• Released :
    2014
  • Genre :
    Multimedia production
  • Styles :
    Poetry, Music, Dance
  • Anghami

Yasmeen

By
Huda Asfour & Gowri Koneswaran
March 1, 2014 8:30pm
Atlas Performing Arts Center Washington, DC
Presented as part of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival

Reflections

Since we met her a few years ago, Yasmeen started whispering to us in the middle of our conversations. This goddess didn’t ask for much—just an open ear. She has since walked beside us, dancing her fragrant footsteps.

We met her shortly after meeting each other at BloomBars during one of Melissa’s tap dance classes. Soon after hearing one another’s music and poetry, collaborative yearnings were born. Yasmeen pointed to three of our pieces in particular to help us see the garlands of our intertwined stories– Huda’s song “Al Yasamine,” describing the siege in Ramallah; Gowri’s poem “Emergency Broadcasting System” about the initial months of war in Sri Lanka; and “Lesser Known Goddesses,” a poem about the divinity in humanity.

Embarking on attempts to converse between, fuse, and re-envision our work, we kept returning to questions about what sustains some stories, whose are told, what’s omitted, and how we communicate with each other in both small and expansive ways. In developing this production, we’ve seen these themes repeat themselves throughout the writing, casting, and composition of the program. We see Yasmeen behind the scenes and invoke her name repeatedly.

Huda Asfour and Gowri Koneswaran March 1, 2014

Our Thanks

If we thanked each person who has inspired, guided, and supported us on our long journeys to this point, our garland of gratefulness would stretch across cities. So…

We’d like to first thank Mary Hall Surface for believing in our production-in-process and inviting us to be part of the 5th Annual Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. We are honored to offer our work in conjunction with such a celebrated institution and alongside such accomplished artists.

Thank you to our incredible cast and contributors for every beat, every measure, every attempt to communicate in the varied languages of our different art forms, and every part of themselves they invested in this project.

Thank you to John Chambers and BloomBars for seeding the relationship between the two of us years ago and nurturing our work. We are also indebted to BloomBars for providing rehearsal space and funding to help us document this performance.

Thank you to Julie Espinosa for documenting this debut performance, which we intend to develop, expand, and present again in DC and elsewhere.

Thank you to photographers Dina Shoukry and Les Talusan for their photography and friendship.

Thank you to our families and close friends for holding our hearts as we walk this lifetime together. You are too numerous to name, which only adds to our gratefulness.

Translations and Notes

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful Sovereign of the Day of Recompense
It is You we worship and You we ask for help
Guide us to the straight path
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked Your anger or of those who are astray

This song grew organically from listening to and playing music together.
It weaves together the poem “Beats”, trumpet composition by Joseph Brotherton, an interpretation of Sayed Darwish’s “Shid El Hizam” by Huda, and an interfaith devotional song, “Bhola Bandari Baba,” sung by Gowri.

This poem borrows its title and the lines “Like trees planted by the water, we shall not be moved” from the song of the same name.
Popularized by Mavis Staples during the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement, it is a protest song descended from an African American spiritual entitled “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

This song borrows its title from jasmenco dancer Wathec Salman’s short film of the same name, which documents his return to Damascus (known as the City of Jasmine) with his two sisters, who also dance flamenco. It showcases the pain and struggles artists are currently facing in Syria. www.jasmenco.com

Rattling

The lyrics in this song are words written by Kurdish Syrian poet Golan Haji. He graciously allowed Huda to set his poem to music and incorporate the piece in this performance. Mr. Haji also provided the following translation of his poem by U.S. poet Marilyn Hacker.
Rattling by Golan Haji, translated by Marilyn Hacker
We are alone, at the beginning and the end
like those who came before us.
the man alone, with no one to speak for or support him
We have seen the riddles
the praise-bloated faces
in the desert of staring eyes
We have seen the killers lounging in ugly buildings
and our distrust did not save us.
The bullets’ rattling, you, my fear,
pushes us into the violence that nurtured us.
The bullet rips the air and does not kill it
it scars it over like river water
then we can see how danger makes us beautiful
and hear the drowned ones breathing in the dawn squares.
The blood around us, like the bulldozers of silence, lights up the night
and the clouds above our heads block up eternity.

The lines beginning and ending this poem are borrowed from Su=i poet Rumi and his poem “The Music We Are” (translated by Coleman Barks).
Lyrics
Did you hear that winter is over? The basil and the carnations cannot control their laughter. The nightingale, back from his wandering, has been made singing master over the birds. The trees reach out their congratulations. The soul goes dancing through the king's doorway. Anemones blush because they have seen the rose naked.
Spring, the only fair judge, walks in the courtroom, and several December thieves steal away. Last year's miracles will soon be forgotten. New creatures whirl in from non-existence, galaxies scattered around their feet. Have you met them? Do you hear the bud of Jesus crooning in the cradle? A single narcissus flower has been appointed _Inspector of Kingdoms_. A feast is set. Listen: the wind is pouring wine! Love used to hide inside images: no more! The orchard hangs out its lanterns. The dead come stumbling by in shrouds. Nothing can stay bound or be imprisoned. You say, "End this poem here, and wait for what's next." I will. Poems are rough notations for the music we _are_.

This song borrows from the Carnatic Telugu varnam “Valachi Vachi.” The devotional song is the most well known example of the raga Navaragamalika, or “garland of ragas,” as it incorporates nine ragas in a single song. Our adaptation includes the charanam (“foot”) of the song, which is a motif throughout the show, and two chitta swaras. The charanam (“Pada saroja mulane nammi”) translates as “I place my trust upon Your lotus feet.” Two dancers perform a kollattam dance, a Tamil folk dance using dowel-like sticks. In this performance, we use claves, an Afro- Cuban instrument.

This song takes its lyrics from the poem “I won’t sell his love” by Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan. It is dedicated to the Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo in memory of their meeting in Stockholm.
Lyrics
What chance
Sweet dreamlike chance
Joined us here in this distant land
Here two strange souls we
Were united by the Muse
Who carried us away
Our souls becoming a song

The lines spoken in English are the translation of the Arabic lyrics, written by Huda.
Lyrics
Between two shores and two strange lands
In a grave dug in seventh heaven
I am going and coming back
Inhabited by shadows and ghosts
Entrapped in a flower
By silhouettes obscured by a thread,
Eyes removed in a corner,
And haggard faces
She keeps going and coming back
Without land, without seas
Without rivers, without streams
On land without a land
She is always swimming
She is always a visitor
She is always wandering

Artists

Mirnalini Mohanraj (kollattam dance choreographer)

Mirnalini Mohanraj is trained in Bharatha Natyam, a form of Indian Classical dance, and has been performing for the past 32 years. She presented her Arangetram (professional debut) in 1988 and completed her professional training under Hema Rajagopalan, Artistic Director of the Natya Dance Academy in Chicago. Mirnalini has performed extensively with the Natya Dance Theater (NDT) company and was a featured dancer in the production Alakshaya. She currently resides in New York City where she is a pulmonologist and intensivist in the Mount Sinai Health System. Under the direction of NDT’s Associate Artistic Director, Krithika Rajagopalan, Mirnalini continues to perform in the New York City area.

Wathec Salman (7lamenco dancer)

Wathec is a Syrian =lamenco dancer who began dancing in 1999 in Damascus, Syria. His recent performances are uniquely known to combine traditional Spanish Flamenco with Oriental music. The result is an original Spanish =lavored dance inspired by Middle Eastern traditional music. He has performed more than 60 original shows with his group in many Arabic countries. Two shows were held recently at the famous Dar al-Assad for Culture and Arts Center in the Syrian capital of Damascus, also known as the Damascus Opera House.

Asha Santee (cajon)

Asha Santee was born on September 3rd in San Francisco, CA and has been drumming since the old age of 6. She picked up her =irst pair of sticks after watching her father play the drums in church. In middle school she maintained =irst chair & All- District Honors being the only girl in class and moved on to high school to be in the drum line. After pursuing a career in basketball, she quickly realized that her love was embedded in the creation and performance of music. Currently drumming for House Studios, funk and soul band The Coolots, and singing/playing keys in The Peace & Body Roll Duo BOOMscat, Asha has become one of Washington DC’s most celebrated millennial musicians and breakout artists.

Melissa Frakman (tap dancer and kollattam dance)

Melissa Frakman’s work as a tap dancer, choreographer, and instructor is inspired by soul music from around the world and has been featured at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Blue Note Jazz Club, Brooklyn Academy of Music, DC Hip Hop Theater Festival, and Georgetown, Howard, and New York Universities. She’s a member of award-winning DC company “Just Tap” and was the lead choreographer for the Smithsonian Institution’s tribute to legendary hoofer Sandman Sims and the of=icial NYC gala “Dancers Responding to AIDS.” On Saturday March 22, Frakman will premier a new work for the Washington Women in Jazz Festival in DC, joined by an all-female ensemble of tap dancers and jazz band. Tickets are available online.

Golan Haji (Poetry)

Golan Haji is a Syrian poet and translator with a postgraduate degree in pathology. He was born in Amouda, a Kurdish town in the north of Syria. He studied medicine at the University of Damascus. He has worked as a translator from English and American literature, and has translated Robert Louis Stevenson’s Scottish classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into Arabic (2008), in addition to Dark Harbor, selected poems of Mark Strand (2002), Rear Window, scenario of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie (2005), Elephant by Dan Wylie (2010), Notebooks of Anton Chekhov (2011). His =irst collection of poetry in Arabic, Called in Darkness (2004), won the Al-Maghut prize in poetry. His second book of poetry, _Someone Sees You as a Monste_r (2008), was published during the event celebrating Damascus as the Capital of culture in 2008. His last collection, Autumn Here is Magical and Vast, in both Arabic and Italian, was published in Rome in September 2013. He lived in Damascus until he had to =lee his country, and has now settled in France. His poetry has appeared in several languages such as French, English, Italian, Danish, Catalan, Maltese and Kurdish.

Derek B. Bond (electric bass)

Born in Brooklyn and raised in southern Virginia, Derek started playing bass in high school. Since then, he’s played in blues, rock, reggae, jazz, fusion, and East African pop bands. He has shared the stage with Victor Wooton, Carter Beauford, Leroy Moore, Ziggy Marley, Tim Reynolds, Yellow Man, the Wu Tang Clan, Soul Coughing, Jamal Milner, Bio Ritmo, and Huda Asfour - just to name a few. Rounding out his musical experience, Derek played tuba in the University of Notre Dame marching band and drums and keyboards in various rock bands.

Joseph Brotherton (trumpet)

Joe hails from Tampa Bay, Florida. He is an extremely diverse musician, playing many genres, ranging from classical to Latin to World music and Jazz. He has studied with Wynton Marsalis, Ingrid Jensen, Ron Blake and many more. After serving as trumpet player in the Marine Corps Band Quantico, Joe moved to Washington and has rapidly become a highly respected trumpet player and instructor in the area. His recent live recordings, performances and tours have been with the late DC master percussionist Ricky Loza, Rasta Rock Opera, ChristosDC, La Leyenda, Warner Bros. recording artist Greg Karukas, Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra and the Mustangs. He also leads a variety of his own groups: Joe Brotherton and the TelescopiX, Blue Styles Brass Band and the Joe Brotherton Trio. He has also appeared on radio and television and in newspapers throughout Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Central America.

Program

  • Invocation
  • Here to There
  • Displacement
  • We Shall Not Be Moved Jasmenco
  • Emergency Broadcasting System Aziz
  • New Day
  • Aged
  • Garland of Ragas
  • Continuation
  • Back and Forth
  • Distant Land
  • Lesser Known Goddesses Jay w’Ray’hah
Mashriq Maghreb Sessions
The Ann Arbor Sessions
Yasmeen
Jehar
Improvisations
Ballando il Vento رقص للرياح
Huda & Kamyar هدى وكاميار