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Visiting musicians introduce HCS students to Pakistani culture



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Arooj Aftab, born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, and now based in New York City, who sings original songs that fuse classical Pakistani, Sufi, and South Asian music traditions with contemporary jazz, folk, and pop influences, sang at Holderness Central School on April 2. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
April 04, 2012
HOLDERNESS — On Saturday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m., the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire presents Arif Lohar, Arooj Aftab and Caravanserai, who will be performing in Hegerman Auditorium at Holderness School.

In the meantime, these contemporary Pakistani musicians have been stopping at schools around New Hampshire to teach students and community members about Pakistan's music and traditions.

On Monday afternoon, the group performed to students and faculty members at Holderness Central School in a special instructional, informational and musical assembly.

"We are doing this for four days, where they are traveling to schools," said Executive Director of the Arts Allegiance of Northern New Hampshire Frumie Selchen. "They were in Thornton, Holderness, in Lakewood and Lincoln, and they are going way up to Milan, and also to Dartmouth College. They're doing this sort of lecture and demonstration, and explaining to kids."

The program began with Caravanserai band manager Linda, explaining a bit abut life in Pakistan to students, and relating how far away the band had to travel to get to central New Hampshire.

"Pakistan is far, far away," Linda explained. "They had to fly for two days to get here. It is very far away. You have to go all around the world, to the other side of the world, and you will find Pakistan. It is in Asia."

Linda introduced all of the band members, and explained to the audience each of the different instruments, from the mandolin, found in the United States, to the Dhol, a double headed drum used in Pakistan and lastly to the voice.

"There is an instrument that everyone in the world has; it's called a voice," explained Linda. "As long as you have a voice, you can sing."

Arif Lohar, a popular and widely known singer in his native Pakistan, teamed up with up and coming songstress Arooj Aftab to celebrate their cultural heritage by imagining new musical horizons, crossing boundaries, and inviting U.S. audiences to share their journey with peace and love.

"Arif Lohar, who is the lead guy, fills stadiums in Asia," noted Selchen. "He is a superstar, and of course here, people don't know him by name, though they might know some of his music because he has done Bollywood films before. One of his songs on Youtube has over eight million hits."

With such famous musicians coming to perform, she added, it is important for community members to leave their preconceived notions about Pakistan at the door.

"We really, first of all, want to get people to understand that though there is bad news and publicity surrounding Pakistan, that the kids are real, the people are real, and that they have the same family and they love their country, too," said Selchen.

Caravanserai is the last of three residencies that that Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire has sponsored.

"Funded by the Dorris Duke Foundations for Islamic Arts, this is about thinking about how people learn about different cultures through the arts," said Selchen. "We have had three residencies; this is the third. The first was traditional music in the fall, we had a filmmaker, and now this one is what we call contemporary understanding of music. It's based on traditional music, but it's made modern."

The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire is only one of five programs in the country that is piloting Caravanserai, and the Arts Alliance wants the community to understand how special this event is.

"We are trying to make sure people know that this is something really special, and that we would never be able to afford to bring a group like this here," said Selchen. "We are really, really lucky and really, really excited, and we are trying to make sure that people in the area realize this is very special."

The event is managed by Arts Midwest, supported by the Dorris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and supported by a variety of other groups including: New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, New England foundation for the Arts (NEFA), Loon Mountain, Holderness School, Bluegree South Mountain Resort and the New Hampshire Electric Co-op.

To learn more about Caravanserai, visit their Web site at www.caravanserai-arts.org . If you are interested in attending the April 7 concert, tickets are available online at www.aannh.org. Tickets are $15 if you pre-buy, $12 for Arts Alliance members and students, and $20 at the door. If you cannot afford tickets, you are still welcome to attend the event. To call and reserve tickets, please call 323-7302.

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