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Pakistan: Neo-Sufi and the American Jugni, Part 2

Part two of Neo-Sufi and the American Jugni focuses on the music of Arooj Aftab and the instrument Arif Lohar always has by his side, the chimta, or "musical fire tongs."

On April 28th, 2012, Pakistani musical icon M. Arif Lohar and Pakistani American musician Arooj Aftab brought their passionate blend of traditional Punjabi music, Sufi spiritual poetry and contemporary rock and pop music to Asia Society for the organization's Creative Voices of Muslim Asia project. Before this outstanding event, David Weinstein had the chance to sit down with the two artists, as well as professor and journalist Hussein Rashid, Aristic Director of Caravanserai Zeyba Rahman and Asia Society's Director of Performing Arts and Programs Rachel Cooper, to listen to and discuss the myriad of voices Jugni brings to life within Punjabi folk music.

Sung in Punjabi, a language just as spontaneous and upbeat as the music itself, the songs Arif Lohar and Arooj Aftab craft are a culmination of human interactions and feelings and their inherent poetic voices. The environment also plays an important role; an idea the musicians and Zeyba Rahman explore when discussing the history of Sufism and their incorporation of rock, pop, flamenco and jazz music into Jugni, the "sound of the soul." The spiritual and secular themes that resonate within Jugni are also important, making it an ecstatic, collective force. Its various interpretations assure that humor, love and politics can coincide harmoniously in the music and become relatable to everyone, and lead to fantastic new styles such as Neo-Sufi.

M. Arif Lohar
Arif Lohar is one of the ‘Legends of Pakistan’, son of the late celebrated Pakistani folk singer, ‘Alam Lohar’. The Lohar lineage has come of age as son Arif sways to the rhythm of his Chimta, an instrument that generates a crisp and clean sound of a metal percussion instrument. Arif has kept alive the tradition of his great father and has established himself in his own right as one of Pakistan’s most successful artists, winning prestigious awards in his native country. Living by the philosophy of music he continues to sing his way into the eyes, ears and souls of us all. With numerous albums, Pakistani Films and Dramas under his belt, Arif came back with an album called, 21st Century Jugni, which was produced by Mukhtar Sahota in 2006, bringing his sound to the 21st Century.

Arooj Aftab
Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Arooj moved to the U.S. in 2005 to study Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music. Having completed her education and now based in New York, Arooj is working as a fulltime performing artist, music composer and sound editor. Arooj Aftab innovates off classical Pakistani, Sufi & pre-partition South Asian music, creating original compositions honoring ancestral roots,for a sound that is fresh, graceful, and musically complex. Paying homage to classical sufi legends such as Abida Parveen and Reshma; neo-soul and jazz icons such as Sade and Ella Fitzgerald; and contemporary world musicians such as Marisa Monte and Fat Freddy’s Drop, Arooj presents an original, interactive sound embraced by young and old, South Asian and beyond.

Hussein Rashid
A native New Yorker, Hussein Rashid is an academic, activist, and lecturer. He is currently a faculty member at Hofstra University and Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches. He graduated with a BA from Columbia College of Columbia University, and then went to the Harvard Divinity School, where he completed a Masters in Theological Studies. He then received an MA and PhD from Harvard’s Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. His dissertation focused on the role of music as a means of integration amongst South Asian immigrants to the US and the UK. His larger research interest is the representation and self-representation of Muslims in America. His interest in arts and cultures of Muslim-America is demonstrated through various museum talks he has given, including at the Carlos Museum at Emory and the MFA-Houston.

Zeyba Rahman
Zeyba Rahman’s eclectic resume of creating dynamic music and performing arts experiences in countries and festivals around the world makes her a natural choice to cultivate Caravanserai’s artistic vision. Whether it be serving as the North America and Asia Director for the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, curating high-profile world music celebrations for the United Nations, serving as the Chairwoman of the World Music Institute, or lending her leadership to the Muslim Voices Arts & Ideas Festival, Zeyba’s journey has been dedicated to broadening cultural horizons through shared artistic experiences.

Rachel Cooper
Rachel Cooper has been at the Asia Society since 1993 and is the Director for Performing Arts and Programs. She has extensive experience in the presentation of traditional and contemporary Asian and Asian-American performing arts and the development of interdisciplinary programs. Ms. Cooper did her undergraduate and graduate work at UCLA in Ethnic Arts and Dance Ethnology. She lived in Indonesia for six years from 1983-89. She was awarded the 2006 Dawson Award for sustained achievement in performing arts programmatic excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), an 'Izzy' (Isadora Duncan) award for the Festival of Indonesia, a Rockefeller grant for choreography, and the Clifton F. Webb award for film. Ms. Cooper is an advisor for the National Dance Project and the co-chair of the Arts Presenters annual conference for 2005 and 2006.


Indigenous Worlds


From homegrown grassroots movements, tradition, and musical experimentation comes a wide and international array of musicians who put their own spin on national and indigenous music. Sometimes rupturing the traditions of the past and sometimes affirming them, the songs of these shows spring from the porches of the world.