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Now You See Us: From Periphery to Presence


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“Now You See Us: From Periphery to Presence” is a music and poetry showcase presented in partnership with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Taking place on the precipice of the anniversary of 1947 Partition, the performances will explore Central and South Asian diaspora narratives that are routinely marginalized within the broader cultural landscape of the United States. Through individual and collaborative performances at the intersections of personal and collective history, artists will highlight themes such as Muslim folklore, mysticism, healing and diasporic cultural connection in the context of global history.

Qais Essar is a contemporary Afghan composer, instrumentalist and producer who channels his melodic designs through the rabab, a 2,500 year old instrument from Afghanistan. He has toured extensively, sharing his new genre of music nationally and internationally. Essar has released two LPs, four EPs and one live album. His first LP, The Green Language (2014), quickly became an Amazon #1 bestseller, followed by his second LP, Tavern of Ruin in 2016. He has contributed original music to feature films also. In 2017, Qais was recruited by director Nora Twomey to compose an original song for her Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated film, The Breadwinner (produced by Angelina Jolie). He earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination for “Best Original Song” for his piece The Crown Sleeps. Additionally, he orchestrated a sold-out run of the musical Tear a Root from the Earth at the OBIE award-winning Ice Factory at the New Ohio Theatre in New York City. Essar continues to be featured in festivals and venues around the world including the Newport Folk Festival, SXSW, The Kennedy Center, Treefort Music Festival and more. Essar is planning to tour and release his 3rd LP in 2018.

Born in Hyderabad, India and raised in both the UK and the US, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem is a Philadelphia based poet and visual artist. A former public interest lawyer supporting economic justice for survivors of family and intimate partner violence, Sham-e-Ali’s poetry is widely published in various publications and anthologies. She is a recipient of the Loft Literary Center’s Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship and her poetry can be found in anthologies such as, Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2005), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press, 2005) and “Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence” (Seal Press, 2008). Sham-e-Ali has performed her poetry both locally & internationally. She is currently working on her forthcoming book of poetry, “City of Pearls” (2018, Upset Press).