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Kees Hoogeveen
Photo By Kees Hoogeveen

Mezrab Brings People Together

Ever wish you could travel the world and experience dozens of cultures, even if it was vicariously? Storytelling has a way of transporting people to places that exist even in the realm of fantasy or to the past with just words and music alone. If you never sat in on a storytelling night, then the Mezrab Cultural Center in Amsterdam is an opportunity for magic that you cannot pass up.


Mother’s Songs

A unique cultural experience awaits in Pakhuis Wilhelmina, an area in the eastern docklands of Amsterdam. The Mezrab was founded in 2003 by Sahand Sahebdivani, who fell in love with his mother’s songs and tales alongside the instrumentation created by his father. Sahebdivani’s passion for music and story-crafting inspired him to open up the Mezrab. Upon entering, the Wilhelmina Warehouse, you can take a seat to train your ears to the professional storytellers weaving global adventures in English and Dutch. The setting within the Mezrab Cultural Center is reminiscent of a Middle Eastern home, with ambient lighting overhead plus Persian rugs and cushions on the floor. Every night of the week is jam-packed with live performances of jazz, improvisation, and world tunes; stand-up and improvised comedy acts; as well as dance parties that light up the night. Past experiences included hosting Iranian rock bands and Brazilian samba nights.

The main goal of the Mezrab Cultural Center, however, is to help bring people together. Storytelling is a unique way that, when done correctly, can convey a message that transcends certain obstacles, such as language. The stories at the Mezrab engage the audience. There are acting elements, comedic cues, and expressions that draw in the audience and move everyone masterfully. As Sahebdivani has said, “Storytelling can be a vehicle to talk about things that are relevant today.”

Everyone Has A Story

For the most up-to-date listing of upcoming events to the Mezrab Cultural Center, you can check out the website. Doors open at 19:00, and the first events usually begin promptly at 20:00. Though entrance is free, you can make a donation to help the center (or you can indulge in some ethnic cooking and beverages). Videos are also uploaded regularly on the Cultural Center Youtube Channel. Now, let’s say that while you are watching the masterful storytellers on stage and find yourself mystified by their abilities to weave spells with just words, you might think, “I want to do that too!” At the Storytelling School, also known as MSS, you can. The school is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the world of epic storytelling, which has been a skill humans have honed since language was first created. There are three courses offered at MSS—the introduction course, intermediate course, and the professional course. Aside from the regular course offerings, the school also hosts a number of workshops to hone specific techniques or for connecting storytelling to other mediums, such as music.

The introduction course runs for three days. The syllabus is simple: you cover basic storytelling techniques, such as how to craft an engaging tale then how to share it with an audience. Students at the intermediate level have a longer course period and begin to combine various skills. Lastly, there is the professional course that runs for about 5 months and takes you on a journey that will reshape your storytelling and public speaking technique.

Ready for a cultural experience in a city like no other? Be sure to head to the Mezrab Cultural Center to listen to magical tales, incredible music, and witness the blending of cultures all under the same roof. You will laugh, make friends, and feel right at home while doing it!