Café Goes Global

The ambiance and vibe of September’s Community Café in the International House at the University of Chicago fit Chicago’s World Music Festival perfectly. The diversity of the crowd matched that of the artists, who presented soulful music from Sudan, Pakistan, and Egypt.

While the partnership with the World Music Festival began in 2010 as an effort to increasingly expose Chicagoans to Muslim artists from around the world, it was also an opportunity to connect the festival with more South Side venues. On the border of Woodlawn and Hype Park, IMAN would have been remiss not to invite long-time alliance partner Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (MAGIC), to share some words. MAGIC’s Executive Director told the crowd of their mission to empower community youth to stimulate and create social change, often drawing parallels with IMAN. With this mission as the backdrop, the artists enlightened the audience with their own talents.

East-African retro-pop band Al Sarah and the Nubatones from Brooklyn kicked off the show with Al Sarah’s powerful voice and illustrated a fusion between traditional and modern Sudanese music. This set a spiritual and powerful vibe for the rest of the show through which the audience felt the artists’ aura.

IMAN Staffers and the energetic hosts for the night, Ndidi Okakpu and Alia Bilal then introduced Arooj Aftab who innovates off of classical Pakistani Sufi music. Arooj Aftab’s music left the audience mesmerized, including those who could not understand the Urdu spoken in her songs.

Following Arooj Aftab, Wust El-Balad from Cairo ended the night with a lively and upbeat set of music. Wust El-Balad reminded us of the significance of “bringing different people together in the World Music Festival” when they connected the audience to the Arab Spring by singing “Sout al-Horeya” which translates to “Voice of Freedom,” made famous by performances at Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the height of the demonstrations there. By the end of the overpoweringly beautiful night, the crowd was up and dancing, connecting to the artists’ energy, and cherishing their presence.

Prior to September’s Community Café, IMAN’s Director of Arts and Culture Asad Jafri predicted that “from Arooj’s Sufi-inspired ballads, to Al Sarah’s unique voice, to Wust El Balad’s fun and lively music, audiences will stay mentally, spiritually and physically engaged throughout the night.” That is exactly what happened that night.

You can see photos from the show here. Look out for the next Community Café coming up in 2012!

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