"A roving musical laboratory without walls."

Boston Globe

New Music
Silkroad Ensemble
Heros Take Their Stands
A Cal Performances Co-commission

Ahmad Sadri, creator
Colin Jacobsen and Kayhan Kalhor, music directors

"To live successfully in a cosmopolitan society, we must develop skills to see another's culture as our own."
—Ahmad Sadri, creator, folklorist

With the bold new project Heroes Take Their Stands, the Grammy-winning Silkroad Ensemble engages with the social and political turmoil of our time, asking us: What does it mean to take a stand in a moment of moral uncertainty? What does an everyday hero look like? And how can an ordinary person make a difference? The program tells the stories of five heroic figures from diverse cultures—from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, to Elektra from Greek mythology, to Arjuna from Hindu epic poetry—through five new works commissioned from members and friends of the ensemble, each composer working with artists in other media. Collaborating partners include Bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer Aparna Ramaswamy (working with Colin Jacobsen) and puppeteer/filmmaker Hamid Rahmanian (working with Kayhan Kalhor).

For years, sociologist Ahmad Sadri has been thinking about what it means to be caught between two value systems, a universal struggle that has created unexpected heroes across our history and fiction. He wanted to capture the exquisite drama of this moral borderland, but he wasn't sure how.

"The enormity of it," Ahmad says, "defies human language." So, he turned to his friend Kayhan Kalhor, the playmate of his childhood in Tehran who had become a master of the kemancheh (an Iranian bowed string instrument).

The five-part piece they conceived together is borne from collaborations across media, layering dance, video, puppetry, and recorded voice over Silkroad Ensemble instruments to explore paragons of citizenship across time and space.

Like all of Silkroad's work, Heroes explores the habits fundamental to living in a democratic society and an inclusive world: curiosity, empathy, and collaboration.


Pauchi Sasaki, composer
Nomi Sasaki, co-direction, script, art design, and Chinese black ink animation
Juan Carlos Yanaura, co-direction, animation, and post production
Omar Lavalle, 3D scanning and sculpture design

Snow in June: Dou E
Zhao Lin, composer

Arjuna's Revelation
Colin Jacobsen, composer
Aparna Ramaswamy, choreographer

Moderato 400 [Martin Luther King, Jr]
Jason Moran, composer
Lucy Raven, video

The Prince of Sorrows [Siavosh]
Kayhan Kalhor, composer
Hamid Rahmanian, designer and director
Qmars Kamali, animation
Syd Fini, illustrator
Mohsen Ebadi, calligrapher

Recorded music by:
Navid Afghah, tombak
Siamak Jahangiri, nay
Amir Mardaneh, vocals


Related Events

Fri, May 3, 2019, 5pm
Morrison Room, Doe Library
"Heroes Take Their Stands": Commentary. The Tang Center for Silk Road Studies presents a session on the Silkroad Ensemble's Heroes Take Their Stands program at its Annual Silk Road Conference, which focuses on Indo-Iranian and Sino-Iranian encounters in Central Asia.

Ahmad Sadri, creator of the Silkroad Ensemble's Heroes Take Their Stands program, and additional panelists discuss the creation of and specific works on the program.

Major support for public programs provided by Bank of America.

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Program Notes

Program notes will be available approximately one week before the performance.