Pakistani performers to bridge cultures through music

SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Series will offer creative and educational encounters in an October week packed with events around the visit of distinguished musical groups from Pakistan, the vanguard of “Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet.”

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers, along with the Tari Khan Ensemble, highlight an ambitious weeklong itinerary that will take performers from a community forum in Syracuse with WRVO-FM to an Oswego residence hall jam session, and from a Hendricks Chapel informance (informative performance) to percussion workshops with college and youth musicians.

“Intercultural experiences are a powerful way to build bridges,” said Mary Avrakotos, coordinator of Artswego, one of five regional arts organizations in small cities around the country invited to host the intercultural Caravanserai. “In many campus and community settings, these guest artists will meet Central New Yorkers and share the heritage of their homeland.”

The timing of the visit is crucial, Avrakotos said, to overcome negative attitudes that could arise given news about Pakistani-U.S. relations, and to help educate Central New Yorkers about the many faces of Islam. In May, a CNN Opinion Research poll reported 71 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Pakistan. And a National Geographic Poll found 40 percent of young Americans cannot identify Pakistan as a country in Asia.

Opportunities abound

The Central New York public is invited to participate in free residency events, in addition to the paid performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Oswego High School’s Ralph M. Faust Theatre:

Monday, Oct. 10

* At 4 p.m., Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers—direct descendants of the first qawwali choirs in the 13th century and torchbearers of this mystical Sufi singing tradition—will make their first public appearance with an informance at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University.

* At 7 p.m., WRVO’s “Community Forum” will broadcast, from City Hall Commons on East Water Street in Syracuse, in a panel discussion on contemporary Muslim expression hosted by BBC commentator Fergus Nicoll, with members of the Qawals and regional experts on Pakistani and Islamic culture. WRVO, a 50,000-watt National Public Radio affiliate with headquarters at SUNY Oswego, has retransmission partners that extend its listening areas from Watertown to Norwich and from Geneva to Utica.

* Also at 7, the Tari Khan Ensemble—New York City-based percussionists originally from Lahore—will lead a percussion workshop in Room 40 of Lee Hall on the SUNY Oswego campus.

Tuesday, Oct. 11

* At 6 p.m., the visiting Pakistani performers will jam with campus and community musicians—with samplings of Pakistani food—in SUNY Oswego’s Hart Hall.

Wednesday, Oct. 12

* At 6:30 p.m. Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers will hold an informance at SUNY Oswego’s Sheldon Hall ballroom.

* At 7 p.m., the Tari Khan Ensemble will present a percussion workshop hosted by the Oswego Youth Orchestra for children ages 12 to 18 at Sheldon Hall ballroom.

The week concludes with the combined groups in concert. Ticket information for the concluding performance, complete details on the October week and early details of Caravanserai performances and residencies in February and April are available at

For more information about the national cultural exchange pilot program, “Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet,” funded through Arts Midwest with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, visit

- 30 -

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers perform

PHOTO CAPTION: Devotion and tradition—Among the performers from Pakistan to visit SUNY Oswego this academic year will be Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers, torchbearers of poetic Sufi devotional music called qawwali, dating to the 13th century. The performers, with the Tari Khan Ensemble, will make several free public appearances Oct. 10 to 13 prior to the culminating ticketed concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Oswego High School.

(Posted: Sep 27, 2011)

Tags: caravanserai, artswego