More About the Artists of Center Stage
Arieb Azhar (Islamabad, Pakistan)
Defying easy categorization, Arieb Azhar’s mesmerizing baritone “encompasses about all the emotions life has to offer” (PRI). He leads a quartet of musicians in an eclectic mix of urban and folk-based songs grounded in Sufi and other humanist poetries from across Eurasia. A world class troubadour whose sets pay tribute to Irish balladeers, Croatian gypsies, Punjabi traders and ancient Sanskrit texts.
“Rather than preserving ‘pure’ art forms, we try to express the human soul the best we can, while making use of all influences we have absorbed along the way.” (Arieb Azhar)
BélO (Pétion-Ville, Haiti)
BélO has been hailed as Haiti’s musical ambassador to the world. A young, socially conscious singer-songwriter with a sophisticated sound, BélO and his band deliver a high-energy mix of jazz, worldbeat, rock, reggae and Afro-Haitian traditional rhythm known as Ragganga.
“BélO's versatile guitar work and slightly raspy, soulful voice have made a fan of me.” (Condé-Nast Traveler)
With its “focus on the essentials,” BélO’s new album, Haiti debout (Haiti Standing) is a “punchy, energetic cocktail served up in Creole.” (Radio France International)
Recent gigs include…La Fete de Marquette (Madison, WI 2011), Chicago Folk & Roots Festival (2011), Lincoln Center Out of Doors (2010), Café Moca (Miami, 2010), Richmix Mosaique Festival (London, 2011)
Compagnie de Danse & Jean-René Delsoin (Pétion-Ville, Haiti)
Jean-René Delsoin’s outstanding, vibrant dancers and drummers embody choreography that captures Haiti now --- raw and refined, spiritual, powerful, and precarious.
“From Raboday to Nago, passing through Congo and the Yanvalou, corporeal rhythms and expressions worked in harmony to transform everything into beauty.” (Le Nouvelliste/Haiti)
Excellent communicators and experienced teachers, Delsoin’s company will offer workshops for students and professionals as part of residency programs that can also include panel discussions, and informal meet and greet events.
“Bold, energetic, sensational.” (Spotlight/Haiti)
Jogja Hip Hop Foundation(Yogyakarta, Indonesia)
Indonesia’s foremost crew stands in the cultural cross-hairs, rapping across language and other borders.
Hailing from one of Indonesia’s artistic well-springs, Yogyakarta, this sharp Javanese collective promotes tolerance and pluralism. Jogja Hip Hop Foundation takes on corruption and inequality with wit and hooks that meld global and indigenous trance rhythms, Indonesian pop and gamelan music, ancient Javanese poetry and literature.
Nan Jombang (Padang, Indonesia)
The island of Sumatra is home to Nan Jombang, a family of artists whose work is a compelling mix of Minangkabau performing arts traditions (drumming, dance, martial arts), spirituality, and contemporary movement. Center stage repertory: 55-minute work Rantau Berbisik by artistic director Ery Mefri.
Percussive, persuasive and vital modern dance.
Rantau Berbisik (Whisperings of Exile) is inspired by a long-standing custom of this matrilineal society, where inheritance accrues to daughters. Sons are expected to leave home and earn the means necessary to support a wife and children before settling down. Often they open a Minangkabau food shop in other parts of Indonesia or abroad. For many Sumatrans today, success is bittersweet because they do not return. Mefri’s dance is set in one of these shops. The work’s vocabulary draws on the Randai with movements based on pencak silat (a self-defense art), a live soundscape created by chants, claps and body percussion of the performers, and Tari Piring (Plate Dance) which originated as part of the paddy harvest party and tests a performer’s adroitness and skill.
Well known in Indonesia, Nan Jombang is increasingly in demand abroad. They have appeared at the Esplanade in Singapore and toured to Seoul, the Philippines, Germany’s Theater der Welt and four Australian festivals in 2010. They perform at the Zuercher Theater Spectacle in Switzerland and in Berlin in the Fall of 2011.
“This was a moving and profound evening if dance. If you can still get a ticket, do so.” (Glam Adelaide/Australia)
noori (Lahore, Pakistan)
One of Pakistan’s top pop bands, noori helped define Sufi-rock. Led by charismatic brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, noori delivers a great rock and roll show with a distinctive subcontinent kick.
Noori’s debut 2003 album created whirlwinds across Pakistani communities all over the world and introduced the pop/rock music to the national mainstream. Its content was a departure from the usual pop diet of chummy love songs and focused on inspiring the youth of Pakistan to take up the responsibility of doing something worthwhile for themselves and others. That initial hopefulness is tempered now, resulting in more complex thematic and musical explorations that continue to push the boundaries.
“As one of the leading names in Pakistan’s music industry, noori is often credited for revitalizing rock music for Pakistan’s youth.” (Coke Studio, Pakistan)
Papermoon Puppet Theatre (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)
In a country with world-renowned puppetry traditions, the young, expert artists of Papermoon are extending the form with their mixed-media productions, and creating works that imaginatively explore identity, society and Indonesia’s recent past.
On tour for Center Stage: Mwathirika, set in 1965, the infamous Year of Living Dangerously, when thousands of Indonesians were jailed and murdered. A history of the lost, and the lost history of a nation. A non-verbal, puppet-theater experience in 60 minutes.
Ti-Coca & Wanga-Nègès (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Masters of Haiti’s acoustic twoubadou (troubadour) tradition, Ti-Coca and his band are “a loose-limbed, rootsy treat.” (BBC News)
Renowned internationally, Wanga-Nègès (the name refers to a hummingbird that's a symbol of seduction) were formed by David Mettelus -- Ti-Coca ('little coke bottle') in 1976. For 30 years, the musical cocktails they mix have offered up the sparkle and also the bitter and sweet sides of life. Mereng (Haiti’s cousin to the Domican meringue), and Konpa-direk, the most popular dance rhythm from the 1950s to the 1980s, share the stage with contredanse and Cuban influences.
"We’re very Haitian in the rhythm, the words, the feeling. It's dance music you can find in the streets, the beaches, private parties. It's very tasty and easy to dance to. Lyrics can be critical of society, they often are. But this music is first made to share a moment of pleasure between people." (Ti-Coca)
Very Live (Karachi, Pakistan)
No cliché is safe! Up to the minute sketch comedy, political commentary and satiric mirth (in English) from a trio of cut-ups: Saad Haroon (Pakistan’s reigning jester), Danish Ali (the doe-eyed, goofy sidekick) and guitarist Amin Arif.
Rotary dinners, full concert sets, club dates…This trio of merry men break the US-Pakistani ice with their quick wit and ready for prime time take on celebrity culture, politics and up to the minute news. And really, don’t you want to be able to tweet that you’ve taken a class with the guys who teach stand up in Abu Dhabi?
“Most likely to shoot out rapid-fire gags. Least likely to run out of news material.” (The Guardian, UK)
Zeb & Haniya (Lahore, Pakistan)
This acclaimed singer-song writing duo paved the way for many female musicians active on the Pakistani music scene today. Original songs and newly interpreted tunes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia carve a space for music that transcends national boundaries. Whether singing in Farsi, Turkish, Pashto or English, Zeb and Haniya bend ears to understanding.
“There is poetry in the air when Zeb & Haniya take the stage with earthy and sultry glory.” (Arab Times)
Zeb and Haniya’s version of the Dari folk love song, Bibi Sanam Janem for Coke Studio, has scored more than 1,850,000 YouTube hits. Chal Diye, an original composition by Haniya, is an ode to Islamabad, her hometown.