Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Dara Anissi Ensemble to perform at the Saranac Fire Hall on Nov. 19 and 20

The Dara Anissi Ensemble performs two shows at the Saranac Fire Hall on Route 3 in Saranac, New York on Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 20 at 3 p.m. The Hall opens 30 minutes prior
to the show; admission is $20 at the door. Seating is open and club-style at tables. Tables may be reserved for parties of six or eight. The Dara Anissi Ensemble has deep roots in Middle Eastern culture. Two of its members, Dara Anissi and Martin Shamoonpour, hail originally from Tehran, Iran. The third member, Nikolai Ruskin, originally from San Francisco, has made a lifetime study of Middle Eastern music. The trio now resides in Ithaca and Brooklyn, New York, both places hotbeds of diverse genres of music and creativity. They have been inspired to create a new body of work which they are eager to share, along with ancient traditional tunes.

The Dara Anissi Ensemble is a group of old friends who have been playing together for years in various incarnations and configurations. All three were part of Journey West, a group performing music from around the Mediterranean Rim, including North Africa and the Middle East, as well as Eastern and Western Europe. Dara and Nikolai are longtime members of the Middle Eastern music group Souk, while Dara and Martin have also played together as a duo. This current trio plays original music written by Anissi, whose influences are drawn from Persian, Arab, and Turkic music, as well as Celtic, classical music, and rock. The oud is the featured melodic instrument, accompanied by frame drums (daf and riq) and dumbek, as well as violin and the end-blown flute called the Ney. The pieces are mainly instrumental, taking the listener through stories, moods, and soundscapes. Playing together is an absolute joy for these three, as their deep friendships connect them musically.

Photo provided by Angela Brown of Hill and Hollow Music.

Meet the Artists of The Dara Anissi Ensemble:

Dara Anissi was born in Tehran, Iran in 1973 and came to the US at age two, becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. He began playing guitar at five and has never stopped, exploring genres of rock, classical, jazz, and Celtic music, as well as delving into his ancestral music. Dara has played in numerous bands, configurations, and special projects, including The Hog-Tie Sessions, Journey West, Souk, and the Mutron Warriors. His music can be heard on many platforms including Spotify. He received a bachelor’s degree in music composition at Ithaca College and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Northeastern University. He has taught music for 22 years at the Lehman Alternative Community School (grades 6-12) in Ithaca. Dara took up the oud in 2000 after hearing the deep and mesmerizing sound produced by such artists as Simon Shaheen, Hamza Al Din, and Naseer Shamma. He believes his oud and guitar playing are an amalgamation of all his musical experiences creatively expressed through his persona.


Nikolai Ruskin is a composer and multi-instrumentalist specializing in Middle Eastern music. Nikolai grew up in the San Francisco Bay area as a visual artist and illustrator, and discovered his interest in music at age 22. Upon discovering percussion instruments of the Middle East, he began intensive study of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian traditional music, as well as classical Indian rhythms. Within one year of setting out on this path, Nikolai began teaching percussion and was soon exploring the melodic instruments of the Middle East. He is now a recognized educator on Middle Eastern instruments including the oud, nai, mizmar, riq, darbuka and daf. Nikolai co-founded the Cornell Middle Eastern Music Ensemble in 2002 and was musical director of the group until 2006. He resumed teaching Middle Eastern music at Cornell in the fall of 2018.


Martin Shamoonpour is an autodidactic multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, and visual artist from Tehran. As a teenager averse to schoolteachers, he began teaching himself daf, tombak, flute, and
Iranian folk woodwind instruments, eventually performing in galleries and theaters throughout Iran. Shamoonpour has composed and performed music for close to thirty theater productions in the City Theater of Tehran and has written, directed and performed his own one-man-show, Qatinu the Hero at many of Iran’s most prominent artistic theaters. Always looking to explore new avenues of creativity, Shamoonpour has released three experimental music albums, including 8-Bit (2014), which features 8-bit versions of Iranian folk music and Tehransaranieh, (2010, Hermes Records) which combines the “concrète” sounds of city life with ambient music and traditional instruments. He has produced various audio art installations for the Parkingallery, Fravahrgallery, Tehran House of Artists, and Laleh Art Gallery in Iran. In 2015 Shamoonpour left Iran and now tours with Journey West, a traditional Eastern music ensemble. Shamoonpour began acting in Tehran’s vibrant theater scene in his twenties, appearing in over twenty theater productions and rubbing elbows with some of Iran’s most notable thespians. His talent and humor led him to supporting actor roles in four feature-length films, including the award-winning Melbourne (2014) and Bending the Rules (2013). In 2010 Shamoonpour relocated to Germany, where he acted in Berlin’s popular Charivari Circus. In December 2018, after moving to the United States, Shamoonpour did a two-month stay at New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse, in the Off-Broadway play “The Jungle,” with acclaimed director Stephen Daldry. Martin Shamoonpour holds a degree in Graphic Design from Tehran’s University of Science and Culture and creates mixed-media artworks that reflect his experiences in his old and new homes. He also creates stop-motion animations, CD artwork, and acrylic paintings as an artist-for-hire, and as gifts for friends and family.


Current public health guidelines will be followed at the performances. For further information and to reserve a table, please telephone (518) 293-7613, e-mail or visit


This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts.


Photo at top: The artists of The Dara Anissi Ensemble. Photo provided by Angela Brown of Hill and Hollow Music.

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