Back to All Events

Her Banned Voice: Music of the Banned Final Concert

  • Brava Theater Center 2781 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110 USA (map)

Red Poppy presents

Her Banned Voice: Music of the Banned Final Concert

SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2019

5:30pm – Exhibition in theater lobby
6:30pm – Concert doors open
7:00pm – Concert

Musical influence has never and can never be limited by the borders of nations. The far-reaching effect of the arts has created crossover music, with artists adopting elements of each other’s musical traditions. In the face of the president’s travel ban, Music of the Banned seeks to build a sonic bridge between individuals, cultures and nations. Organized by Iranian-born performer Dina Zarif, the concert series gives voice to musicians and artists from the "banned nations:" Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Chad, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela. Love, peace, and empowerment is the message of the evening. 

website@4xUpdated .png

Focusing on women artists, Her Banned Voice is the culminating performance of the Music of the Banned concert series. Within most banned Muslim-majority countries, exist bans prohibit women from performing solo, permitting them only to perform in ensembles or as backup vocalists. These restrictions cause many female singers to travel or emigrate to other counties to perform freely. However, with the current travel ban, female artists are not only prohibited from performing in their homelands but also banned from coming to the U.S. to pursue a music career.

In this performance at Brava Theater, female artists—including Iranian singer Dina Zarif, Sudanese singer Salma El Assal, and Kurdish singer Rojan—will express themselves freely without limitations of religion, borders, and politics. They will also be joined by Venezuelan musician Jackeline Rago and her VNote Ensemble, bringing the audience the joy and beauty of Venezuelan music. There will be visual art exhibition at the lobby, by female artists from Iran: Mobina Nouri and Samaneh Salehi.


Rojan and Bamdad Ensemble
Symbolizing the Kurdish Culture Through Hope & Vibrant Melodies

Rojan (vocals) was born in Sanandaj, Kurdistan to a cultured and music-loving family. There, she was introduced to and influenced by Kurdish music, which resonated within her heart and seeped through the fabric of her soul. Before long, destiny led Rojan and her family to Kermanshah where she spent her school years and divorced mystical Persian music. The yearning strings of her spirit vibrated with the ancient Sufi melodies of Iran. She undertook musical studies with the guidance of Hengameh Akhavan and subsequently studied orchestration under the supervision of Tahmoores Poornazeri and Jalal Zolfenoon, leading to the birth of two major albums, Delshodeh and Kurdestan. Rojan may be named the custodian of the songs of the mountains of Abidar, Oraman, Beesotoon, and Tagh Bostan. She is currently recording her new projects and resides with her family in California.

Sirvan Manhoobi – oud
Farzin Dehghan – kamancheh
Ehsan Matoori – santur
Rumen “Sali” Shopov – davul
Nariman Assadi – daf, tombak, bendir, frame drum

For the full ensemble bio, click here.

Iran-Brava copy.png

Dina Zarif Ensemble
Iranian Classical & Folk Music, Soundscape of Tragedy & Triumph

Dina Zarif (vocals) 
Amelia Romano – harp
Josh Mellinger – frame drum, cajón, tabla
Asaf Ophir – clarinet
Sascha Jacobsen – bass

For the full ensemble bio, click here.

Venezuela .png

The VNote Ensemble
Venezuelan Folk Music with Adventurous Jazz Explorations

Jackeline Rago (cuatro, bandola, vocals, percussion) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, and educator who specializes in Venezuelan folk music, as well as music from other Latin American and Caribbean countries. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and began playing Venezuelan music at the age of four. Before coming to the U.S., she spent years studying the cuatro—the national stringed instrument of Venezuela—and classical mandolin at the Caracas Philarmonic Orchestra Conservatory. Her Afro-Venezuelan percussion studies took place with master percussionist Alexander Livinalli and Hector Pacheco from the Fundacion Bigott, Venezuela’s Folkloric Institute. Rago graduated with a BA in classical mandolin from the Music & Arts Institute of San Francisco. She has toured extensively within the U.S. and internationally for over 20 years, showcasing the music of Latin America with an emphasis in Venezuelan folk music.

Donna Viscuso – flute, alto saxophone
Michaelle Goerlitz – percussion
Saúl Sierra – bass

For the full ensemble bio, click here.


Salma El Assal & Sudan Music Ensemble
Folk & Contemporary Sudanese Music

Salma El Assal (vocals), originally from El Obain in western Sudan, is one of the leading Sudanese voices today who presents a suite of traditional Sudanese songs. With her birth name literally meaning “Honey Sweet Salma,” she was born to sing and spread love through her music. Some describe her sound as a blend of reggae based in African origins, and her dynamic and powerful voice has been compared by her fans to that of the legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Salma started to sing when she was a little girl, and as her talent increased and was noticed, she began to perform at weddings. As her popularity increased, she moved to Cairo, where she performs widely and now lives during part of the year. Salma’s joyous and charismatic style has been welcomed with open arms as she introduced her culture to the Middle East and to the rest of the world. She has performed with numerous musicians and groups, including Sandaleya, Mahmoud Fadl, and Ali Hassan Kuban. Salma has also performed in many European cities, including Berlin and Paris. While she has lived most of her life in Egypt, her pride and love for her culture have kept her close to her Sudanese roots.

Khalid El Mahi – oud
Tarawa aka Mazin Jamal – bongoz
Hafiz Bushra – jambia
Lee Dynes – guitar

For the full ensemble bio, click here.


Prior to the concert, please join us for a visual art exhibition in the lobby, with work by Iranian artists Mobina Nouri and Samaneh Salehi.

Visual Artist-  Mobina .png

The Seen and the Unseen
Visual Art Exhibition

“The journey of the mind cannot be limited. Forbidden poems, forbidden words, forbidden lines, forbidden art, forbidden artists! What is the boundary between forbidden and permitted, what is the boundary between seen and unseen? Things that we cannot see might hold the answers to our questions.”

I invite you to soften the gaze, quiet the mind, allow yourself to enter a receptive state and let these artworks speak directly to your subconscious. These poems are not written to be read; they are here to be felt. I use Rumi, Hafiz, Khayyam, Forough, and other great Persian poets to transfer that collective consciousness.

For the full artist bio and statement, click here.

Visual Art by Samane .png

The Confident
Visual Art Exhibition

“The Confident” started with my interest in old restored photos of the women of my homeland from the early age of photography in Iran. Common in most of the photos was a unique feeling that these women had when they faced the cameras. These photos are of ordinary people, but there is a mysterious feeling on their faces which makes them special. I can call it “the confident.”

For the full artist bio and statement, click here.



Dina Zarif: Curator, Program Director & Project Manager
Dina is a performer, vocalist, designer, and art manager who combines Western classical singing with Middle Eastern styles inspired from her Persian roots. Some of her credits include SF International Arts Festival (May 2016 & 2018), Palace of Fine Arts (Sept 2018), the chamber opera The Passion of Leyla in San Jose, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (June 2018), and the staged reading of Layla & Majnun at BAMPFA as part of the symposium with Mark Morris Dance Group and the Silk Road Ensemble. She was the featured singer in Syria Mon Amour, Golden Thread’s 2017 celebration of International Women’s Day at Brava Theater.

As an actress, Zarif performed in three of influential Iranian playwright and director Bahram Beyzai’s plays: Ardaviraf’s Report (2015), Tarabnameh (2015-2016) as the role of Dancer/Singer, and Crossroads (2018) in the Stanford Iranian Studies department. She is also a costume designer and performer in the shadow production Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic. As the character Princess Roudabeh, she has performed at SF Cowell Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, UCLA, Harvard University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wallis Annenberg Hall, and has internationally toured in Poland, Canada, Taiwan, China, and France between 2015 and 2018.

Zarif serves as Program Director at Red Poppy Art House. She received her MA in landscape architecture from the University of Tehran, College of Fine Arts.


$45 Reserved Orchestra Red Poppy Supporter*

$35 Reserved Orchestra

$30 Reserved Mezzanine

$25 Reserved Mezzanine Student/Senior discount

* Help support the mission and programs of Red Poppy Art House with the purchase of a ticket at this level. 

<< See all upcoming events