Electro-Acoustic / Eastern European / Near Eastern / World Music Ensemble
Original, otherworldly music birthed from the sea foam of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas, steeped in the timelessness of love worn tales and fables of old and new
Electro-acoustic world music ensemble steeped in the Middle East, Balkans, and beyond…
Internationally acclaimed world music ensemble Stellamara premiers new electro-acoustic sets emphasizing their signature passionate rhythms and eastern melodies with dramatic orchestral sections, otherworldly ambience and deep bass grooves. Evolving for over a decade of recording and performing, Stellamara unites world-renowned musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds in a shared devotion for folk and classical music rooted in Near Eastern, Eastern European, Medieval European, Arabic and Persian traditions. Stellamara is regarded as being at the forefront of contemporary world music, giving new life and a fresh, modern expression to the beautiful and mysterious qualities of traditional modal music.
At Stellamara’s core is vocalist and producer Sonja Drakulich and multi-instrumentalist Gari Hegedus. Their ensemble includes an all-star cast of musicians: clarinetist and ney player, Peter Jaques (of Brass Menazeri), percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, Evan Fraser, Turkish percussionist Sean Tergis, Arabic percussionist Faisal Zedan, and their newest member, producer, sound designer and multi- instrumentalist, EO (of Gamelan X and Brass Menazeri)
Stellamara began when vocalist / producer Sonja Drakulich created a vehicle for the development of devotional music based in Near Eastern and medieval modal traditions. Extraordinary musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds have since come together within the vessel of Stellamara, creating music with a common intention: to celebrate love, beauty and unity through transcendent harmony and passionate rhythms. Rooted in Turkish, Arabic, Balkan, Medieval European and Persian musical traditions, Stellamara carries a deep devotion to the music of these cultures with a unique timeless expression.
At Stellamara’s core are Sonja Drakulich and multi-instrumentalist Gari Hegedus.Together with the musicians and collaborators of Stellamara, they are internationally regarded as being at the forefront of contemporary world music, giving new life and a fresh, modern expression to the beautiful and mysterious qualities of traditional modal music.
Stellamara’s founder and Producer, Sonja Drakulich, was born of Serbian and Hungarian decent and raised in Los Angeles. She sought out the study of Eastern European singing on her own as a young girl, and its expression quickly became, for her, a homecoming. She began performing Balkan and Medieval European music as well as her own compositions at the age of 18. At that time she also began her studies in classical Hindustani and Persian singing, and later continued to expand her voice through Turkish, Greek and Arabic singing. She was adopted as protégé by the legendary Bulgarian vocalist Tatiana Sarbinska at the age of 20, and continued her studies with both Tatiana and the renowned Bulgarian vocalist Tsvetanka Varimezova. She has toured with the Mevlevi Dervishes as a singer and percussionist and has provided music for Sufi gatherings and devotional events around the country. She toured Indonesia in 2006 as part of the Gamelan theater group, Situbanda, where she performed a lead role in a contemporary rendition the Ramayana. Her voice and music can be heard in many independent films and she has been sought after by composers, producers re-mixers, as well as the extraordinary Cirque du Soloeil, for lead roles in their productions. Throughout her successes as performer and producer, and throughout her continued studies, Sonja has maintained a voice that is unique, reverent and exquisite. She is not confined by any one tradition, and uses her voice with the freedom of a soaring musical instrument. In her voice, one can hear her center residing in the devotional aspect of song, as she carries within her a signature passionate and rhythmic style, graced with the delicate ornamentations of Eastern melody.
Gari Hegedus began devoting his life to music with the study of Celtic and Bretagne music. From there he was led eastward into the intense practice and performance of Turkish classical and Mevlevi ceremonial music and he toured with the Mevlevi Dervish Order of America for several years. Gari is widely sought after as a highly accomplished and versatile recording and performing artist. His repertoire and playing styles reach outward from Turkey and Greece into the Arab lands, Iran and India. Gari began his musical career with fiddle and mandolin, and had devoted a decade of his life to the violin before learning of his ancestral Hungarian name, Hegedus, meaning “violinist.” Gari’s main instruments are the oud, violin, saz and mandocello, yet his talent is also proficiently expressed on many other instruments, including the yayli tanbur, sarod and setar. Being largely self taught, with an insatiable drive for the discovery of new depths and intricacies of playing, he asserts a distinctive talent for capturing the delicate essence of traditional music, offering a passionate, heartfelt uniqueness and freedom of expression. As a composer and performer, Gari has developed the art of taksim (improvisation) to a deeply soulful level for which he has become highly recognized. He is co-founder of the beautiful musical duo “Teslim” with violinist and composer, Kaila Flexer.
Stellamara’s co-writer and instrumentalist is cellist, Rufus Cappadocia. Rufus was first introduced to the cello in Ontario at the age of three through the Suzuki method. By the age of six, he had begun his studies with the renowned Czech cellist, Zdenick Konicek. Throughout his training in classical music, Rufus was increasingly inspired to find a voice that would transcend cultural and stylistic boundaries. After years of experimentation, he now plays a self-designed five string electric cello in which he creates an entire world of sound completely transformative to the listener. He expresses a mastery of the cello with a passion and intensity that has led him to perform with some of the greatest contemporary musicians, including Ross Daly, Odetta, Vishal Vaid, Adoulai Diabate, Esma Redzepova, Theodossi Spassoff and Tamalalou, as well as The Black Rock Coalition, Vernon Reid, and the legendary Aretha Franklin. In the words of Ross Daly: “In Rufus’s playing, one can clearly discern the influences deriving from as far a field as Jimi Hendrix, rhythmic and melodic patterns of west African music, the phraseology of Balkan work, Cretan lyra technique as well as innumerable other influences, all of which point to a deep extended relationship within a rich variety of musical traditions. Particularly noteworthy is his improvisational, original and individual way.”
Stellamara’s clarinetist and net player is Peter Jaques. Peter has been celebrated in the Bay Area Near Eastern music scene since 1995, for his innovative meld of traditional Balkan Rom, Greek, Turkish, & klezmer styles with his own deeply soulful approach. He performs principally on the Bb clarinet & Egyptian nay (reed flute), as well as rotary-valve flugelhorn, alto saxophone, & Turkish G clarinet. Peter directs the Brass Menažeri Balkan Brass Band, winner of the SF Weekly’s Reader’s Choice Award (2008). He also performs with several San Francisco world music ensembles: Black Olive Babes, Rumen Sali Shopov’s Orkestar Sali, and Gamelan X. Peter is highly regarded for his thorough knowledge and skills in Turkish, Greek and Eastern European styles, as well as his exceptional musical sensitivity and passionate expression on his instrument.
On stage and in the studio, Stellamara incorporates the talents of the following extraordinary musicians: Arabic and Balkan percussionists Faisal Zedan and Evan Fraser, along with their newest member, producer, multi instrumentalist and sound designer, EO.
“The power in the music is obvious from the opening tones… Listening to Stellamara is a new experience of mystical fables, deep soulful voices, rhythms from the core of the earth and expansive waves of music that ebb and flow as they penetrate through and beyond the listeners spirit into unseen horizons barely even imagined.” ––Backroads Music