Pakistani performers to offer poetic vocals, pulse-pounding rhythms

Over its long history, the land comprising modern-day Pakistan has produced varied musical traditions and styles. SUNY Oswego’s Artswego will present Central New Yorkers a sample at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Ralph M. Faust Auditorium at Oswego High School.

“The evening is like a 90-minute world music festival,” said Mary Avrakotos, who is coordinating the program for the Artswego Performing Arts Series. “From the first pulsing beats to a rousing finale, this concert showcases powerfully evocative styles rarely experienced outside the Indian subcontinent.”

The Tari Khan Ensemble begins the evening with an unusual combination of traditional percussion instruments, tabla and dhol. Tabla are the highly expressive double drums, played with the fingers and palms, which are central to classical music of the region. Central New York audiences were introduced to the instrument’s range and color when tabla master Zakir Hussain appeared as part of the Artswego series last season.

The larger dhol, originally associated with military and harvest celebrations, has a more boisterous character. Slung around the neck, it is played at both ends with specially fabricated sticks and produces both deep bass and higher-pitched sounds.

Mystical longing

During the second half, the concert turns to vocal music of the Sufi mystical tradition that arrived in South Asia from Persia many centuries ago. Qawwali music is performed by male singers, accompanied by tabla and harmonium, using traditional poetic texts of praise and human longing for the divine. Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers, touring for the first time in the United States, are direct descendants of the first qawwali singers in the 13th century.

The Saturday evening concert concludes a week of community outreach activities by the artists. “Caravanserai—A Place Where Cultures Meet” is a cultural engagement program launched by Arts Midwest, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Artswego is one of five arts presenters across the United States selected for the first year of the initiative. Additional music and film artists of Pakistan will be featured in the fall-to-spring program.

The Oswego City School District and SUNY Oswego’s offices of International Education and Programs, Business and Community Relations and Auxiliary Services have provided additional support for this program.

Tickets for the concert and complete details on all Caravanserai residency events are available at The tickets, also available at all SUNY Oswego box offices and by phone at 312-2141, are $15 ($12 for seniors ages 62 and over, non-Oswego City School District children 17 and under, and SUNY Oswego faculty and staff; $7 for Oswego City School District and SUNY Oswego students).

Buses leaving the SUNY Oswego Campus Center will shuttle college students to Oswego High School, 2 Buccaneer Blvd., near the corner of West Utica Street and Hillside Avenue. Free parking is available adjacent to the high school.

Ustad Tari Khan

PHOTO CAPTION 1: Hypnotic beats—Ustad Tari Khan, a world-renowned master of the tabla, will lead the Tari Khan Ensemble in the first half of a performance of Pakistani musicians at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, in the Ralph M. Faust Auditorium at Oswego High School. The second half will feature Sufi musicians Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers.

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Poetic song—Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin and Brothers, on their first-ever American tour, will bring Sufi devotional music and poetry to the Ralph M. Faust Auditorium stage at Oswego High School. Part of “Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet”—a fall-to-spring program showcasing the cultures of Pakistan—the Qawals will join the Tari Khan Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15.

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(Posted: Sep 30, 2011)

Tags: caravanserai, artswego