About

 

Electro-acoustic world music ensemble steeped in the Middle East, Balkans and beyond…

Stellamara began when vocalist Sonja Drakulich followed her vision and 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 co-writer and cellist Rufus Cappodocia, they weave together a bridge of unity as they collaborate with an array of inspired musicians. Their music unveils the deep relationship between seemingly disparate cultures while surpassing any confines of tradition.
Through the use of makam (traditional Middle Eastern modal scales and melodic structure) Stellamara’s strong connection to cultural origin is clear, yet they gracefully blend musical forms with both a passionate, highly personal aesthetic and subtle, otherworldly ambiance.
With two critically acclaimed CDs, several compilations and independent film scores, Stellamara is now at the forefront in creating highly innovative performances and recordings. They are internationally regarded as a new model in contemporary world music and have developed as an everexpanding vehicle, revealing sublime new levels of mystery, beauty and depth.
Sonja Drakulich was born of Serbian and Hungarian decent and raised primarily in an Armenian district of Los Angeles. She sought out the study of Eastern European singing on her own in as a teenager, and its expression quickly became, for her, a homecoming. She began performing Balkan and Medieval European music and 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 currently continues her studies with both Tatiana and the renowned Bulgarian vocalist Tsvetanka Varimezova. Sonja has toured extensively with Bulgarian and Turkish ensembles and has produced and engineered several recordings and independent film scores. 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 is the founder of Stellamara and performs with the group as the lead vocalist, percussionist and hammered dulcimer player. Throughout her 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. He toured with the Mevlevi Dervish Order of America for several years, and continues to participate in Turkish ceremonial and devotional gatherings around the country. 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 and soulfully 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.
Stellamara’s newest co-writer and instrumentalist is cellist Rufus Cappadocia. Rufus was first introduced to the cello in Hamilton, Ontario at age three through the Suzuki method. By age 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 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 afield as Jimi Hendrix, rhythmic and melodic patterns of west African music, the phraseology of Balkan folk music, 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 work, where all of these elements combine harmoniously in a distinctly original and individual way.”
On stage and in the studio, Stellamara incorporates the talents of the following extraordinary musicians: Arabic and Balkan percussionists Tobias Roberson and Faisal Zedan, clarinet and ney player Peter Jaques and violinist Briana Waters.
Tobias Roberson is widely recognized as a prodigy of percussion. He began his percussion training at age 14 with the UC Santa Barbara Middle Eastern Ensemble. When learning the classical forms of Egyptian music with unusual speed and proficiency he was introduced to Souhail Kaspar, who became his teacher for the next several years. By age 17, he was invited on staff as an instructor at the East European Folklife Center’s Balkan Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino, where he has taught for the last 5 years. Tobias has studied classical Arabic and Turkish percussion in both Cairo and in Istanbul and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area performing with a large collection of dance troupes and music ensembles.
Faisal Zedan embodies the elements essential to Arabic drumming: impeccable technique combined with an inherent understanding of the complexities of Middle Eastern musical structures. From the classical Mowashahat style to simpler folkloric or fusion genres, his unique approach mixes thousands of years of tradition with pure emotion and a contemporary feel. Born in Syria, Faisal grew up obsessed with the derbakki. At the age of fifteen he learned what he could from the only local drummer in the village. He then began to teach himself to play by listening to and reproducing the rhythms he heard on both Classical and Arabic pop recordings. His tireless practicing soon made him proficient on the instrument and he began experimenting with playing both the riqq and the frame drum, both of which he mastered quickly. After coming to California in 1992, he met UCLAs noted ethnomusicology professor Dr. Ali Jihad Racy, as well as renowned Arabic percussionist Souhail Kaspar, and was asked to join the acclaimed UCLA Near East Music Ensemble. Zedan soon thereafter became a founding member of Near East music group Kan Zaman. Since 1996, Zedan has played and studied with artists and musicians from all over the globe, including Julian Weiss of the Syrian Al Kindi Ensemble and George Sawa, a music professor and Qanun player residing in Canada. Faisal is also a founding member of the Youm It Talaata percussion group.
Peter Jaques has been a bright star of the Near Eastern music scene since 1995. Founding member of the Brass Menagerie Balkan Brass Band, as well as the legendary Gonnifs klezmer band, Peter has performed and/or recorded with many notable groups, including the Toids, the San Francisco Klezmer Experience, the pickPocket Ensemble, and Ara Anderson’s Iron & the Albatross in San Francisco, as well as Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band, Zagnut Cirkus Orkestar, and Uzaylilar in New York. He has studied clarinet with Lefteris Bournias, Ivo Papasov, Yuri Yunakov, Goce Dimovski, Beth Custer, and Christos Govetas, Turkish music with Sinan Erdemsel, and Arabic music & nay with Dr. Qadri Sourour in Cairo. Peter is an uniquely sensitive wind player expressing both soulful virtuosity and simplicity, similar to the renouned Turkish clarinetist: Barbaros Erköse.

Together, the musicians of Stellamara express profound devotion and passion for the great muse, the Star of the Sea. They evoke for the listener the lost gardens of Shalimar, the mysterious landscapes of the Caucasus, and the transcendent whirling of Rumi’s dervishes, revealing the poetic yearning that lies within

.

Portrait of Stellamara

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