The United States debut of the duo of Grammy Award–winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who plays Mohan Veena (a modified lap slide guitar), with 19-year-old virtuoso Keyboard Sathya, took place on Saturday, September 27, 2014, in Crowell Concert Hall as part of the 38th annual Navaratri Festival. Images by Lucy Guiliano for Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
The Planet Hip Hop Festival featured an evening concert by international Muslim women in hip hop, including the U.S. debut of Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci as a solo artist, the New England debut of Washington, D.C.-based and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh as a solo artist, and Tavasha Shannon a.k.a. Miss Undastood of Queens, New York. Photos from the evening concert on Saturday, September 20, 2014, at Fayerweather Beckham Hall. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
Afternoon workshops by international Muslim women in hip hop, including Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci, Washington, D.C.-based and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh, and Tavasha Shannon a.k.a. Miss Undastood of Queens, New York, took place on Saturday, September 20, 2014, at World Music Hall. Images by Ed Rudman for Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
“In its emotional nakedness, free-associative logic, and frank sensuality, the work of the Israeli-born couple Lee Sher and Saar Harari is inventive and arresting” (The New Yorker). The New England premiere of LeeSaar The Company’s Princess Crocodile was performed on Friday, September 19, 2014, in the CFA Theater. Images from dress rehearsal by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
In “Women’s Voices, Verbal Ability, and Symbolic Power: The Case of Moroccan Shikhat,” Alessandra Ciucci analyzed a wedding celebration in Morocco to determine the role(s) of the shikhat, a class of professional female singer-dancers. Photos from the Wednesday, September 17, 2014, talk in the Daltry Room of the Music Rehearsal Hall. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer–“one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today” (Pitchfork)–along with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, performed as the Vijay Iyer Trio at Crowell Concert Hall on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
Professor of Art Tula Telfair’s A World of Dreams exhibition of new large-scale paintings presenting monumental landscapes and epic-scale vistas that are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate, runs through December 7, 2014. Photos from the opening reception on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, in the Main Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
“A startlingly original talent” (The New York Times), choreographer and director Faye Driscoll is a Creative Campus Fellow at Wesleyan during the fall of 2014, researching and developing “Thank You For Coming: Play,” one of a series of works she will be creating over the next several years. Photos from her artist talk on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in the Cross Street Dance Studio. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Sara Guernsey ’15, Wesley Martinez-Close ’15, Jillian Roberts ’15, Eury German ’16, Ari Markowitz ’17, and José Louis Sanchez ’18 about their involvement with “In the Heights,” which is being presented by the Theater Department tonight through Sunday, November 16, 2014 in the CFA Theater.
With book by Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights is the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Theater ’02), “Best Choreography,” and “Best Orchestrations” (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, Music ’02).
Mr. Miranda wrote the first draft of In the Heights in 1999 as a sophomore at Wesleyan. Wesleyan’s student theater company Second Stage presented the play in April of that year. Four Wesleyan students—seniors at the time—then approached Mr. Miranda and proposed the play be expanded to a Broadway production.
Nine years later, in March 2008, In the Heights premiered on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
In the Heights tells the story of a close-knit community on the brink of change in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. “I think it was mainly the story that made me want to audition,” said Eury German ’16, who plays the male lead Usnavi, and an ensemble member named Ángel.
Wesleyan’s production brings together students with diverse performance backgrounds.
“We have dancers, we have singers, we have actors, and not all of us were good at everything,” said Sara Guernsey ’15, who plays Camila Rosario. “But we were able to teach each other.”
“I learned a lot of choreography skills that I didn’t know before,” says José Louis Sanchez ’18, who plays Piragua Guy. “I think that’s the beauty of this process—all of us were strong in one suit and through this process we were able to grow in others.”
“Our director, Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, often told us that [this is not the Broadway production], that this is going to be our own different version,” says Ari Markowitz ’17, who plays Sonny. “I’m glad that I hadn’t seen the Broadway production before because I got to come at it with a blank slate, and everything I saw forming was purely ours without any preconceived notions about what the show should be.”
“I went into it with a very open attitude,” said Wesley Martinez-Close ’15, who also plays Usnavi and a member of the ensemble named Jesús. “It was all new to me.”
“Two weeks before school started I was listening to the soundtrack nonstop,” said Mr. German. “The music is unlike any other musical.”
Jillian Roberts ’15 and Naomi Wright ’17 co-choreographed all of the dancing in the production.
“The movement in the show is a fusion of hip-hop, Latin, and Caribbean dance,” said Ms. Roberts. “Naomi and I combined our dance histories, knowledge, and vocabulary to assemble a body of choreography that both represents the fusion of cultures in the show and also the styles of music that are represented in the show.”
Wesleyan’s production of In the Heights has been months in the making.
“I’m really excited for everyone to have their hard work displayed for the larger community,” said Ms. Roberts. “A show that is this multicultural and diverse doesn’t often show up on a main stage university theater, and it’s exciting for us to be a part of this kind of unique theater production.”
“This is by far the most exciting thing that any of us are going to do this semester,” says Mr. German. “I am, deep down, so excited for this to come together.”
In the Heights
Wednesday, November 12 through Saturday, November 15 at 8pm
Sunday, November 16 at 2pm and 8pm
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, Middletown residents; $7 all students
Click here to purchase tickets online for the Sunday evening performance.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Dawn Elder, manager of Riffat Sultana, who makes her New England debut with her band Party at Wesleyan on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
“Riffat Sultana channels the musical wisdom of 500 years and eleven generations of master musicians from India and Pakistan, bringing a spectacular voice and talent to the world stage.” —Banning Eyre, Afropop Worldwide
In 1995, Riffat Sultana became the first woman in her family to sing in public.
Her father, the late Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, is universally recognized as one of the greatest Pakistani classical singers of his generation. Her mother, Razia, comes from a line of highly respected Shiite musicians in India and is herself a talented vocalist. But as a woman, Razia was prohibited from singing in public, with the exception of Sufi ceremonies held in the family home.
Riffat expressed an interest in music early in life, wishing from a young age that she could study classical music like her four brothers. Denied the opportunity to study music formally, she picked up what she could from traditional and popular songs she heard on tapes and on the radio.
Learning songs came easily for Riffat, and soon family friends began to comment on her unusual talent and promising voice. Some even offered to teach her classical music, but her father refused.
But her big break came in 1990, when her father invited her to tour with him in Europe and the United States. Although primarily tasked with tending to the domestic needs of her father and brothers on tour, Riffat was permitted to join them onstage to play the tambura, a traditional string instrument.
Ultimately, Riffat and her brother, Sukhawat Ali Khan, convinced their father to let them move to the United States. Here they found welcoming communities of American-Pakistani musicians who encouraged them to pursue their passion for music. In 1995, Riffat took the stage to sing publicly for the first time.
Riffat’s musical career took off from there. At first, she kept it a secret from her father, but eventually he learned of her growing success, and gave her his blessing to continue performing. He even taught her the classical forms of his unique style of vocalization and music.
That influence is evident in Riffat’s music today. “She has a versatility of taking her vocalization and her improv and fitting it within a western sound, [but also] fitting intimately into a natural folk traditional style,” said her manager, Dawn Elder.
“It’s the warmth that draws me to her music,” said Ms. Elder. “It’s the intimate tonality and the authenticity of her sound. Not a lot of frill, not a lot of fuss—just pure music.”
Riffat Sultana has collaborated with many influential musicians including Quincy Jones and Nile Rodgers. She has shared the stage with Patti Austin, Lionel Loueke, Richard Bona, Michael Franti, and Ben Harper, among others.
“She’s one of the only Pakistani female singers to ever perform with full orchestration,” explained Ms. Elder. “There has not been anyone quite like her, [and] she has certainly opened a door for other women.”
As part of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, Riffat Sultana makes her New England debut this Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall. Performing a wide variety of traditional and modern works from Pakistan and India, Riffat will be accompanied by an all-star ensemble that includes her brother Sukhawat Ali Khan on vocals and harmonium, her husband Richard Michos on guitar, Gurdeep Singh on tabla, dholak, and dhol (double-headed drums), Jay Gandhi on bansuri (bamboo flute), and very special guest Mitch Hyare, an internationally renowned dhol master.
“Her music is unexpected and exciting and really warm,” said Ms. Elder. “She brings you into her backyard. She welcomes you into her home. The stage is her home.”
Riffat Sultana and Party
New England Debut
Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$22 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
A Crowell Concert Series event presented by the Music Department and the Center for the Arts.
Pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk.
Tell Your Story: A Conversation with Riffat Sultana and Party
Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 7pm
CFA Hall, 287 Washington Terrace, Middletown
Hear from Sufi fusion singer Riffat Sultana and Party about her experiences as a Muslim woman artist both in America and abroad in Pakistan and India. Moderated by Lebanese American writer, actress, and teaching artist Leila Buck ’99.