As we started to plan this year’s Rumi Festival, I immediately thought of inviting Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang to perform, and was overjoyed when they accepted our invitation.
Currently living in the LA area, Seattle locals for many years before that, they are gifted exponents of classical Persian music, among other forms. This stirring music is deeply interwoven with Persian mystical poetry, especially the work of Hafiz and Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi.
I discovered Jessika at her remarkable concert appearances with her teacher Hossein Omoumi; I’d known of Eyvind through his wide-ranging work as a violist with Bill Frisell, Laurie Anderson, and other artists. When I caught a Follklife performance by local Kurdish-Persian ensemble Kamand featuring Jessika, I was surprised to find Eyvind accompanying the group, playing the beautiful and subtle setar. Later I was transported by Jessika and Eyvind’s contemporary, Persian-inflected performance art at the Frye Art Museum.
Exploring the work of these two, individually and together, I’ve been impressed by their verve, versatility, discipline, and creativity. Meeting them personally at community events, I’ve experienced them as warm and unassuming dervishes. They are outstanding contributors to an emerging musical/spiritual culture where labels and boundaries melt in the fire of love.