Axiom of Choice

Cross-cultural Fusion Group

Niya Yesh
By Axiom of Choice
Niya Yesh - Axiom of Choice

By Axiom Of Choice
Unfolding - Axiom of Choice

The Road
By Mamak Khadem, Mino Cinelu, Jorge Strunz, Ardeshir Farah
The Road - Mamak Khadem

A Window To Color
By Mamak Khadem
A Window to Color - Mamak Khadem

“ . . . one of the wonders of World Trance Music” - LA Times.

 “Near Eastern art music, deeply moving and utterly beautiful” - by Rhythm Magazine.

"Beyond Denial displays a unique & dynamic artistic vision ... the free-flowing style fits with the groups of similar nature like Dead Can Dance, Vas, Stellamara and others carving new World terrain. A marvelous group of artists." - Lloyd Barde, Backroads - Heartbeats

"Beyond Denial" displays a unique and dynamic artistic vision. " ...A strong new vocal textures, excellent musicianship...Axiom of Choice may well move into the front ranks of experimental world music"   - CMJ.

"With their first album, Beyond Denial, Axiom of Choice offers up a revision of Persian classical music more accessible to ears attuned to Western pop, folk and soundtrack music. Along with standard Persian instruments like the tar and tombak (and the Kurdish daf), the group features synthesized bass and two Western acoustic guitars, one rigged with extra frets so that it can play the quartertones of Persian scales.
The centerpiece of the album is "Desert Storm," a 13-minute song expressing the anguish of the Gulf War. Mamak Khadem sings her wordless ululations over much of the track, and Shahram Hashemi's tar offers an anxious and angry solo, both backed by the locomotive sounds of Pejman Hadadi's daf. It's a powerful piece, rather reminiscent of Hossein Alizadeh's Song of Compassion, but the power is spread out, and one must be patient for its arrival. While a few other pieces are somewhat interesting ("Whisper" actually sounds like Dead Can Dance), most of the tracks are unfortunately just exercises for the quartertone guitarist or the vocalist -- Persian jam sessions, as it were. The group has a hold on a powerful concept; let's hope they can develop it further." AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner

Axiom Of Choice

Persian émigrés  (Mamak Khadem, Pejman Hadadi, Ramin Torkian) and American compatriots who have molded a sound that combines Middle Eastern melodies and rhythmic structures with progressive Western concepts. Their music features exotic and sensuous traditionally-styled Persian soaring female vocals  (by Mamak Khadem), Middle Eastern and African percussion, Persian tar, nylon string guitar (performed by Yussi), and a unusual quarter tone guitar that enables them to play the Persian modal scales that are unique to their music. Rooted in the Radif (the repertoire of classical Persian music), yet not restricted to the boundaries of tradition,

Mamak Khadem

One of the wonders of world trance music - The Los Angeles Times, Mamak Khadem captivates audiences by blending her roots in the ancient poetry and music of the Persian masters with a bold and revolutionary new sound. Mamak weaves a canopy, both simple and rich, for a stunningly emotional and spiritual musical experience that inspires new listeners to embrace cultural diversity and an awareness and appreciation of Persian arts and culture through a blending of old and new. Living in Los Angeles, and continues to perform all over the world. She has features in Plays, Film and Television. She also conducts workshops and classes in classical Persian music. (please visit her official website for more information)

Pejman Hadadi

Pejman Hadadi original member of Axiom of Choice is the finest Iranian percussionist living in the United States. He's a much sought after Persian tombak and daf player to accompany the rare masters of Traditional Persian Music. Daf, the traditional frame drum of Kurdish music, is played in a very unique way. Pejman Hadadi has toured with Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Shahram Nazeri, and is the premier percussionist member of the Dastan Ensemble. (please visit his official website for more information)

The first album “Beyond Denial” was described as “Near Eastern art music, deeply moving and utterly beautiful” by Rhythm. The second release “Niya Yesh” became the winner of NAV’s best contemporary world music album in 2001. They were nominated Best Recombinant World Music Ensemble in 2001 by the LA Weekly Music Awards.  The third album “Unfolding,” is inspired by the Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer Omar Khayam and embraces his mystical poetry and vision.

Ramin Torkian

Beyond Denial.jpg

Album Details:

Beyond Denial (Faray-e Enkaar)

Style/Genre: World Trance/World Fusion
Instrumentation: Vocals, Quarter Tone Guitar, Nylon String Guitar, Tar, Tarbass, Daf, Tombak, Nagada, Bass, Drums


I have become a fugitive from the body, fearful as to the spirit; I swear I know not - I belong neither to this not to that - Rumi



1. Valeh 4:07
2. Pulse 0:58
3. Rhythm Riddle 4:48
4. Kaef 5:27
5. Desert Storm 12:51
6. Whisper 8:40
7. Panj 5:18
8. Kashmir 2:27
9. Moon Light 1:33

Item # CD 1002-2


Mamak Khadem: vocals 
Pejman Hadadi: daf, tombak, nagada
Ramin Torkian: quarter tone guitar, vocal nylon string guitar, tarbass
Yussi P. Wenger: nylon string guitar 
Shahram Hashemi: tar, tarbass, vocals 
Mohammad Mohsenzadeh: tombak, synthesized bass
Steven Graham: drums

Producer: Ramin Torkian 
Co-producer: Aldoush Alpanian 
Executive Producers: X DOT 25 Music 
Art Director: Babak Torkian 
Cover Design: Babak Torkian 
Text: Ellen Sinatra 
Photography: Fereshteh Saghafi & Carla Cummings 
Recorded at: Scotland Yard & Studio 42nd Studio 
Recording Engineers: Yousef Shahab & Mark Hermann 
Digital Processing: Silent Sounds 
Mastered at: Rocket Lab, San Francisco
Mastering Engineer: Paul Stubblebine

Special Thanks to: Valdez Guitar Store, Steve Harvey, Ellen Sinatra, Kamran Fallahpoor, Fereshteh Saghafi, Jalal Fatemi

Axiom of Choice
There is an exciting and profound artistic value in the mathematical principle, Axiom of Choice. The mathematician has the right to choose elements without explanation. In a world where everything must be explained, these choices are voluntary and do not need explanation. As a group of émigré artists, we choose to express ourselves in music, no longer bound by the traditions of Persian music. Yet in its very depth, our music comes from that tradition.

"Beyond Denial" is the first project in the Axiom of Choice series. We have risked altering techniques of sound production to create new sounds. The vocal expressions capture emotions such as agony, fear, tranquillity and modesty, usually not expressed with such force. Quarter-tone frets were added to the guitar, widening the range and making it possible to play the Persian Radif in new ways. The Tar is played with spontaneous rhythmic structures and melodic integrity, to freely express the emotions and thoughts evoked by images. It is in these ways that this work is also an expression of young contemporary Iranian artists in the Western community.

Quarter tone guitar: 
As a guitarist, I found the nylon string guitar to have the warmth and haunting sound required for the middle eastern music. Quarter tones are part of the Persian modal scale and therefore cannot be played by simply bending the strings. The value of the quarter tones and the half tones (in special cases) would change from one modal scale to another. This meant, in this case, that the fixed frets normally found on the guitar were too limiting. I decided to replace the steel frets with gut frets, adding twelve more to produce the quarter tones. Therefore, it is a special feature of this guitar that the modal scales can begin from any note, without changing the tuning.

There is a wealth of techniques for guitar available that can be used in Persian music to produce new textures and sounds. One includes finger picking, which allows the player to play different drones, which results in a wide range of overtones. By letting some notes ring, new intervallic relationships are created which embody new tensions and new energies.

I am excited about the possibilities of this new instrument. I hope that it will be adapted to other forms of Middle Eastern music.

This project began over three years ago by myself and M. Mohsenzadeh. The first prototypes were the result of series of long discussions, research and extensive experimentation. It quickly became clear to us that this project was very promising, yet it required more research and experimentation to become mature. We laid out the principles important in the direction of this project:

1. We would use simple, artistic concepts -- not Western harmonies. We felt that randomness and chaos in confined form could generate harmonious patterns in melodies and sound.

2. Music becomes bold and effective when stated in a direct manner. In order to achieve that, we decided to reduce the ornamentation and emphasize the main structures.

3. Musical texture must be rhythmically dynamic, which means it must have at least two levels of complexity, from gross to subtle. It must feel natural, yet be challenging and coherent.

4. Melodies should not only sound Persian, but in their very depth, should come from the Radif (the repertoire of the classical Persian music.) 5. We are committed to capturing the vision within the music, not the melodic structures of the Gusheh (melodic structures within the Radif.) That meant we altered these melodies where necessary.

6. The poetic images inspired and assisted the musicians in the creation of these compositions. It is our hope that these images are captured in the music, and then transmitted to the audience.

"Desert Storm" is a central piece in the project which captures the fierce images and intense emotions of this horrible occurrence. The war was the climax of the destruction that had taken place in the region for the last twelve years -- an extremely tragic and fearful event which touched me deeply. The poem "Hast Shab" is modern form of the poetry in Iran, with desert imagery that presents powerful metaphors for death and destruction. As the musicians internalized these images, their contributions transformed the composition. As such, the piece became a dynamic reflection of our shared experiences.

"Mitaravad Mahtab" is the result of three readings of the poem, randomly superimposed upon one another. It is my own inner rhythms that bind them together. In this process, the phrases were distorted, creating an unexpected emphasis on certain words and a re-creation of the poetic images. I hope that this freshness will penetrate into deeper realms, bypassing rational interpretations.

This project became complete with contributions from all the musicians, who brought with them their distinctive knowledge, techniques, and creativity. They were willing to take chances and risk going beyond their usual musical expectations.

Ramin Torkian - 1994


Axiom of Choice: Beyond Denial

For many of us, the Gulf War was a brief, disturbing blip on the radar screen of our nation's history. Axiom of Choice, a group of Persian immigrants now living in California, are here to remind us that for those who lived through it, that first month of 1991 was cataclysmic - the culmination of more than a decade of senseless bloodshed in the region.

The principal members of this talented 7-member band are all well-versed in classical Persian music, and though the melodies and rhythms of Radif - the Persian classical repertoire - saturate their brooding, deeply moving disc, they are by no means slaves to tradition. Call it experimental Near Eastern art music, infused with overtones of Sufism, not to mention ripping percussion. Leader/guitarist Ramin Torkian plays a nylon-stringed classical guitar, retooled with movable frets, so he can approximate the untempered intervals of Persian music. The effect is utterly beautiful, as is the voice of Mamak Khadem, which rings out through the album like a crystalline bell of despair and pain. On the opening track, "Valeh," she's multitracked over Torkian's descending arpeggios, her "voices" hovering and quivering like unquiet souls suddenly released from this troubled plane.

Beyond Denial is a fine first effort - a chronicle of armed conflict in both the inner and outer worlds. It's heavy stuff, though the group does lighten it up a bit on "Rhythm Riddle," a sort of Brazilian Jazz meets Eastern classical romp. Again, Mamak Khadem's voice shines here like a rare, precious stone. I look forward to hearing more from Axiom of Choice and other artists on the curiously-named X Dot 25 label.

Erik Goldman, Rhythm Music

Valeh - Beyond Denial - Axiom of Choice 

Lyrics - Words
Transliterated to English From Farsi/Persian - (English Translation)

Lead Vocals: Mamak Khadem
Backing Vocals: Shahram Hashemi

Bi Hamegaan Be Sar Shavad (Life goes on without any one)
Bi To Besar Nemishavad (Without you life can not go on)

Daghe To Daarad In Delam (My heart burns longing you) 
Jaaye Degar Nemishavaad (Can not go anywhere else) 
Jaaye Degar Nemishavaad (Can not go anywhere else)

Gaah Sooye Rahaa Raavee (At times you go towards freedom)
Gaah Soyee Jaafaa Raavee (At times you go towards infidility)
Aaneh Manee (You are mine)
Kojaa Raavee (Where are you going)
Aaneh Manee (You are mine)
Kojaa Raavee (Where are you going)
Bi To Besar Nemishavaad (Without you life can not go on)
Bi To Besar Nemishavaad
.(Without you life can not go on)

Male Vocals:
Gaah Sooye Rahaa Raavee
GaahSoyee Jaafaa Raavee
Aaneh Manee, Kojaa Raavee
Aaneh Manee, Kojaa Raavee
Bi To Besar Nemishavaad

Del Benahand (They put their heart in it)
Toobeh Konaand (They promise and ask for mercy)
Beshkanee (You brake)

Del Benahand(They put their heart in it)
Toobeh Konaand (They promise and ask for mercy)
Beshkanee (You brake)

In Hameh Khod To Mekoni (So much about you) 
In Hameh Khod To Mekoni (So much about you) 
Bi To Besar Nemishavad
 (Without you life can not go on)

Ahhhhhhhhh Yaaeeeee Yaaaaaaa ...........

Gaar To Saree Ghadam Shavam (If I come to you) 
Vaar To Kaafee Alaam Shavaam (If for you I raise my hand)

Vaar Beravi Adam Shavam (If you go, I will not have it)
Bi To Besar Neeeemishavad
 (Without you life can not go on)

Neeeemishavaaaad. (Will not happen!)

بی همگان به سر شود بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود داغ تو دارد این دلم جای دگر نمی‌شود
گاه سوی وفا روی گاه سوی جفا روی آن منی کجا روی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
دل بنهند برکنی توبه کنند بشکنی این همه خود تو می‌کنی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود 
گر تو سری قدم شوم ور تو کفی علم شوم ور بروی عدم شوم بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود

More of the Poem not in this song:

Bi hamegaan be sar shavad bito be sar nemishavad
Daaghe to daarad in delam jaaie degar nemishavad
Bito baraie shaa'eri vaajhe khabar nemishavad
Boghze dobaare didanat az to be dar nemishavad
Fekre residane be to fekre residane be man
Az to be khod resideam in ke safar nemishavad

Delam agar be daste to be neizeiee neshaan shavad
Baraaie zakhme neizeat sine separ nemishavad
Saburio tahamolam hamishe poshte shishe haa
Panjere joz be boghze to abrio tar nemishavad
Sabure khube khaanegi sharike zajjehaaye man
Khandeie fasle budanam zange khatar nemishavad
Haadeseie yeki shodan haadeseiee saade nabud
Marde to joz to az kesi ziro zebar nemishavad
Be fekre sar sepordanam be etemaade shaaneat
Gereye bakhshaayeshe man ke bi samar nemishavad
Hamishegi tarine man laaleie naazanine man
Biaa ke joz be range to degar sahar nemishavad

بی همگان به سر شود بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود داغ تو دارد این دلم جای دگر نمی‌شود
دیده عقل مست تو چرخه چرخ پست تو گوش طرب به دست تو بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
جان ز تو جوش می‌کند دل ز تو نوش می‌کند عقل خروش می‌کند بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
خمر من و خمار من باغ من و بهار من خواب من و قرار من بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
جاه و جلال من تویی ملکت و مال من تویی آب زلال من تویی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
گاه سوی وفا روی گاه سوی جفا روی آن منی کجا روی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
دل بنهند برکنی توبه کنند بشکنی این همه خود تو می‌کنی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
بی تو اگر به سر شدی زیر جهان زبر شدی باغ ارم سقر شدی بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
گر تو سری قدم شوم ور تو کفی علم شوم ور بروی عدم شوم بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
خواب مرا ببسته‌ای نقش مرا بشسته‌ای وز همه‌ام گسسته‌ای بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
گر تو نباشی یار من گشت خراب کار من مونس و غمگسار من بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
بی تو نه زندگی خوشم بی‌تو نه مردگی خوشم سر ز غم تو چون کشم بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود
هر چه بگویم ای سند نیست جدا ز نیک و بد هم تو بگو به لطف خود بی‌تو به سر نمی‌شود