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12/09/2016
Article
Sounds of Kolachi Tours the US This Spring as Part of Center Stage 2017

Center Stage invites performing artists from select countries to the United States to perform, meet, and share their experiences with communities around the country.

Now in its third season, by the end of 2017, 24 ensembles from Algeria, Haiti, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam will have made independent month-long tours from coast to coast, hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, and cultural centers.

Each tour includes residencies in large cities and small towns, and a range of activities from performances, workshops, and discussions, to artist-to-artist exchanges, master classes, and community gatherings. Center Stage artists engage with audiences onstage and online sharing their work with audiences in the U.S. and friends and fans at home to build mutual understanding through shared cultures and values.

In March and April 2017, Center Stage presents Pakistani artists Sanam Marvi (the next, great diviner of South Asia's humanist, folk, and sufi texts) and Sounds of Kolachi (a 10-piece super group that creates a sonic highway from ragas to the blues), in the folowing cities:

Storrs, CT

Washington DC

Cambridge, MA

Chapel Hill, NC

Savannah, GA

New York, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Memphis,TN

Ann Arbor, MI

For complete information, visit Center Stage's Events page.

Sounds of Kolachi, the 10-piece super group, tours the US this spring as part of Center Stage 2017. Visit Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) for complete tour dates and cities.

Like an Indian Ocean blast from the seaport megacity it calls home, Sounds of Kolachi, a new 10-piece super group of vocalists and instrumentalists from Karachi, blurs raga and Western harmony, counterpoint and South Asian melodic lines, all without losing the groove. In this instantly listenable ensemble, South Asian classical instruments like the sitar and bowed sarangi are on equal footing with electric guitar and rock rhythm section. Guiding the journey, composer, theorist, and singer Ahsan Bari spins outrageous, bluesy, modal riffs, boosted by a quartet of male and female voices.

An academic junkie and rock head, Bari started playing music with Gravity, one of Pakistan's underground rock bands a decade ago. He gave up studying quantum physics for eastern classical vocal studies, and entered Pakistan's National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). "A guitar professor at NAPA introduced me to texts and scores," Bari recalls. "I was mesmerized by Bach's organ work. How could one think of so many different lines at the same time? All of that stuff got intense when I started studying the basics of jazz composition. I started analyzing Coltrane. I took up guitar as my primary tool."

After graduation, Bari joined NAPA's faculty and began composing, teaching, and performing all over town. "My music got really complicated, the time signatures, the harmonies and chords. I started to learn tabla theory. It all mixed up and got really complex."

Two years ago, says Bari, "I started listening to all this great folk music that was being recorded in Jamshoro," 90 minutes from Karachi on the banks of the Indus River. When The Sketches, the band that was supporting these folk musicians and presenting their work, called and asked Bari to produce for them, he packed up and headed there for three months with the sarangi and sitar players who are now core members of Sounds of Kolachi.

Inspired by his experiences, Bari returned to Karachi eager to pare down, to distill, gathering a fluid (and increasingly large number) of music pros and former students to create simplified if layered and muscular musical compositions. Sounds of Kolachi took off in 2013. "We're a project, a process - experimenters" explains Bari, who will lead a 10-piece configuration of Sounds of Kolachi to the U.S. for its American debut tour in the Spring of 2017 as part of Center Stage Pakistan.

Like the west's Son Lux or The National, Sounds of Kolachi mixes classical, avant-garde, jazz, and rock in ways that ravel and synthesize genre boundaries. They do so by tapping into the spirit of Karachi, their megacity home, exposing global influences, nurturing esthetic diversity, and creating new bold, hybrid forms.

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries to the United States to perform, meet, and share their experiences with communities around the country.

Now in its third season, by the end of 2017, 24 ensembles from Algeria, Haiti, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam will have made independent month-long tours from coast to coast, hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, and cultural centers. Each tour includes residencies in large cities and small towns, and a range of activities from performances, workshops, and discussions, to artist-to-artist exchanges, master classes, and community gatherings. Center Stage artists engage with audiences onstage and online sharing their work with audiences in the U.S. and friends and fans at home to build mutual understanding through shared cultures and values.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.