What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
Before moving to New York, I had been living for a long time in Japan. I started as a musician there and became owner of a music company called POP BIZ Ltd. I retired from playing music, because I got very busy as a CEO.
To escape from my work, I visited New York for a week in August 2001. In New York, I went out to hear music every night. By chance, I heard about Senegalese Afro-pop superstar Baaba Maal playing the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of Celebrate Brooklyn’s African Festival. He was the headliner of this event. Though I enjoyed Maal's music, the real highlight was hearing a track played by a DJ during intermission—Salif Keita's "Mandjou" was an emotionally-fueled song that made me fall in love with Malian music. Salif’s warm but very expressive voice and the composition of this song were so original. The song was a killer! Even nowadays, nobody in Africa sounds like him. He's my Mozart of Africa. After the concert, I felt so human. I realized that without live music my life would be nothing. I wanted to jump back on the bandwagon again.
Coming back to Japan, I found out that Salif Keita was playing at the Blue Note in Tokyo. His show was a killer and made me cry. Afterwards, I went backstage and talked with him. I told him about my business and being a retired sax player, and he couldn't believe I had stopped playing music. He invited me to play with his band the next night. I thought he was kidding, but no... I played the next night with him, and then again two more nights. What a treat! He loved the sound of my horn and made me promise to start playing again. It took me four years to give up my life in Tokyo. On July 7, 2008, I got on a plane to New York and started a new life as a full-time musician.
Thanks, Salif. I owe you a lot!
Saxophonist Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi was born in Europe to Iranian parents. He lived in Japan for awhile before coming under the spell of Malian music and moving to New York, where he studied with Ornette Coleman. All of these experiences inform his music, and tomorrow night's An die Musik concerts will include songs from his band's (SoSaLa) latest album, Nu World Trash, as well as improv pieces. Shows start at 8:00 and 9:30 pm.