music in the United States, in the original music ensemble Ya Elah; Ms. Singer’s passionate and erudite approach to music is a great inspiration. Diana’s harp trio Trillium, also featuring harpists Maureen Brennan (Diana’s original harp teacher) and Patrice Haan, has been garnering rave reviews throughout the Bay Area, performing works from the Middle Ages to new music in innovative arrangements showcasing the harp’s versatility.

In 2004 she released her debut solo album "Panta Rhei - Celtic & Mediterranean Music for Harp" to critical acclaim, and is currently working on her next CD "The Bright Knowledge," focusing on original, Balkan, and Middle Eastern music. Diana is much in demand as a performer, collaborator and teacher in both classical and world music arenas, and is honored to share the stage with Deepak, Neva and Tupac tonight.

Tupac Mantilla

Tupac was born in Colombia in 1978. He started his musical career at the age of four as a pianist and kept his piano studies for 12 years, most of them at the National Conservatory of Colombia. In 1994 he started studying drum-set and percussion at Javeriana University and after seven years of formal training with Masters Isauro Pinzon and Mario Sarmiento, he graduated with honors as a Classical Percussion Major in 2003. As a student of the Music department at Javeriana University, he was a member and performed as a soloist with several groups and ensembles like the symphonic orchestra, the percussion ensemble, the symphonic band, and the jazz ensembles, amongst others. He also recorded in many projects and participated in several national festivals since 1998.

Besides his Classical activity he has also been involved with Colombian popular and traditional music from a very early age, and his work as a drummer and percussionist is widely recognized in the rock, jazz and studio scene. Since the age of 13, Tupac worked with the government as music teacher of orphaned children, and in 2000 he produced, composed and arranged the album “Sueños” (Dreams), that came out as a result of his ten years of working with these kids. He won the “LOUIS ARMSTRONG” Jazz Award in 1997 (SWHS) Hanover, Pennsylvania – USA. And in 2002 won the Bogotá’s Philharmonic Orchestra Young Classical soloist Contest, with the “Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra” by Brazilian composer Ney Rosauro.