Inspired by my travels throughout the Middle East, the music of Jostojoo has been a very personal and exciting journey for me. I have had the freedom to explore a variety of different regional and folk melodies not only from Iran but from Greece, Turkey and Armenia and experiment with arrangements that are contemporary and cross over numerous different musical styles. I hope that you will find Jostojoo an auditory and emotional musical experience.


BAZ AMADAM • The Return

Mamak Khadem - voice
Ole Mathisen - clarinet
Brahim Fribgane - oud, darbuka
Eyvind Kang - viola
Skúli Sverrisson - bass
Simone Haggiag - hand claps, djembe, gungon, bendir, shaker, bells
Benjamin Wittman - bombo, djembe

Based on an Armenian melody - Words by Jalal al-Din Rumi (13th century Sufi poet)

Once again I have returned
Once more I have come back
I come from the Beloved
Look at me, see me
For full of empathy I have returned

Blissful I come, blissful
Bearing a message
Which took millenniums
To put into words

I will return, I will return
To my ascent, I will return
Release me, unbound me
For to this refuge I have come back again

Once upon a time
A celestial bird
Soaring high in the heavens
Blind to the bait
I plummeted to this earthly fate

Do not look at me with your two eyes
Gaze upon me with your third eye
Come see me in the splendor of my heavenly abode
For here, I come bearing no gifts

O Shams Tabrizi
When will your light shine upon the universe?
Bring me solace
For to this earthbound desert
I have returned full of pain


GELAYEH • Plaintive

Mamak Khadem - voice
Reza Abaee - soprano qeychak
Habib Meftah - dom dom, dammam, cajon, darbuka, pich lule, senjak, shakers
Benjamin Wittman - darbuka (solo)
Jamshied Sharifi - accordion, stick

Based on a melody from Baluchistan (Southeastern Iran) – Words anonymous

You left and broke your vow
To another you promised yourself
Your heart you gave away without shame

You killed me with just one look
Oh how could you
How could your eyes have no shame?



Mamak Khadem - voice
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - voice, ney, baglama, tam-tam, daf
Benjamin Wittman - cajon, darbuka, shaker
Jamshied Sharifi - accordion, stick

Composed by Turkish musician Ali Ekber Cicek (1935 – 2006) - Persian words by Amir Fatahi (1977-)

“Heydar” is one of the titles given to Hazrat Ali, a spiritual leader and Sufi Saint. It means “lionheart,” and in this context Heydar can be attributed to any spiritual warrior striving for the welfare of all beings.



Mamak Khadem - voice
Sofia Lambropoulou - kanun
Roubik Haroutunian - duduk
Hamid Saeidi - santur
Jamshied Sharifi - accordion, stick, synthesizer

Improvisation - Words by Hazin Lahidji (18th century Poet)

Bisotoon is a historical monument with inscriptions in Kermanshah, Iran. It is believed that the mammoth task of creating the inscriptions was entrusted to an Iranian sculptor and stonecutter, Farhad, who falls in love with Shirin, a Christian princess and one of the wives of the Sassanid king Khosrow Parviz. When the king gets word of this betrayal, he challenges Farhad to cut a path through the Bisotoon mountain, digging deep to find water. Farhad works relentlessly for many years digging and carving through the stone. In the end, he encounters a rich supply of water. But the king, instead of acknowledging him, sends an old woman to deceive him. This woman tells Farhad that his beloved Shirin has died. Upon hearing this, Farhad takes his life. When Shirin stumbles upon her lover lifeless upon the ground, she in turn chooses to kill herself. This Romeo and Juliet like tragedy has been used as a source of inspiration by many poets, including Hazin Lahidji whose poem talks of a night when the sound of the stonecutter’s chisel is not heard.


JOSTOJOO • Forever Seeking

Mamak Khadem - voice 
Sofia Lambropoulou - kanun
Roubik Haroutunian - clarinet (melodies)
Ole Mathisen - clarinet (interlude)
Dimitris Mahlis - oud
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - darbuka
Benjamin Wittman - bombo, daf, udu, bodhran, qarqaba, zils, shaker
Layla Sakamoto Sharifi - violin
Jamshied Sharifi – accordion

Based on a Greek folk melody – Words by Siroos Jamali (1971 -)

O departed lover
O hesitance spilled in haste
I have been seeking a sign of your abode
I have sought only in vain

O love entwined with the horizon
O moon veiled by the universe
I have been seeking your face in the heavens
I have sought only in vain

O night’s jaded steps
O morning on the brink of sleep
I have been seeking your scent in one or another
I have sought only in vain


VARAN • Rain

Mamak Khadem - voice
Roubik Haroutunian - duduk
Ole Mathisen - clarinet
Brahim Fribgane - oud
Eyvind Kang - viola
Simone Haggiag - tbola, gungon, udu, daf, cajon, req, hooves, bells
Jamshied Sharifi - ebow guitar, setar

Based on a melody from Kurdistan (Western Iran) – Words anonymous

An old Kurdish melody about a lover watching the rainfall as he bids farewell to his beloved.


LALAII • Lullaby For The Awakening

Mamak Khadem - voice
Eyvind Kang - viola
Roubik Haroutunian - duduk
Ole Mathisen - tenor saxophone

Based on a melody by the great Armenian composer Parseg Ganachyan - Words by Ahmad Shamloo (1925 - 2000)

Hush my baby, hush my flower of spring
Your father is gone
My heart is bleeding
For he will not return tonight
Could he have been seized?

Hush my baby, hush my flower of sweetness
Your father is shackled
In thick chains around his ankles
His eyes heavy with sleep
His heart awake


AVAREH • Home wrecked

Mamak Khadem - voice, daf
Hamid Saeidi - santur
Dimitris Mahlis - oud
Marc Shulman - guitar
Skúli Sverrisson - bass
Pezhham Akhavass - tombak, bayan, pendarik
Benjamin Wittman - darbuka, daf, cajon, shaker, triangle
Jamshied Sharifi – balafon

Based on a Kurdish melody - Words by Baba Taher (11th century poet)

I do not know the object of my heart’s folly
Home wrecked, I do not know where it dwells
I do not know to whom belong those bewitching eyes
That have enslaved my vagrant heart


MANDEH • Weary

Mamak Khadem - voice
Reza Abaee - alto qeychak
Hamid Saeidi - santur
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - ney
Marc Shulman - guitar, laude
Skúli Sverrisson - bass
Pezhham Akhavass - tombak, bayan
Benjamin Wittman - Asian drum, udu, Moroccan trumpet
Jamshied Sharifi – balafon

Based on a melody by the Gypsies of Rajasthan - Words by Siroos Jamali (1971 -)

O tired one, why are you so weary?
I have brought you signs from the road
Through the night when your legs are bound
I shall be your guide

I am futile and aimless
I have not rested in peace
My eyes are stricken with the night
At dawn, I offer you my tears

O lovesick mirror
Show my reflection driven mad with love
O belated moan
If a sigh, I may offer

O sweet dove, keeper of my secret
Singer of my song
Your flight is where I take source
I will thrust you into further heights



Mamak Khadem - voice, harmonium
Kourosh Moradi - tanbur, voice
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - voice, ney

Improvisation - Words by Baba Taher (11th century poet)

How blessed when two lovers love as one
Yet how desolate and painful
When the passion belongs to only one


BIGHARAR • Restless Yearning

Mamak Khadem - voice, daf
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - baglama, gungon
Roubik Haroutunian - zurna
Marc Shulman - guitar
Benjamin Wittman - tbola, daf, bendir, qarqaba, shaker

Based on a melody from Fars (southern Iran) - Words by Siroos Jamali (1971 -)

I am in turmoil by your departure
Wanderer I have become
Bewildered and confused

O Beloved
O beautiful lover of broken hearts
Return to me, please return

In loneliness, let me be remembered
I am silenced, call out my name
From your grief, bring me release

The pain of loneliness is mine
The sorrow of disgrace is mine
Passion and lovesickness, all mine

Restless my sleep, beyond words my grief
Alone I lie at night
In the embrace of your apparition




All arrangements by Jamshied Sharifi and Mamak Khadem except “Heydar” 
arranged by Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jamshied Sharifi, and Mamak Khadem
Mixed by Scott Noll
Recorded by Mrs. Somayeh Habibian at BAM studios (Tehran), Michael Brorby (N.Y.), 
and Jamshied Sharifi (N.Y./L.A.)
Mastered by Andy VanDette at Masterdisk

English translations of poems by Yatrika Mariam Shah-Rais and Josiane Cohanim
Liner notes by Yatrika Mariam Shah-Rais
Album photos by Kambiz Koushan
Persian commentary by Sohrab Mahdavi
Artwork by Mehran Hosseinzadeh

Jamshied Sharifi thanks Miyuki, Layla, Kimia, Mohammad & Azra, Ben, Michel Madie, 
Ken Kushnick, and the musicians who gave so generously to this recording.

Mamak Khadem thanks the following people for their support and generosity in helping make this album:

Ali and Mojgan Amin, Mahmood Amin, Mark Amin, Amir Ali Angha, Eve Beglarian, Josiane 
and Philip Cohanim, Mohammad Reza Darvishi, Elham Gheytanchi, Afshin Javadi, Hamid Kazemi, Saied Kazemi, Parvin Kermani, Zari Motahedan, Mr. Pessian, Jeff Rona, Homey Shorooghi, and Ofer Ziv. 

All the musicians who shared their talents and the beauty of their culture, especially 
Dimitris Mahlis for sharing my musical vision; my vocal trainer Virginia Sayre who shared her
vast knowledge and taught me from the heart; my family Mohsen Khadem, Minou Shahrnaz, 
Roshanak Khadem, Mehran and Bahar Hosseinzadeh, and Hamid Saeidi for their unconditional love and caring; my producer Jamshied Sharifi for his vision and believing in me; and last but not least Sohrab Mahdavi and Yatrika Mariam Shah-Rais for being true to their paths in life, mentors to many, and sources of inspiration always.


In 2002, I had a strong urge to break out of my old patterns and experience life with a new perspective. I undertook a series of travels, which took me to Greece, Turkey, Armenia, and various parts of Iran. During my trips, I became aware of the many similarities among these cultures and their music (where my passion lies).  Although geographical boundaries in these regions have been continuously redefined, musicians have transcended them by learning and drawing inspiration from one another’s art. In this work, I have tried to find the common musical bond between these regions, giving new form to the music through innovative arrangements and the usage of Iranian poetry, thereby infusing the pieces with something of my own culture. I decided to use the work of both internationally known poets such as Rumi as well as contemporary poets of Iran. I am hoping that this work will convey the feeling of a unified being where we can merge as one without boundaries. Along this search and musical journey, I interestingly overcame some of the barriers limiting my own experience of life. 

                                        Mamak Khadem


آنچه در این مجموعه می‌شنوید آوا‌ها و آواز‌هایی است که به چند سنت‌ موسیقایی تعلق دارد و آنچه این سنت‌ها را به هم می‌دوزد جستجوست.  به یونان و ترکیه می‌روید، چندبازه از کردستان ِ ایران گذر می‌کنید، ارمنستان را سر می‌زنید، سفر شما را به پویش و پایش مرزها و بوم‌هایی می‌کشاند که نغمه‌ها و اشعار ویژه آن آب و خاک را با خود و در خود دارد.

 سفر کردن، بدن خود را از سویی به سویی کشاندن -- چه از سر اجبار باشد و چه اختیار -- خود نوعی پیوند است.  سفر کرده در زمان و مکان معلق است، اما واقعیت‌های متفاوت در بدن او به هم می‌آمیزد. از راه تفاوت‌ها به همانندی‌ها آگاه می‌شود. خواسته و ناخواسته پلی می‌شود برای عبور جریان سیال زندگی، آواها و آوازها.


 امید این‌که شنونده جستجو نیز چون خواننده‌اش (و تمام کسانی که به او در این راه یاری رسانده‌اند) خیال را پرواز دهد و سنت‌های رنگارنگ را در وجودش پیوند زند. این سفری است نه تنها در مکان که در آفاق و ادراک.

سهراب مهدوی اردبیلی


On her first solo album, Mamak Khadem creates a seamless tapestry from different cultures, unified by Persian poetry and centered around the theme of love. Innovative and beautiful musical arrangements combine with powerfully evocative vocals, conjuring myriads of images and landscapes. The delivery is deeply heartfelt and sincere. As we listen, we are awakened to a stream of emotions as Mamak takes us on her journey beyond time and space, on a quest for union and wholeness.                     

Yatrika Mariam Shah-Rais