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Crossing Boundaries Concert 6: Sufi Music, Dance & Poetry

June 28, 2019 @ 8:15 pm - 9:30 pm EDT

$20 – $30

CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing) presents CROSSING BOUNDARIES Concert Series Vol. 6:  SUFI MUSIC, DANCE & POETRY, curated by Lâle Sayoko, with live music by Tomchess (ney, USA) and Kamyar Arsani (daf and vocals, Iran) and whirling (Sufi dance) by members of the CRS Sufi dance community.

We invite you into our circle to commune with the divine through the ecstatic music, dance, and poetry of Sufism, a pathway to union with God made famous by Islamic mystics such as Rumi. Sufis say that sound originates in the soul and that the soul, before its incarnation, is sound. Sufis say also that God speaks to us through music and reminds us who we are.

Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
how it sings of separation …
Whoever has been parted from his source
longs to return to that state of union.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, The Song of the Reed, Chapter 1; trans. Kabir Helminski

This is the third of eight concerts in the series during 2019 and will take place on June 28, 2019 at 8:15 pm at CRS. Light refreshment will be served afterward.

Tickets are $25 in advance $30 at the door. Students and seniors can purchase tickets for $20. Tickets are available online at crsny.org, by phone (212-677-8621), and at CRS.


The music draws from the Mevlevi Whirling Dervish music of Anatolia and Istanbul, which in turn was influenced by Byzantine and Near Eastern musics in general. The Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes originated with Jalaludin Rumi, and the original two instruments played were Daf and Ney. It’s an ecstatic music characterized by deep rhythms, soulful melodies and soaring solos designed to function as a support for whirling, a vehicle to bring one closer to experiencing the divine which surrounds us at every moment, yet is not recognized or experienced because of mundane focus and distraction.

The whirling dance meditation of the Sufis is known as Sema or Sama and actually means “divine listening.” It is the mystical approach of practicing “listening” in order to achieve remembrance (Dhikr) of the divine spark in our heart of hearts. We empty our minds of all thoughts of the individual self as we give ourselves over to prayer and connect with a greater power, the still center within, around which we turn. Into this emptiness floods a divine fullness, which sometimes gives rise to a state known as “mystical intoxication,” a reflection of knowing and experiencing that you and I and the Divine are One. Together we can take courage and inspiration from one another and strengthen our practice.


Kamyar Arsani (daf) is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Kamyar’s musical mission is to spread cultural awareness and unity by mixing contemporary musical trends with traditional Persian folk music. A multi-instrumentalist Sufi poet, from age 7 he studied Daf (Iranian frame drum) with Master Bijan Kamkar. After mastering the Daf, Kamyar learned Kamancheh (Iranian bowed string instrument) with Master Ardeshir Kamkar and Sohrab Pournazeri. In the midst of the Green Revolution in 2009, Kamyar and his family left Iran and now reside in Washington, DC.  Kamyar’s songs and performances are very much inspired by the people of Iran and their history of struggle and protest. He produced his first solo album in 2015, entitled “No Freedom.” Kamyar also plays in two other collaborations: “Huda & Kamyar,” a Daf and Oud Duo, and “Time is Fire,” a weird world/post-punk band. Kamyar recently collaborated with Benjamin Schurr and DC’s BLIGHTRECORDS and produced an electronics-backed Daf album called “Voices in the Dark.” In the words of a reviewer: ”this isn’t so much music as it is downright spiritual. It is a movement.”

Tomchess (oud, ney, morsing) is a New York City–based multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and composer who has played and recorded with some of the most esteemed players in the improvisational scene (Dewey Redman, Butch Morris, Pharoah Sanders, Drew Gress, Ronald Shannon Jackson) as well as Moroccan sintarist Hassan Hakmoun. He has performed around the world and at New York City venues like Lincoln Center, the Turkish and Pakistani embassies, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the United Nations He has played on Grammy-nominated recordings and was awarded grants from the Turkish American Society and the Maryland Council for the Arts. In 2012 he was nominated for an Independent Music Award.

Sufi Dance Artist Lâle Sayoko lives to embody and transmit the voice of spirit through music and dance. As CRS resident Sufi Dance instructor, choreographer, performing artist, and musical curator, she loves to welcome people into this holy practice to explore and share their own divinity. After a long professional dance career, she retired to support her young daughter through a life-threatening medical crisis. Several years later she discovered that she could whirl as a form of prayer to support her daughter and began studying Sufi Dance with Paris-based Sufi Artist Rana Gorgani. In April 2018 Gorgani awarded her the International Sufi Dance Certification Of Cid UNESCO, granting her authority to teach Gorgani’s method of Sufi Dance training. She currently teaches Sufi Dance classes at CRS every first Thursday of the month from 7 – 8:30 pm and, , with CRS co-founder Christopher Pelham, leads the CRS Healing Circles + Whirling Prayer that take place every third Thursday of the month from 7:15 – 9 pm.


Now in its second year, CROSSING BOUNDARIES is a performance series devoted to creating unforgettable live art experiences that dissolve boundaries between performers and audiences, traditional and new music, and the local and the global, bringing people together and promoting the awareness that we each possess a limitless creativity inside us.

CRS has from its inception in 2004 attracted many people from abroad, and has become known for presenting healing, arts, and cultural programs from around the world and from Asia in particular. This season, which is supported by a grant from the LMCC, is curated by four outstanding artists of Asian descent:  gamin, Jen Shyu, JunYi Chow, and Lâle Sayoko. There is a long tradition of interdisciplinarity in Asian arts, where ritual practices have always involved elements of dance, theatre, improvised music, and storytelling, and this season will build on that tradition.

2019 Season Curators

gamin (Korea) 5/31, 8/9, 9/13, 10/25
JunYi Chow(Malaysia/China) 5/10
Lâle Sayoko (Japan) 6/28, 9/27 (tentative)
Jen Shyu (U.S.A. of Taiwanese and Timorese descent) 12/13

Learn about the 2019 Season Curators

View the 2019 Season Announcement

The 2019 season of CROSSING BOUNDARIES is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by LMCC. LMCC empowers artists by providing them with networks, resources, and support, to create vibrant, sustainable communities in Manhattan and beyond.

LMCC logo NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs logo



June 28, 2019
8:15 pm - 9:30 pm EDT
$20 – $30
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CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing)
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CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing)
41 E 11th St FL11
New York, NY 10003 United States
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