Sitars, Sufi, Bollywood Featured At Pan Asian Music Festival



Salman Ahmad is due to perform Sufi rock in concert on February 13 at the Dinkelspiel auditorium.

When Linda Hess, senior lecturer in religious studies and expert in Indian poetry, began to reflect with Stanford Symphony Orchestra conductor Jindong Cai about the program for the upcoming Pan-Asian Music Festival, which this year will be will focus on Southeast Asia, Hess assumed the festival would focus on the much revered classical musical traditions of India and Pakistan.

Cai, the artistic director of the festival, had other ideas. If the campus festival was to showcase the region, Cai said, he wanted to do justice to its scale and vibrancy, “not to put South Asian music in a box,” Hess recalled. And, “I want Bollywood!” Cai told him.

The week-long star-studded festival, which begins February 11, will feature an appearance on February 14 by AR Rahman, who has composed the music for more than 100 Bollywood films and projects such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s. . Bombay Dreams and the staging of the Lord of the Rings. Rahman is “huge,” Cai said. (in London The telegraph of the day called the composer the “Asian Mozart.”) The most common reaction Hess receives when telling people that Rahman is heading to Stanford is “disbelief,” she said.

Top international artists are also featured in other performances, which will include classical Indian and Hindustani music; carnatic ragas; qawwali, the devotional music of Sufi mystics, as well as Sufi rock, performed by guitarist Salman Ahmad of the rock group Junooni. On Saturday February 18, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Cai, will present the North American premiere of Songs of the five rivers by famous British-based Indian composer Naresh Sohal.

Researchers will meet from February 11-12 for a symposium on Sufi music, an art form whose influence can be seen in many of the festival’s diverse performances. The distinctly vibrant and moving tradition of qawwali originated centuries ago by Sufi mystics singing songs expressing their piety and longing for God in the shrines of Sufi saints, said Hess, who became familiar with the traditions. music from South Asia through his study of Indian poetry set to music. . Music is used to induce trances in mystical Islam, but can be experienced as beautiful music and literature in its own right, Hess said. The symposium will include a screening of the film The rockstar and the mullahs, featuring rock musician Ahmad interviewing Orthodox Muslim clerics who believe music is prohibited in Islam.

Cai, who came from Beijing to the United States to study classical music in 1985 and continues to regularly conduct orchestras in China, envisions the festival becoming one of the most important platforms for contemporary Asian music, a he declared. (The festival will focus on a different region or country each year.) Support for the two-year festival has already been very gratifying, from both the university and the public, he added. The festival also has the potential to illuminate diverse cultures for its audience, he said. “When you focus on the politics of a region, you often see issues and conflicts,” Cai said. “When you focus on culture, you see people,” he said.

Festival performances and highlights will include:

  • February 11-12: Symposium, “Sufi Music: South Asian Qawwali and Music Debates in Islam”, Campbell Recital Hall and Stanford Humanities Center. To free.
  • February 12: Ensemble Farid Ayaz Qawwali from Pakistan, 7:30 p.m. at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium (pre-concert conference at 6:30 p.m.). General admission, $ 15; students, $ 5.
  • February 13: Soufi Rock with Salman Ahmad, 7:30 p.m. at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium. General admission, $ 15; students, $ 5.
  • February 14: Tribute to AR Rahman, 7:30 p.m. at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium. General admission, $ 20; students, $ 10.
  • February 16: Hindustani classical music with Kartik Seshadri, 7:30 p.m. at Campbell Recital Hall. Free conference and demonstration.
  • February 17: Kartik Seshadri, sitar, and Swapan Chaudhuri, tabla (in partnership with Stanford Lively Arts), 8 p.m. at Dinkelspiel Auditorium (pre-concert conference at 6:45 p.m.). General admission, $ 42 and $ 38; Student admission to Stanford, $ 21 and $ 19.
  • February 18: Carnatic Morning Ragas with singer Sanjay Subrahmanyam. 9:00 a.m. at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium. General admission, $ 15; students, $ 5.
  • February 18: The Stanford Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Cai, will be premiered Songs of the five rivers by Indian composer Naresh Sohal, with soprano Nikki Einfeld. The program will also include the Debussy show The sea; 8 p.m. at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium. General admission, $ 10; students, $ 5.
  • Tickets can be purchased through Stanford Lively Arts and the Stanford Box Office at 725-2787. Festival passes are available. More information on artists, venues and tickets are available at and

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    Lyle L. Maltby

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