Monday, September 24, 2012

Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department present “Voices of Afghanistan”

The 38th annual Crowell Concert Series presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department opens with the New England premiere  performance by the group “Voices of Afghanistan” on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall on the Wesleyan campus. The concert also serves as the initial event of the year-long campus and community-wide exploration “Music & Public Life.” 

Vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash, the only woman to receive the title of “master” in Central or South Asia, is celebrated around the globe for her exquisite approach to poetic “ghazals” (folk songs). “Voices of Afghanistan” Artistic Director and “rubâb” (double-chambered lute) virtuoso Homayoun Sakhi creates an acoustically rich crossroads for “sawol-jawab” (an interplay of questions and answers), exploring traditional and contemporary Afghan melodies on the extraordinary inaugural tour by the group, which includes the musicians of The Sakhi Ensemble: Khalil Ragheb on harmonium, Zmarai Aref on Afghan tabla, Abbos Kosimov on “doyra” (frame drum), and Pervez Sakhi on “tula” (flute).

Composed of some of the most sought-after Afghan musicians living in the United States, the musicians of “Voices of Afghanistan” first performed together during a June 2011 concert at the Ojai Music Festival in California. That evening had also featured a staged production of George Crumb's “The Winds of Destiny” (2004), directed by Peter Sellars, which reinterpreted Civil War songs and spirituals as framed through the eyes of an American veteran returning from the war in Afghanistan, played by soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Homayoun Sakhi has toured with numerous artists, including previous Crowell Concert Series artists the Kronos Quartet, and regularly returns to Kabul to teach. Before arriving at Wesleyan, Homayoun will be performing Hannibal Lokumbe’s “Can You Hear God Crying?” with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

This tour is the first in ten years for Ustad Farida Mawash, “The Voice of Kabul.” Aside from percussionist Abbos Kosimov, who is originally from Uzbekistan, the members of the group are all natives of Kabul. Their tour will arrive at Wesleyan following a performance earlier in September at Asia Society in Houston, Texas. In addition to artistic excellence, these musicians share a commitment to nurturing the next generation of musicians both here and in Afghanistan. (Please see below for more information about both Ustad Farida Mawash and Homayoun Sakhi).

The New York Times has said that "the ensemble’s music, alive with cyclic table rhythms and spiraling rubâb phrases, somehow echoed the sounds and intensity of the times.” Click here to watch a short video featuring the music of “Voices of Afghanistan” on Vimeo:

There will be a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Wesleyan Professor of Music Mark Slobin.

Tickets for the performances are $22 for the general public; $18 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $6 for Wesleyan students. Tickets are available online at phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue.

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