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Syracuse University hosts Humanities Corridor conference on religion in Indian Ocean cultures
Syracuse University hosts Humanities Corridor conference on religion in Indian Ocean culturesMarch 25, 2008Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
The interweaving of the religious, cultural and aesthetic ideas arising out of Islamic music performance genres will be the focus of the upcoming conference “Music Moves Religion: Performance Networks in Indian Ocean Cultures” at Syracuse University. Presented by the Cultures and Religions Cluster of the Central New York Humanities Corridor, this free, three-day event April 18-20 will examine how music has moved religion in regions linked by seafaring trade networks and coastal mainland migrations in the Indian Ocean, and will also feature public performances and panels focused on both classical and popular genres of music, including those that are performed in public settings as well as those circumscribed by religious ritual.
The conference is designed as an exchange of knowledge and ideas among the three member institutions in the Central New York Humanities Corridor — SU, the University of Rochester (including the Eastman School of Music) and Cornell University — in addition to academics from other U.S. and Canadian institutions and members of the public. The conference is free, but participants are asked to confirm their registration at: http://musicmovesreligion.com/mmr/register.
Tazim R. Kassam, chair of the Religion Department in The College of Arts and Sciences and conference coordinator explains: “Musical performance traditions, in their voyage back and forth from the East coast of Africa to the far reaches of the Indonesian archipelago, offer an excellent avenue by which to appreciate the complexity of unity and diversity in Islam.” Conference participants will address a number of issues, including how music is involved in the transfer and transformation of religious ideas, practices and sentiments; how musical traditions effect and reflect religious, cultural and social change; how race, patronage and politics condition the social uses of music; and which social and political contexts encourage creativity and innovation, or inversely, draw sharper boundaries when distinct traditions of musical performances come into contact.
The two, public keynote concerts represent both classical and popular genres of music in Indian Ocean cultures. Prabha Atre (left) is an internationally acclaimed singer and composer of Indian classical music, and will perform at the Everson Museum of Art in downtown Syracuse on Friday, April 18, at 8 p.m.
Atre is one of the finest living exponents of the Kirana performance style, noted for its exquisite tonal purity and meditative melodic improvisation. Atre has received two of the most coveted awards from the government of India: Padmashree and Padmabhushan. Her musical compositions are known for their originality, poetic beauty and melodic intricacy. Few performers of Indian classical music also have her academic credentials. A respected scholar-teacher, she has been visiting music professor at the University of Calgary, UCLA and the Rotterdam Conservatory. Her book “Swaramayee” (Chetshree Prakashan, 1984) — a compilation of her essays and articles on music — won the Maharashtra State Government Book Award in 1989.
In the second concert, Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers will sing the traditional form of qawwali in Urdu, Seraiki, Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Purbi, Bengali and other languages. Qawwali, which means “word” — in particular, the “divine word” — originated in Iran and developed in South Asia. Musicians begin singing, then repeat words with certain variations intended to bring out more profound meanings until the words themselves cease to have meaning, and the participant is ideally moved to a deeper level of inner illumination. Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers will perform at Grant Auditorium in the College of Law, on Saturday, April 19, at 8 p.m.
The conference will feature a full slate of panel discussions that will examine the music and creative encounters in transnational music networks. The featured speakers and their topics of expertise are:
- Julia Banzi of Al-Andalus and Reed College:”Andalusian Women’s Orchestras: Seven Centuries of Silence”
- Judith Becker of the University of Michigan: “Religious Ecstatics: Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian”
- Birgit Berg of Voice of America International Broadcasting: “The Music of Arabs, The Sound of Islam: Arab-Indonesian Music and Islamic Expression in Indonesia”
- Amy Catlin-Jairazhboy of UCLA:”How Sidi Music Moves Religion: African-Indian Sufi Embodiments in the New Trans-global Mendicancy”
- James Chopyak of California State University, Sacramento:”Islamic Fundamentalism, Globalization, Technological Change and Music in Malaysia”
- Michael Frishkopf of the University of Alberta:”Music Moves Islam in the Indian Ocean”
- Christopher Lee of Canisius College: “Globalization Moves the Mushaira”
- Anne Rasmussen of the College of William and Mary: “From Seashore to Department Store: Musics of Indonesian Islam”
- Natalie Sarrazin of the SUNY College at Brockport: “Allah-Who?: Indian Cinematic Representations of Filmi Qawwali”
- Ted Swedenburg of the University of Arkansas: “Fun^Da^Mental: Punjabi Folk, Post-Bhangra and Islamic Rap, From the Subcontinent to the Metropole”
- Richard Wolf of Harvard University: “Responding to the sounds of Shiism in greater South Asia”
Created in 2006, the Humanities Corridor is supported by a three-year, $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded to SU to collaborate with Cornell and UR for the creation of this large-scale initiative to connect teaching and research in the humanities among these three leading institutions. Inspired in part by the mission of the science/technology Research Triangle in North Carolina, the Humanities Corridor works to enhance the profile and connectivity of the humanities in Central New York by drawing on the strengths of three Association of American Universities (AAU) member institutions.
The conference is organized by Kassam, who is also director of the Muslim Cultures London Program at SU. The principal program coordinator of the Religion and Culture Cluster of the CNY Humanities Corridor is Ann Grodzins Gold, professor of religion and anthropology and director of SU’s South Asia Center at the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs.
The conference is sponsored by the following departments and organizations at SU: the religion department, the Chancellor’s Office, The College of Arts and Sciences, U.Encounter, iLearn, the history department, the Middle Eastern studies program, the religion and society program, the music history/musicology cluster of the Humanities Corridor, the African American studies department, the Community Folk Art Center, the fine arts department, the Hindu Student Council and the South Asia Arts Foundation.
For a full schedule of events and to register, visit http://musicmovesreligion.com. All events are free and open to the public. Parking is available in SU pay lots.