With innovative folk music, Pakistani singer Arif Lohar brings message of peace to Americans



arif llohar

NEW YORK, April 27 : Pakistan‘s famous folk singer Arif Lohar, who is in the United States bringing Sufi music to Americans audiences in various cities, , calls himself both “a fakir and a safir” (a wandering mystic and a cultural ambassador).

“All the world over, the language is music,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

“The styles are different, the nuances are different. But the language is the same. I am here representing my country and my culture. I have connected with people, and it feels so good to connect in that way,” said Lohar.

Lohar, who has been experimenting with various innovative tones and styles,  is set to perform at Asia Society in New York Friday night– the show is sold out. He is heir to the rich cultural tradition of folk music,  popularized by his legendary father Alam Lohar and other singers in Punjab and other provinces of Pakistan in the last century.

Lohar has been touring the United States as part of Caravanserai, a tour bringing traditional Muslim performers to mainstream American audiences to share their artistic heritage and to challenge stereotypes, the Times said in a report published Friday.

“The mission of Caravanserai is very beautiful,” Lohar says.

“I feel that it is very necessary at this critical time. It allows us to gather people together, using art as a bridge, to extend our hand in friendship to Americans, and to share our love and our wish for peace.”

Caravanserai was put together as a multiyear project by the nonprofit group Arts Midwest, and began last fall with Pakistan as its first focus; next year it looks at Morocco, the report said. The shows in New York this weekend also intersect with one of Asia Society’s own series, Creative Voices of Muslim Asia. Both programmes are supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, it said.

After his father, Alam Lohar who died when he was 13, the singer says  Pakistan’s globally known Qawali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who died in 1997, and American pop star Michael Jackson, have been among his biggest influences.

Caravanserai, which in addition to Lohar and his group includes a young Pakistani-American singer, Arooj Aftab, has mostly been playing to audiences unfamiliar with the culture, the Times noted.

At each stop the musicians have been holding workshops with schoolchildren and community groups, as well as soaking up local customs. Last week in Helena, Lohar celebrated his 46th birthday in a hotel lobby.

Lohar’s tour is only the latest of many efforts at cultural diplomacy Pakistan and the United States have been engaged in recent years, as part of fostering greater inter-cultural understanding.

Sources: MGCT, The New York Times. By Iftikhar Ali


Categories: Arts and Life

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