New York City, USA – Symphony Space teams for the second year with World Music Institute to present Reel Rhythms: The 2nd New York World Music Film Festival: Music from the Islamic World. The films will be showcased at theLeonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre atPeter Norton Symphony Space on 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York City. The festival will run April 3-26.
Presented as part of the Cultural World of Islam Festival, this series
expansively explores the musical traditions of the Islamic world. Reel
Rhythms showcases documentaries and feature films about Malian blues, Qawwali Sufi
music, Arab classical music, Iranian classical and pop music, African-Indian
Sufi music, Bosnian blues and Balkan songs, as well as seven short Moroccan
films on wedding music, trance music and chants, and women’s music. Among
the rarely seen films are US premieres from Iran and Bosnia, as well as a newly
restored, complete and uncensored version of a 1935 melodrama from Bali.“The Cultural World of Islam Festival attempts to expand Western notions of
Islam beyond the religiouswith whichit is typically associated in our culture,”
said Isabel Soffer, Associate Director of World Music Institute. “These films
speak to the incredible diversity of geography, cultural expression and
ethnicity Islam embraces. Were pleased to present this rare snapshot of Islamic
Reel Rhythms is curated by Isabel Soffer/World Music Institute with Yuko
Yamamoto and produced by Ed Budz.
Sunday, April 3 @ 2:00 pm
The Voice of Iran: Mohammad Reza Shajarian
2002. Christian Braad Thomsen. 98 min. English.
A spotlight on the great classical singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, whose music
reaches back 800 years into Persian history. Shajarian, a master of
improvisation known for his deeply rooted spirituality and sensitivity to the
mood of the moment, creates music of astounding beauty. To be in Shajarians
audience is to be transported back to Persian courts of old, ruled once more by
the wit and poignancy of the greatest Iranian poetsRumi, Sadi and Hafez. Between
songs, Shajarian talks about his inspiration, explains the meaning of the songs
and discusses the poets behind them.
(screened again on Tuesday, April 5 @ 8:30 pm)
Googoosh: Iran’s Daughter
2000. Farhad Zamani. 158 min. English and Farsi, with English subtitles.
She became the best-selling pop singer in Iran, only to be branded a temptress,
and forbidden from performing in front of men silenced by the 1979 Islamic
Revolution. This thoughtful, highly entertaining portrait of the magnificent
diva and actress Googoosh features interviews with friends and family, as well
as clips from the countless performances and films that comprised the great
performers tragically truncated career. Googoosh places the divas phenomenal
success comparable only to the West’s cult of Elvis in its political and historical
context by providing a look at the status of women in Iran before and after the
Winner Vancouver Iranian Film Festival.
Tuesday, April 5 @ 7:00 pm
Nusrat: A Voice from Heaven
2000. Giuseppe Asaro. 78 min. English.
Nusrat brings us the greatest modern interpreter of mystical Qawwali music, the
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. What emerges, through interviews with Nusrat
himself, and with the musicians who helped bring his work to Western audiences,
is more than just the portrait of one man. Nusrat is also a probing exploration
of the philosophy underlying the Sufi music of Pakistan. A performance by
Nusrat’s nephew, Rahat, provides eloquent testimonial to the endurance of that
The Voice of Iran: Mohammad Reza Shajarian
(see description on April 3 @ 2:00 pm)
Sunday, April 10 @ 2:00 pm
Morocco, Body and Soul
A series of short films, screened with one intermission.
Izza Genini. French, with English subtitles.
The descendants of black slaves, a female troubadour, and villagers from the
most remote heights of the Atlas Mountains these unlikely groups constitute
Morocco’s very best musicians. They were the country’s best-kept secret…until now.
Director Izza Genini scoured the land to bring you Morocco’s most unusual, most
powerful, most entrancing music in seven fascinating portraits.
Airs in Berberland, Part I: Vibrations in the High Atlas 26 min. 1992.
In the lost heights of the Atlas Mountains, an entire village assembles, come
nightfall. The men, playing flute and drum, accompany the haunting sound of the
women’s high polyphony. Once the music has set the mood, the adersi begins, a
rapturous dance in celebration of the cosmos.
Airs in Berberland, Part II: Nuptials in the Middle Atlas 26 min. 1992.
Much is riding on this wedding. Two Berber tribes, the Zayane and Ichker, have
come together to perform the Asliand Taslitthe nuptials of a mythical fiancé and
fiancéethat will ensure abundance and fertility for the year. Nuptials
demonstrates that when a community’s continued existence depends on the quality
of song and dance, these tend to be spectacular.
Aita 26 min. 1987.
Though she has no official religious role, no ceremony seems truly sanctified
without the blessing of Fatna El Hocine’s outbursts of song. El
Hocine, a celebrated cheika, or female troubadour, is so popular in Morocco
that, from time to time, she forgoes the Bedouin tent to perform, like a
rock star, in jam-packed stadiums and concert halls.
Gnaouas 26 min. 1990.
Black Africa flows in the veins of Morocco. Originally brought in as slaves
during the 15th century gold rush, the Gnawas gathered into brotherhoods to
practice spirit possession and exorcism, with rituals borrowing as much from
pre-Islamic culture as from the rites of African divinities. These ceremonies,
accompanied by the bass of the great hajhuj lute, the crackling of the metal
castanets, and the heavy beat of the drums, call for the mlouk, the beneficent
genie who will come down upon the dancer at the height of his trance.
Hymns of Praise 26 min. 1987.
One of the most sacred pilgrimages in Morocco is a physically exhausting,
emotionally challenging, nine-day ceremony whose destination is the shrine of
the founder of the Islamic Kingdom of Morocco. The Sufi brotherhood of the
Alamiyines leads the pilgrims with strict discipline, but also extraordinary
joy. The inauguration ceremony takes the followers through more and more
breathless phases to an ecstatic state, and, for the rest of the week-long
journey, the exquisite rhythms of drums and oboes keep the pilgrims energized.
Lutes and Delights 26 min. 1987.
When the Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain, the wonders of Andalusia
were not lost. Their music took root in North Africa, their land of exile, and
today has earned Abdesakek Chekara’s orchestra fame throughout Morocco. His
faithful interpretations of Arab-Andalusian music harkens back to a time of
tolerance, when Christians, Muslims, and Jews shared the land.
Malhoune 26 min. 1989.
Malhoune, the poetry of popular wisdom, is expressed in musical sessions in
Marrakech and Meknes. Similar to classical poetry in its lyrical and rhythmic
structures, the malhoune mirrors everyday reality, hopes and fears.
Tuesday, April 12 @ 7:00 pm
Je Chanterai Pour Toi (Ill Sing For You)
2001. Jacques Sarasin. 76 min. French and African dialects, with English
In the sixties, his was the voice of Malian independence: the blues singer
Boubacar “KarKar” Traoré was a national sensation, rousing the country over the
radio and on the dance floor. But years later, his fortunes drastically
reversed. Having sung so much of his music for free, KarKar became impoverished,
and was forced to abandon his career to work as a tailor, and later as an
immigrant worker in France. Although his music continued to be heard in Parisian
immigrant shelters, on the weekendsback home, most thought him dead. A music
producers chance discovery allowed KarKar to rewrite the end of an outsize
careeras uplifting as it could be tragic.
Festival in the Desert
2004. Lionel Brouet. 52 min. French, with English subtitles.
Festival in the Desert trudges deep into the Sahara for a one-of-a-kind musical
festival in celebration of Mali’s Tuareg peoples. The festivals exotic charm
lured a diverse group of world-famous musicians, as well as the most adventurous
of music lovers. Live performances and interviews with the festivals artists and
inspired organizers bring this unforgettable experience to life.
Sunday, April 17 @ 2:00 pm
Marcel Khalife Voyageur
2004. Pierre Dupouey. 200 min. Arabic and French, with English subtitles.
The life and music of Lebanese maestro Marcel Khalife, whose extraordinary
talents helped reinvent and revive Arab ‘ud playing. Khalife earned wide acclaim by his
innovative talent garnered him audiences outside the Middle East, in Japan,
Australia, the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa. Not content with
reviving ancient tradition, Khalife also gave birth to a popular new style of
Near Eastern ballet, the result of his fruitful collaboration with the Caracalla
Tuesday, April 19 @ 7:00 pm
The Bridge of Bosnian Blues (aka Sevdah: The Bridge That Survived).
2004. Mira Erdevicki. 60 min. English and Bosnian with English subtitles.
US Theatrical Premiere
At the height of Bosnian ethnic strife, a 500 year-old bridge was destroyed in a
symbolic act of hatred. The incident compelled the best musicians from the
region representing all ethnicities to get together and sing the blues. As war
raged around them, their music dared to transcend the communal strife
devastating their society. A decade later, the regions remaining divisions
decided these musicians of courage to reunite, though widely scattered
throughout the continent by that time. Once again, their Bosnian blues reminded
its listeners of the deeper identity that despite recent history still unites the
political entities of ex-Yugoslavia. A bittersweet true story.
Whose is this Song? (Chia E Tazi Pesen?)
2003. Adela Peeva. 70 min. English narration. Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek,
Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Serbian, with English subtitles.
Searching for the origins of a folk song shed heard as a child, director Adela
Peeva embarks on an odyssey through the Balkans. Her search is rewarded again
and again, but reveals that reality is much darker than memory she discovers the
song in a myriad different languages and styles; as love ditty, religious hymn,
even military march. The song is a testament to the cultural ties binding the
regions warring ethnicities. Alternately humorous and alarming, award-winning
Whose is this Song? illustrates the stubborn madness of nationalism.
Sunday, April 24 @ 2:00 pm
Legong: Dance of the Virgins
1935. Henry de la Falaise. 65min. Silent, with subtitles, and orchestral
Newly restored unedited, uncensored.
Set around a tragic Balinese love story, Legong has only recently gained the
appreciation it deserves in the 1930s, it was severely censored because of its
numerous topless dancers. Legong, which was filmed entirely on location in Bali,
captured the frenetic religious dances, mystical parades, *censored*fighting, and
everyday life of a now vanished culture. A fascinating historical document, also
of interest as a rare example of a film shot in beautiful two-color Technicolor.
Rasinah: The Enchanted Mask
2004. Rhoda Grauer. 57 min. Javanese and Indonesian, with English subtitles.
A forbidden glimpse of the life of Rasinah, the legendary master of Topeng
Cirebon an ancient masked dance from West Java, Indonesia. Rooted in Islamic
mysticism, the spiritual significance of the masks and dances was restricted to
“specialist families,” who for centuries passed on their esoteric heritage from
generation to generation. Making history, director Rhoda Grauer finally brings
us their story.
Tuesday, April 26 @ 7:00 pm
From Africa to India: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora
2003. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy. 74 min. English.
The Sidis are a remarkable Indian community of African descent. This film traces
the whole Sidi journey beginning when their Swahili and Bantu ancestors set sail
across the Indian Ocean, to their rise to great political power during the
Mughal period. But the main focus is on today’s Sidis, capturing their rich,
hybrid traditions rites involving impressive coconut-smashing, ecstatic trance,
fire-walking, and fire-eating. Interviews with modern Sidis complement context
provided by scholars. From Africa… concludes with stunning concert highlights
from the first international Sidi music tour.
Colours of the Earth
2004. Shefali Bhushan. 60 min. English and Hindi, with English subtitles.
A musical travelogue to India which explores an extraordinary range of
traditions from the deserts of Rajasthan to the Himalayas, from the banks of the
Ganges to Tagore’s Bengal. A gorgeous India rarely seen or heard.
Reel Rhythms is part of the Cultural World of Islam series and is made possible
in part by Arts International/The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
Conveniently located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, Symphony Space is easily
accessible from the 96th Street and Broadway subway stop on the 1, 2, 3 and 9
lines as well as the B and C subway trains, which stop at 96th Street and
Central Park West. From the B or C walk (or transfer to M96 or M106 bus) west
three blocks to Broadway, and then one block south. Situated at the halfway mark
between Midtown and Harlem, Symphony Space is 10 minutes from Times Square, 10
minutes from 125th Street, and 15 minutes from the West Village/Chelsea via the
Tickets for performances are available by visiting the Symphony Space Box Office
at Broadway and 95th Street, Tuesday-Sunday, Noon to 7:00 pm, by calling
212.864.5400 Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm or on-line at
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.