New England Premiere of "Voices of Afghanistan" at Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts September 28

New England Premiere of "Voices of Afghanistan" at Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts September 28

Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department present
“Voices of Afghanistan"
New England premiere of the group on Friday, September 28
to feature Ustad Farida Mahwash, Homayoun Sakhi & The Sakhi Ensemble;
starting a year-long campus and community-wide exploration of “Music & Public Life”

Middletown, Conn., September 6, 2012— The 38th annual Crowell Concert Series presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department opens with the New England premiere  performance by the group “Voices of Afghanistan” on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall located at 50 Wyllys Avenue on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown. The concert also serves as the initial event of the year-long campus and community-wide exploration “Music & Public Life.” (Please see below for more details about both the Crowell Concert Series and “Music & Public Life.”)

Vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash, the only woman to receive the title of “master” in Central or South Asia, is celebrated around the globe for her exquisite approach to poetic “ghazals” (folk songs). “Voices of Afghanistan” Artistic Director and “rubâb” (double-chambered lute) virtuoso Homayoun Sakhi creates an acoustically rich crossroads for “sawol-jawab” (an interplay of questions and answers), exploring traditional and contemporary Afghan melodies on the extraordinary inaugural tour by the group, which includes the musicians of The Sakhi Ensemble: Khalil Ragheb on harmonium, Zmarai Aref on Afghan tabla, Abbos Kosimov on “doyra” (frame drum), and Pervez Sakhi on “tula” (flute).

Composed of some of the most sought-after Afghan musicians living in the United States, the musicians of “Voices of Afghanistan” first performed together during a June 2011 concert at the Ojai Music Festival in California. That evening had also featured a staged production of George Crumb's “The Winds of Destiny” (2004), directed by Peter Sellars, which reinterpreted Civil War songs and spirituals as framed through the eyes of an American veteran returning from the war in Afghanistan, played by soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Homayoun Sakhi has toured with numerous artists, including previous Crowell Concert Series artists the Kronos Quartet, and regularly returns to Kabul to teach. Before arriving at Wesleyan, Homayoun will be performing Hannibal Lokumbe’s “Can You Hear God Crying?” with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

This tour is the first in ten years for Ustad Farida Mawash, “The Voice of Kabul.” Aside from percussionist Abbos Kosimov, who is originally from Uzbekistan, the members of the group are all natives of Kabul. Their tour will arrive at Wesleyan following a performance earlier in September at Asia Society in Houston, Texas. In addition to artistic excellence, these musicians share a commitment to nurturing the next generation of musicians both here and in Afghanistan. (Please see below for more information about both Ustad Farida Mawash and Homayoun Sakhi).

 The New York Times has said that "the ensemble’s music, alive with cyclic table rhythms and spiraling rubâb phrases, somehow echoed the sounds and intensity of the times.” Click here to watch a short video featuring the music of “Voices of Afghanistan” on Vimeo:

This performance of “Voices of Afghanistan” is presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and Music Department.

 There will be a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Wesleyan Professor of Music Mark Slobin.

 Tickets for the performances are $22 for the general public; $18 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $6 for Wesleyan students. Tickets are available online at, by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at  the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the performance, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University,” and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount – please call (860) 685-3355 for details. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges.

 The musicians will be a part of the Wesleyan University Music Department Colloquium on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 4:15pm in CFA Hall, located at 287 Washington Terrace. Ustad Farida Mahwash will discuss her music and life as a female vocalist in Afghanistan. Homayoun Sakhi and members of The Sakhi Ensemble will talk about the group’s instrumentation and performance practice. Admission to this Colloquium is free.

About Ustad Farida Mahwash
Born into a conservative Afghan family, Ustad Farida Mawash’s mother was a Quran teacher, and religion loomed large throughout her upbringing. For many years, her interest in music was suppressed as, at the time, female singers and musicians were deemed socially unacceptable. Upon completion of her studies, Farida accepted a secretarial position in the Kabul Radio Station. There, she was discovered by the station’s director, who encouraged her to pursue singing as a career. Ustad Mahwash took music and singing lessons under the scholarship of Ustad Mohammad Hashem Cheshti. An established maestro, he quickly put the protégé under a rigorous training regime. Most of the lessons, which were based on North Indian classical music, are still used today to train Afghan singers. In 1977, Ustad Mahwash was conferred the title of Maestra by Ustad Sarahang, a controversial move as, until that point, it was an honor reserved for men. In 1977, she received the title of Ustad (master).

After the political turmoil of the late 1970s and 1980s, Ustad Mahwash was forced to leave Afghanistan. At one point, a “fatwā” was issued against her, and she was also poisoned while pregnant with her first child. In 1991, with her family in tow, she moved to Pakistan where she took refuge from the two warring sides of the time, each of whom urged her to sing for their cause or face assassination. Worn and exhausted, she applied for asylum abroad. Eventually, her plight was recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and she was granted political asylum in the United States in 1992. She is now a mother of five children, and lives in “Little Kabul” in Freemont, California.

Ustad Mahwash has gone on to become the “Voice of Kabul,” sharing the country’s rich musical heritage in critically acclaimed performances and recordings. In 2003, she received a prestigious BBC Radio 3 World Music Award, which was issued for artistic excellence as well as for her work speaking on behalf of thousands of orphaned Afghan children. Through it all, she remains a powerful vocalist and passionate champion of refined yet haunting music in the service of a peace-filled Afghanistan.

About Homayoun Sakhi
Homayoun Sakhiis widely considered the foremost Afghan “rubâb” (lute) player of his gen­eration. During the country’s long years of armed conflict, when music was heavily con­trolled, censored and, finally, banned, the classical style to which he devoted his career not only survived but reached new creative heights. Mr. Sakhi was born in Kabul into one of Afghanistan’s leading musical families, studying from the age of ten with his father, Ghulam Sakhi. The elder Sakhi was a disciple and brother-in-law of Ustad Mohammad Omar, the much-revered heir to a musical lineage that had begun in the 1860s. Mr. Sakhi’s studies were interrupted in 1992, when his family moved to the Pakistani city of Peshawar, a place of refuge for many Afghans from the political chaos and violence that enveloped their country in the years following the Soviet invasion of 1979.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, many Afghan musicians in Peshawar returned to Kabul, but by this time Mr. Sakhi was on his way to Fremont, California. He brought with him the sophisticated and original style that he had developed during his years in Pakistan, but little else. Fremont, a city of 200,000 people that lies southeast of San Francisco, claims the largest concentration of Afghans in the United States. There, just as in Peshawar, Mr. Sakhi quickly established himself as a leader of the local musical community. In addition to his popular classes, workshops and solo performances, he is also co-founder of and composer for “Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan”.

About “Music & Public Life”
Today, the private and public worlds of music often overlap and intersect in virtual networks, community musicking, and public policy. During the 2012–2013 academic year, Wesleyan University celebrates and studies the sounds, words, and spirit of music in public at the local, national, and transnational levels through concerts, workshops, gatherings, and courses, all designed to cross disciplines and engage the campus and Greater Middletown communities.

Upcoming “Music & Public Life” events include the following:
·      Concerts by Los Trovadores de America (October 28, 2012), Noah Baerman (November 2, 2012), Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church Choir and Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem (November 8, 2012), La Cumbiamba eNeYé and Merita Halili & The Raif Hyseni Orchestra (November 9, 2012); the New England premiere of “Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” (February 1, 2013); and Hugh Masekela (April 19, 2013).

·      Talks by Wesleyan University John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal (October 3, 2012), University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor of Music Rachel Mundy ’00 (October 10, 2012), award-winning songwriter and record producer Carl Sturken ’78 (October 20, 2012), Assistant Professor of U.S., Cultural, Public, & American Indian History at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette John Troutman ’78 (October 24, 2012), ethnomusicologist Anthony Seeger (November 8, 2012), and Ben Ratliff of The New York Times (November 14, 2012);

·      A celebration of the centenary of John Cage (December 5-8, 2012) focusing on his understanding of music as a social process; featuring concerts by the Wesleyan University Orchestra, Wesleyan New Music Alliance, David Barron, Ron Kuivila, Neely Bruce and Anne Rhodes MA ‘06; and a talk by Richard Kostelanetz;

·      Several symposiums, including “The New Transnationalisms of Music” (March 1, 2013) featuring Beverly Diamond (St. John’s Memorial University, Newfoundland), Anne Rasmussen (The College of William & Mary), Aram Sinnreich (Rutgers University), and Joshua Tucker (Brown University); “Sound, Image, and the Space In-Between” (April 3-6, 2013) including a concert and residency by London-based choral group the Vocal Constructivists,composers Mark Applebaum, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Parsons, and Wesleyan Music Department faculty Anthony Braxton, Ronald Kuivila, and Paula Matthusen, student workshops, and scholarly papers; and “Indonesian Performing Arts & Public Life” (April 25-27, 2013) including University of California Santa Cruz Professor of Theatre Arts Kathy Foley, Yale University Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Sarah Weiss, Wesleyan University Professor of Music Sumarsam and Wesleyan Artist in Residence I.M. Harjito; and

·      “MiddletownRemix”, a collaborative, place-based sound project that enables people to develop and express the acoustic identity of Greater Middletown, culminating in a community-wide celebration on May 11, 2013 and featuring the world premiere of a composition for laptop orchestra by Jason Freeman of UrbanRemix.

“Music & Public Life” is supported by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New England Foundation for the Arts, and is co-sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the American Studies Department, the Center for African American Studies, the Center for the Arts, the College of the Environment, the Music Department’s George Jackson Fund, the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of the Dean of the Arts and Humanities, the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, the Office of the President, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, and the Wesleyan Writers Program.

For more information about “Music & Public Life,” please visit Programs, artists and dates are subject to change without notice.

About the Crowell Concert Series
The Crowell Concert Series at the Center for the Arts features a wide array of world-class musicians. This season's performances include the electric guitar quartet Dither (November 16, 2012); the New England premiere of “Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” (February 1, 2013); and Hugh Masekela (April 19, 2013).
Past artists that have performed on the Crowell Concert Series include Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Amelia Piano Trio, American Brass Quintet, AnDa Union, Anonymous 4, Ahmad Jamal, Balfa Toujours, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Bill Frisell Trio, Boston Chamber Music Society, Bulgarian Bebop, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Charles Lloyd Quartet, Cherish the Ladies, Claude Frank, Crooked Still, David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness, Don Byron: Jungle Music for Postmoderns, Donald Berman: Celebrating Chopin’s 200th Birthday, Dünya, Eddie Palmieri, eighth blackbird, Eileen Ivers, Entrequatre, Ernest Dawkins, Eugenia Leon, Fernando Otero Quartet, FleytMuzik, FLUX Quartet, Henry Threadgill, Joshua Roman, Kronos Quartet, Le Vent du Nord, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Lionel Loueke Trio, Lionheart, Margaret Leng Tan, Maya Beiser & Anthony de Mare, Midori, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Near Eastern Music Ensemble, Omar Sosa, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Otis Taylor, Parthenia, Paul Brady, Pedro Carboné, Peter Serkin, Randy Weston, Regina Carter Quintet, St. Lawrence String Quartet, San Jose Taiko, sfSoundGroup, Shanghai Quartet, Stanley Cowell Quartet, The American Piano, The Assad Brothers, The Baltimore Consort, The Hilliard Ensemble, The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Drepung Loseling Monastery, Thomas Mapfumo/Blacks Unlimited, Tiempo Libre, Tokyo String Quartet, Toumani Diabate, Trio Globo, Turtle Island String Quartet with Stefon Harris, and Zakir Hussain & L. Shankar.
About the Performing Arts Series

The Performing Arts Series at the Center for the Arts brings a wide array of world-class musicians, cutting-edge choreography, and groundbreaking theater performances and discussions to Wesleyan University.
This season's performances include the Connecticut premiere of ZviDance’s “Zoom” (September 14 & 15, 2012); the New England premiere of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Nora Chipaumire’s “visible” (October 6, 2012); the electric guitar quartet Dither (November 16, 2012); the New England premieres of “Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” (February 1, 2013) and Gallim Dance’s “Mama Call” (February 8 & 9, 2013); the 14th  annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance (March 9, 2013); and Hugh Masekela (April 19, 2013) . For more information, please visit

Save 15% when you buy tickets to four or more Performing Arts Series events. Call or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office at (860) 685-3355 to take advantage of these discounts.  

About the Music Department
The Wesleyan University Music Department provides a unique and pioneering environment for advanced exploration committed to the study, performance, and composition of music from a perspective that recognizes and engages the breadth and diversity of the world's musics and technologies. As an integral part of one of the nation's leading liberal arts institutions, the department has enjoyed an international reputation for innovation and excellence, attracting students from around the globe since the inception of its visionary program in World Music four decades ago.

Recent annual music festivals in partnership with the Center for the Arts have brought to campus a diverse array of artists, including Max Roach, Pete Seeger, Boukman Eksperyans (Haiti), and Boogsie Sharpe (Trinidad).

A recording studio, a computer and experimental music studio, the Center for the Arts media lab and digital video facility, the World Instrument Collection (which includes the David Tudor Collection of electronic musical instruments and instrumentation) and the Scores and Recordings Collection of Olin Library (which includes the World Music Archives) offer many learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

For more information about the Music Department, please visit