Houston, 5 March 2016 — What do Jewish cantorial music, gospel a cappella troupes, Mexican devotional dancers, and Indian classical vocalists have in common? They have all found a comfortable and nurturing home in Houston, Texas.
As one of the nation’s most diverse cities, Houston sees hundreds of faith and cultural communities gather to practice with vibrant music every night of the week. In celebration of this diversity, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Houston co-hosted an open film screening and concert in conjunction with the City of Sugar Land.
Folklore Films, a visual anthropology project initially funded by the Houston Arts Alliance, presented their recent media project, or “visual poem,” titled Voices of the Spirit V. Both documentary and poetry, the project follows the personal stories of the exceptional, devotional performers featured in the annual Voices of the Spirit Concert series in Houston.
“Do not think of this as a linear story, bound by chronology,” emphasised Folklore Films founder, Marlon Hall. “Rather think of it as a poem, with different stanzas and cross-cutting themes.”
The film’s producer, Danielle Fanfair, spoke to the tremendous diversity and generosity they encountered while making the film. “We are so honored to be invited into the Ismaili Center’s beautiful space today to screen Voices of the Spirit,” she said.
Stanzas of the evening’s film screening were punctuated with short performances by neo-soul musician and fellow Houstonian, Michele Thibeaux. Her “soundscapes” included arresting scales sung a cappella and full, uplifting R&B originals with accompaniment on drums and bass guitar.
As the evening concluded, visitors from communities across Sugar Land mingled at a reception in the lobby. The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Sugar Land, which itself references traditional Islamic as well as contemporary Texan architecture, added to the rich artistry of faith traditions that anchored the evening’s programme.