The Festival began with a chorus of the Matki Band’s traditional instruments complementing each other as they were played by senior members of the Jamat. The Jamati members enjoyed the soothing traditional Indo-Pak rhythms of the dhol, maracas, and tablas—setting a high bar in the competition. Listening to songs inspired by, and in praise of, the Imam, the floor reverberated with tapping feet, their owners looking forward to Hazar Imam’s visit.
The Jubilee Arts Festival is an avenue through which artists can illustrate their talents in a variety of the genres--including music, dance, vocals, film and visual arts. The Northeast Jubilee Arts festival drew 400 entries and showcased more than 2,500 entries nationwide, culminating in the upcoming National Jubilee Arts Festival in Pasadena, California.
One was surprised to hear childhood rhymes rearranged into ones devoted to Early Childhood Development (ECD). “ECD is the best, bolo mere…,” sang Murad Nensey from New York Headquarters Jamatkhana, who composed her own lyrics over five months ago. She says “the song has a deep message to our little ECD students, talking about our values, mentioning our shukrana to our beloved Imam for blessing us with the advanced learning opportunities at an early stage.” About the inspiration for the lyrics, she says, "my six-year-old son attended ECD and it made a great impact on him, which made me decide to be an ECD teacher myself.”
Beginning to experiment with 88 keys of ivory, Sheliz Rais from Washington D.C. Jamatkhana started learning piano at age four. Since then, there was no looking back. Dedicating her weekends studying music theory and practicing piano, Sheliz used her talent by performing at Jamati events, weddings, and birthday parties.
Sheliz selected Chopin’s piece, River Flows, to perform at the Jubilee Arts Festival. She says, “my talent has allowed me to express myself through music, and my inspiration is to use my music to communicate and connect with my Ismaili brothers and sisters.” She adds, “my intent is to help others realize the impact music can have on our Jamat, both individually and as a community.” Back in 2008, Sheliz had the privilege to perform for Hazar Imam as the lead pianist during his Golden Jubilee visit to the USA.
Music is something that transcends and connects you with the transcendent. For many, it is a universal language that can emote feelings of joy and sorrow. Hazar Imam has emphasized the importance of art and music in a number of his speeches. The Aga Khan Music Initiative was launched by His Highness the Aga Khan to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms.
Aadi Katyal, a youth from Edison Jamatkhana, slowly and inexorably tuned his harmonium with periodic hand movements slowly dancing on the instrument, forming a sur or raga, hypnotizing the audience.
A quartet of eight-years-olds from Lake Success Jamatkhana performed a mystic Kathak fusion of the Shukran Allah song. Amina Virani, mother of Insiya Virani, one of the dancers says, “this was another way of offering devotion and shukrana for everything He gave us.”
Originally from Pakistan, and currently residing in Washington D.C., Anum Shah participated in visual arts. Her three-month effort on the piece, Alaq-Mandala Ensemble, was created from pen and ink with collaboration of her father. She wanted to draw mandalas and was inspired by the "symmetry and repeating geometry.” She remarks, “the repetition of the shapes and forms in the mandala parallels the cyclical nature of time. Drawing to me is like meditation, entering in trance phase.”
The Festival showcased artists, singers, dancers, musicians, and filmmakers portraying traditions from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Hunza, Pakistan, India and other countries—illuminating the traditional and cultural dimensions of history.