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The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi Announces the Launch of the Fifth Annual Barzakh Festival

Three globally renowned groups will feature in the ambitious three-day online event brought to life through music and in-depth conversations with the artists.

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi Announces the Launch of the Fifth Annual Barzakh Festival

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi has announced the return of Barzakh Festival for its fifth edition; the event will be streamed online for three nights on February 1, 3, and 6. The cross-cultural lineup features three globally renowned groups who encapsulate The Arts Center's theme for the season 'A Bridge', and speaks to the globally observed Black History Month, which takes place every February.

Afro-Venezuelan artist Betsayda Machado, the African American/Native American Martha Redbone Roots Project, and Afro-Khaleeji/South African jazz collaboration, Boom.Diwan X Nduduzo Makhathini will share exclusive programs and engage in conversation with the UAE and the wider global community. Tailored for online viewing, each event is a cultural journey brought to life through music and in-depth exchanges with the artists.

Executive Artistic Director at The Arts Center at NYUAD Bill Bragin, said: "Barzakh Festival will explore the multitude of identities and heritages that musicians bring to their art, supporting new artistic research and creation, and celebrating artists who cross cultural and stylistic borders. The online setting allows those crosscurrents to ripple across the multiple nights, as each of the three artists bring hybridized influences to their own performances."

Afro-Venezuelan artist singer Betsayda Machado offers a first look at her new project, Las Cantoras, in her UAE online debut from Venezuela on February 1 at 11am ET. For Las Cantoras, Machado and Oswaldo Lares co-curated a compilation of historical rural recordings by female singers from Lares' archival collection. The result will be a rarely seen material that includes archival recordings, liner notes, historical photographs, and context for each of the singers. The work will be premiered online along with a pre-release audio-video broadcast with the artists and research team, followed by a live commentary with the project's leaders.

Machado commented, "There are singers who have the power to communicate humanly - in an almost spiritual way - the story, identity, pains, and happiness of their regions. Listening to them is an opportunity to learn about their past and history, but also our past and history, and the Cantoras project we are working on during the Barzakh Festival is about that; revisiting the work of female rural singers who are blessed examples of local cultural heritage in Venezuela."

US-based Martha Redbone Roots Project will make their UAE online debut on February 3 at 11am ET, mixing Appalachian music with soul, blues, and Native American elements for a uniquely personal combination that speaks to Redbone's Afro-Indigenous heritage. Redbone was recently featured in Tiny Desk meets globalFEST on NPR Music in January, and she is a recent winner of multiple awards as the composer for The Public Theater's production of Ntozake Shange's groundbreaking choreopoem/theater piece For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When The Rainbow is Enough). The performance, filmed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn's National Sawdust, will be followed by a live online Q&A. Redbone will also host a two-part workshop titled Cultural Preservation through Music: Creativity in Music with Culturally Responsive Intention on Sunday and Tuesday, February 21 and 23.

Redbone added: "I am honored to participate in this year's Barzakh Festival, to meet and share music, along with stories of my homelands, and urban and mountain culture; and exchange with the musicians with whom we are excited to share the virtual stage. Music and healing are especially needed this year, and I now realize how important it is for us to continue creating music and art and to gather safely, however we can. Even remotely, there is an energy that is strong and very much needed. I believe it's the energy of the human spirit that connects us all."

On February 6 at 11am ET, the rhythms and sounds of Khaleeji pearl diving traditions meet South African jazz with Boom.Diwan x Nduduzo Makhathini. Audiences will see the premiere of a new suite composed by the NYUAD faculty member and guitarist Ghazi Al-Mulaifi and South African jazz pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, the first ever South African musician signed to the legendary Blue Note Records. The online concert and artist talk is set to be a collision of ritual music, composition, and improvisation that takes into account ideas about the self, the community, and the spiritual in the face of modernity. The music touches on ideas of cosmopolitanism, community, dialogue, and healing.

The show, recorded in three countries - at The Black Box at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, at Ibn Dokhi Studios, Hawalli, Kuwait, and at South Africa's East London Guild Theatre - will be accompanied by significant educational outreach teaching Khaleeji rhythms across the UAE, supported by the US Embassy in the UAE. Al-Mulaifi, an ethnomusicologist at NYUAD, will be joined by Boom.Diwan percussionist Abdulaziz Al-Hemely, as they host two technique workshops on February 14, one in Arabic and one in English. Titled Rhythms of the Arabian Sea, the sessions will explore the rhythms of Khaleeji pearl diving music, the music of the Indian Ocean civilizations trade routes, and global jazz, and are presented in partnership with Ajman University, Zayed University (College of Humanities and Social Sciences), Afikra, and Al Qasimi Foundation and with support from the US Mission in the UAE.

Al-Mulaifi commented on the festival, "I'm always seeking to expand human expression, experience, and understanding through musical-collaboration. For Barzakh 2021, I am very pleased to collaborate with pianist Nduduzo Makhathini. Together, we have created something special and unique. In our co-composed suite that meditates on prayer, survival, and hope we were inspired by our conversations on the state of the world."

Barzakh Festival will be streamed online on Facebook, YouTube, and The Arts Center website.


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