Pakistani musicians kick off new ArtsLIVE series

By: Amanda Dee – Social Media Manager

“ISIS beheads another.”

“Thousands are fleeing from Syria.”

“These people want to kill us.”

These are headlines in international news. Today, the terrorist group dominating media is ISIS, but in places like Pakistan the name of the group doesn’t matter. They’re stories they’ve already experienced.

“That’s why for us being musicians, not even talking about political situations or anything, is dangerous and is a form of rebellion,” Sparlay Rawail said.

Rawail plays lead guitar in Khumariyaan (“The Intoxicators”), a jam band afraid to publicly perform for fear of the Taliban. Rawail, along with Pashtun members Fahran Bogra, Aamer Shafiq and Shiraz Kahn were born in Peshawar, Pakistan, but in the eyes of other Pakistanis, they come from an alien country.

Peshawar precariously sits near the border between Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan and Pakistan – where Pashtuns are the ethnic minority.

“When I went to university in Lahore [Pakistan],” rhythm guitarist Shafiq said in a press release, “everyone asked me if we wore jeans in Peshawar or said how surprising it was that we knew English. But we are just like everyone else.”

So when Bogra brought home the rubab, his father smashed it to pieces. When his father smashed the rubab, Khumariyaan was born.

The rubab, a traditional Pashtun instrument, twangs like a banjo but its sound represents an entire culture.

“It’s for the people who are uneducated,” Bogra’s father said to him.

“Then,” Bogra said, “I realized why it was threatening.”

People in Peshawar and in Pakistan love music and dancing but not the musician, Rawail said. Singers are compensated; musicians aren’t. Khumariyaan’s instrumental music speaks against that.

“We decided to introduce people to our ethnic music, to give people what we really are,” Bogra said in a press release.

“It’s like Red Scare,” Art Series Director Eileen Carr said. “We’re proud of our culture. We’re proud of our college culture. We’re proud of wherever we come from.”

Khumariyaan performed a few times a year, but on their first U.S. tour with Center Stage, they play a few times a week. On Oct. 2, Khumariyaan will stop at the University of Dayton’s KU Boll Theatre to “spread musical goose bumps,” as they said, for UD’s debut ArtsLIVE (formerly Art Series) concert. The Eastern-meets-Western band in its residence at UD will also talk to sociology classes and introduction to world music classes and jam with guitar students.

This concert is not a political or religious statement, Carr said.

“It’s about ‘getting a sense of [the Middle East] as a real place.’ It’s an opportunity to say ‘Gosh… what is this place I only hear about in terms of horrible conflict?’ and to see and hear from people who live there, who grew up there, who were born there.”

“We’d very much like everyone and anyone to come,” Rawail said, “to feel what it’s all about, to show you our side of the story.”

Khumariyaan will perform on Thursday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. at Boll Theatre in Kennedy Union. For more information or to buy tickets, visit Tickets are $8 or $5 online with promo code “JAMBAND.”

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