Internationally acclaimed world music ensemble Stellamara premiers 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.
Stellamara is currently performing as an electro-acoustic trio, featuring vocalist and producer Sonja Drakulich, multi instrumentalist and producer Miles Jay and multi instrumentalist Evan Fraser. Stellamara also continues to perform as a full acoustic based ensemble, featuring multi-instrumentalist Gari Hegedus, and including guest musicians: percussionists Evan Fraser, Sean Tergis, and Faisal Zedan, violinist Briana Di Mara, and accordionist Dan Cantrell and cellist Rufus Cappadocia.
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. As an actively touring ensemble, 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 descent 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 toured for almost three consecutive years as lead singer, hammered dulcimer player and percussionist for the Northern European Medieval- Folk band, Faun, and completed three extensive tours throughout Europe and recorded on their top ten charted, platinum albums Von den Elben and Luna, from Universal Music. 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 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, and many cirque and dance companies 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.
Originally from Orcas Island in Washington State, Evan Fraser ( Dirtwire, Dogon Lights) is a world renowned multi-instrumentalist, performer, teacher, and recording artist currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. His teachers include: John Bergamo, Randy Gloss, Alfred & Kobla Ladzekpo, Sulley Imoro, Nyomen Wenton, Jim Santi Owen, Mark Growden, Mamadou Sidibe & Yacouba Diarra. , Evan learned to play music at an early age in Waldorf school and studied the piano. Through his love of music and the outdoors, he discovered the smaller, more portable instruments and has never stopped exploring the vast diversity of musical instruments, music cultures, their histories, and how they relate to each other. Today Evan has a collection of over 200 instruments. Each one is a unique tool, a special sound in Evan’s palate of musical expression. Keyboards, kalimbas (thumb pianos) kamale ngonis (African harps), winds, slide guitars, drums & global percussion. Evan has been collecting and playing jaw harps from around the globe for over 20 years. With a collection of over 50 jaw harps from 15 different countries, Evan enjoys sharing the many styles & techniques of playing this very small and portable instrument with everyone who wants to learn.
Miles Jay has achieved international praise for his musicianship on the Contrabass, Buzuk, and Lyra. He is also a composer and instrument maker, and an active performer with many prominent artists around the world. Broad in range of his musical influences and communities, Miles has lived abroad for years absorbing styles from many traditions, has performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi, TED 2013 Long Beach, the United Nations, and was the music director for the internationally acclaimed “Nile Project” with world tours for three consecutive years. Raised in Los Angeles, Miles is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied jazz and classical music, composition and orchestration, and earned his BA in Ethnomusicology.
Miles lived in Egypt and Lebanon, performing and collaborating with many beloved artists of the region, including Youssou N’Dour, Ziad Rahbani, Naseer Shamma, Ross Daly, and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. During this time he co-founded and co-produced several ensembles and albums, as well as traveled extensively around the region for concerts in Dubai, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Oman, Algeria, Senegal, Syria, and Western Europe. Throughout all of this valuable experience, Miles focused on re-imagining the bass’s role both as an accompanying instrumental and as a melodic lead, adapting a wide range of Arabic, Greek, and Turkish ornamentation to develop his own extended technique when playing with a bow.
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.
“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