When a culture flows through your blood like it does for Mamak Khadem, passion easily bridges distance. For Khadem, born and raised in Tehran and now living in Los Angeles, her full immersion in the music of Persia has made the connection to her native Iran stronger by the day.
It has also provided her with a way to offer a brighter side of the culture and diverse country she loves, a country she and her fellow Iranians remain proud of despite the politic winds that have clouded its inherent vibrancy.
Trained in the classical Persian style, Khadem's music steers well clear of modern day politics as it adapts the verses of both young contemporary Iranian poets and revered masters like Rumi and Shamloo to the melodies of Iran's classical and folk repertoires. It's a combination she has honed in regular lengthy stays back home to study with some of Iran's greatest teachers of the tradition, and one that has earned her invitations to perform everywhere from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. to the House of Culture in Berlin and World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles. She straddles continents and cultures, recording and performing with some of the greats of Persian music while putting a unique imprint on Hollywood with her film and TV soundtrack work including "Buffy The Vampire Slayer".
All of which is decades removed from the years prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution when a teenaged Khadem was sent to the U.S. by her parents to get an education. “It was something I didn't want to do,” she recalls. “All of my friends and family were in Tehran. And then I got stuck here because the Iranian revolution happened, and then the eight-year war with Iraq, and on and on.”
Khadem immersed herself in two languages she understood - music and mathematics. She eventually earned advanced degrees in mathematics and education and has been teaching for decades in the Los Angeles area. And the music education she enjoyed when she was young, including as part of the Children's Choir For National Radio and Television of Iran, laid the foundation for her career as a professional musician. It has informed every step she has taken as an artist, from her role as lead singer of the groundbreaking LA-based Persian fusion ensemble Axiom Of Choice, to her deeper immersion in recent years into the roots of Persian classical music.
Khadem has found ways to underscore her pride in her culture even when she's performing less traditional material. Jostojoo (