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Caravanseri: Building bridges between American and Islamic societies

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New York: There is a reason why people associate peace and harmony with music and art. They say music transcends all boundaries-cultural, racial and even age, and Caravanserai – a groundbreaking artistic and cultural exchange program- is doing just that; establishing greater understanding between Americans and Islamic societies especially in the post 9/11 world.
‘Caravanserai- A place where cultures meet’ is a multi-year cultural engagement program in which over three seasons a year US communities host a series of performing and visual arts artists in residence tours. Its mission –to realign perceptions about Muslims by introducing artists to US communities.
Starting this fall, Caravanserai will enter into its second edition, this time featuring artists from Morocco (see box for dates and venue). The program will focus on the music and culture of Morocco and will feature compelling contemporary and traditional vocal and instrumental music along with Moroccan film and photography.
The 2011-2012 season – concluded spring2012- featured the diverse cultures of contemporary Pakistan. Five organizations hosted two musical residencies featuring traditional and contemporary Pakistani artists and one film residency featuring a young and innovative Pakistani filmmaker.
Led by Arts Midwest, a non-profit Regional Arts Organization (RAO) and funded by a one million dollar grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) Building Bridges program, Caravanserai is a platform through which Americans are exposed to the diverse contemporary Muslim artistic expressions. The idea is to introduce western audiences to exciting and dynamic artists from the Muslim world.
David Fraher, Arts Midwest Executive Director, who conceived Caravanserai said, “It is no secret that over the last decade, there have been limited, direct conversations and interactions between Americans and people from predominantly Muslim nations or for that matter, between Americans and Muslim Americans. Caravanserai was conceived to create ‘safe places.’ Moments in time in smaller American communities, wherein open sharing and exchange of ideas and cultures might take place. Through music, film, literature, and visual art we hope to build a bridge between people with different perspectives.”
Artists participating in the Pakistan edition went into the same five communities in three consecutive waves to Helena, Montana; Littleton, New Hampshire; West Long Branch, New Jersey; Oswego, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island.
Performers and filmmakers from the Pakistani troop included the Qawwal brothers – Mohammad Najmuddin,Saifuddin, Mughisuddin, Zameeruddin, and Ehtisham, table maestro Lahori UstadTari Khan, Dholis Abid Hussain and Abdul Rasheed, Punjabi folk music legend Arif Lohar, Pakistani-American contemporary singer Arooj Aftab and BhriguSahni, her Indian-American guitarist collaborator.
At every workshop/ show they were greater with interested audience –that ranged from school children as young as 3rd graders, special children, librarians and music lovers. Post-performance discussions indeed changed their perspective about Muslims, many even vouched to fight against hate crimes.


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