A filigree of 14th century Persian poetry, Middle Eastern and African music, and American modern dance

A breathtaking tapestry of live music, spoken word, Branches of Words celebrates the Persian poetry of Hafez, the 14 th century Sufi poet and is performed by a multi-national gathering of artists. Iranian theatre and film director, Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, American Jewish composer Zoe B. Zak, Ghanaian musician Zorkie Nelson and ESDC open themselves to the “magical wine” of Hafez. The music, dance and each recitation of spoken word, whether in Persian or English, follow the emotional terrain Hafez has laid out. The evening is filled with new and existing works performed and created by Hakak, Nelson, Zak, Sinopoli and the dancers of ESDC.

The sonnets of Khajeh Hafez Shirazi investigate human relationships. His poems startle, confound, and yet resonate as they celebrate the universal themes of love, union, freedom and tolerance. Hafez champions the underdog and outlaw while holding no sympathy for hypocrisy, deception or duplicity. “In his poetry, Hafez has inscribed undeniable truths indelibly…Hafez has no peer.” ~Goethe


MAHMOOD KARIMI-HAKAK , Artistic Director of Mahak International Artists Inc., is a poet, theatre director and filmmaker. He has written, produced, directed, designed and/or acted in over 50 stage and screen productions in the U.S., Europe and his native Iran. His plays and films have participated at such international theatre and film festivals as Avegnon, Edinbrough, Netherlands, Berlin, Delhi, Montreal, New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Maryland and Tehran, and have earned him three international awards. A recipient of the 2005 Raymond Kennedy Award, Mahmood’s literary credits include five plays, two books of poetry, translation of a dozen books into and from Persian and numerous articles and interviews both in English and Persian. Dr. Karimi-Hakak has taught at CUNY, SMU and TU here in the U.S., as well as universities in Belgium and Iran. At present he serves as Professor of Creative Arts at Siena College, New York.

ZORKIE NELSON is a master percussionist, traditional flute player and vocalist specializing in the GA cultural tradition. He was born to a family of musician in the West African city of Accra, Ghana and has studied music since the age of seven. His accomplishments include the tour of Wynton Marsalis’ “Congo Square Tour” in 2006 and conductor and co-founder of the Pan African Orchestra (PAO) in the 1990’s. He has been a member of the We Su Ma, Ebaahi-Gbi Ko, Gballoi (the prophet band), Lumei, Eshi Nyomor Mo and Tsui Anaa traditional African music and dance groups touring Denmark, France, Ghana and Japan. He currently resides in the US where he continues to perform and teach his art.

ZOE B. ZAK’s music weaves a seamless tapestry of the ancient and the modern, erasing the line between praying and playing. She was commissioned by Siena College as Music Director for Benedictus, an Iranian-Israeli-American drama which debuted in April 2007. That same year, Zak was commissioned to write “Kissing Moonlight,” a musical interpretation of a poem by Sufi poet Hafez for The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company. Zak was previously commissioned to compose the music for From Hodu to Cush, an original theatrical interpretation of the Purim story for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, presented in collaboration with Arm-of-the-Sea Theater. She was also commissioned by producer Emma Missouri to create a musical interpretation of Conference of the Birds, a work of Sufi poet Attar, which premiered at Byrdcliffe Theater, Woodstock, N.Y. Zak has over 30 CDs to her credit as composer, performer, and producer, including In the Direction (with Dean Sharp & David Torn), Conference of the Birds (with Steve Gorn & Dean Sharp), Come, My Friend (with Rabbi Jonathan Kligler), and Zoe B. Zak (with the Zoe B. Zak Ensemble). As a Cantor, Zak has officiated at countless Shabbat services, b’nai mitzvot ceremonies, and at Jewish and interfaith weddings.

“In his poetry, Hafez has inscribed undeniable truths indelibly…Hafez has no peer.”

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