Grand Performances' Re:Arranged: Muslim Cultures Illuminated

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Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali
Pakistan’s Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali. (Photo by Camellia Tse.) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

At a time when the world’s attention is focused on the tragic plight of Syrian refugees, and governments across Europe race to create contingency plans for dealing with the growing migrant crisis, there is really no more crucial moment for building bridges than now. Thanks to a generous grant received by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Downtown’s Grand Performances is on a mission to do exactly that, guided by the belief that arts and cultural programming are two of our most powerful tools for furthering understanding between cultures.

Grand Performances’ 2015 Summer Concert Series saw the first round of their two-year Re:Arranged: Muslim Cultures Illuminated programming, showcasing top acts from around the world like Pakistani brothers Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, Malaysian pop/R&B star Yuna, and tar and setar virtuoso, Sahba Motallebi, accompanied by other Iranian instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers.

Malaysian pop/R&B sweetheart Yuna. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer.)

But beyond simply presenting these Muslim artists in free outdoor concert settings, Grand Performances has also designed an outreach component to facilitate open dialogue and artistic exchanges between the artists, other Los Angeles-based musicians, and local youth. In one instance, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali led a workshop for 25 of Hollywood’s hottest film composers. We can only imagine what rich fruit such inspired cross-pollination will bear! Then in another session, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali collaborated with British producer/DJ Neil Sparkes and L.A.-based, Western-style instrumentalists and vocalists, the results of which culminated in an exhilarating Qawwali sufi groove and one of Grand Performance’s most truly memorable concerts ever.

Iranian tar and setar virtuoso, Sahba Motallebi. (Photo by C. Alvarez.)(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Though not yet officially announced, the summer of 2016 Re:Arranged: Muslim Cultures Illuminated line-up promises to be just as exciting. Without giving away actual names, let’s just say you’re in for a treat. There are rumors of a Pakistani boy band, traditional Uyghur music from China, and a cross-cultural multimedia collaboration that will be nothing short of sensational! Next summer can’t come soon enough!

Like a universal language, music wields an unspoken power that transcend prejudice and resonates within us in ways that no other medium can. The next time you attend a Grand Performances’ concert, just look around, and you’ll see what I mean. Bringing together artists and audiences from different cultures and communities around the world, Grand Performances continues to weave together the fabric of Los Angeles, one concert at a time.

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