Karim was one of the first street kids I worked with and became friends with in Morocco. He passed away at the end of the summer. He was just a teenager. Karim’s heart and smile overpowered the hardships he had to endure in his short life: poverty, family losses, cancer. His fire, that power, his smile, will live on forever. Love you Karim. You will be missed. My condolences to the children of the Dar Lekbira Association.
Here is a video of Karim during our drumming workshops in 2009:
Last night I was invited by the Asia Society to participate in a fantastic panel of cultural ambassadors, international journalists and activists. I discussed developments in the Muslim World and I also spoke about the Lollipops Crown project and showed video clips of the children in action during the workshops. Thanks to the accomplished panelists for allowing me the opportunity to speak and show videos of Lollipops Crown in Kashmir and thanks to the wonderful Asia Society for being so supportive of the work. This panel is part of the Creative Voices in Islam in Asia program of the Asia Society. Take aways form the panel: ‘music is homeless’ Nusrat (MTV Iggy) ; cultural forms of expression are equally important as political developments-Zeyba (Cultural Ambassador) ; and author of Rock the Casbah, Robin Wright–the counter jihad will define the next generation. Watch the video from the link above to hear the amazing programs being done for cultural exchange and see videos from each of the panelists.
I’ve been invited by the Asia Society to speak on a diverse panel featuring journalist Robin Wright (Rock the Cashbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World), poet and journalist Eliza Griswold (The Tenth Parallel), and cultural ambassador Zeyba Rahman. It is an honor to be asked to participate with such esteemed activists and thinkers and I look forward to discussing recent socio-economic developments in the Muslim world and the so called ‘counter jihad’ that may define the next decade through the arts and alternative forms of self expression.
The event is October 17th at the Asia Society in NYC
LOLLIPOPS CROWN ARTS INITIATIVE + ALL PLACES FROM HERE ( A message from founder Mohsin Mohi Ud Din)
I am honored to be partnering with the actors and producers of the Bright Light Theater Company on this special, cross cultural, theater production titled after this blog, ‘All Places From Here’ . The production will run from September 2nd – 17th in Philadelphia, PA USA as part of the highly anticipated Fringe Festival.
This special play is based on the stories and creative spirits of the street children of Morocco, taken from my arts initiative, Lollipops Crown. All Places From Here is a title I encountered during my journey through the Middle East and North Africa. It symbolizes not a place, but an energy, a feeling, a space in which the fire of creativity and love seeks to liberate itself from the coldness of the world -on -fire around us. All Places from Here weaves together an unbreakable link from pain, insecurity, and desperation to inspiration, faith, and beauty. I link All Places From Here to an excerpt of a Moroccan proverb about Tangier: it is the destination, jumping off point for thousands of hopes, reached only through struggle.
Lollipops Crown Arts Initiative (LC Arts Inc.)
The Lollipops Crown Arts Initiative (LC Arts Inc.) is a multidimensional music, film, and
arts program for disadvantaged youth that seeks to empower youth by promoting freedom of expression, pluralism, and cooperation via the arts. The project operates in the spirit of cultural exchange, youth engagement, and arts diplomacy. Founded under my Fulbright Scholarship (awarded by the State Department and the International Institute of Education and the Morocco Cultural Exchange Commission), the arts initiative was successfully implemented for over one year with three orphanages/centers in Morocco: Darna Association (support at (www.darnamaroc.org ) , Dar Lekbira Association (support at www.darlekbira.org), and Al Wafa. The BLTC production takes excerpts from these stories and creative energies.
The brilliant orphans and street children in Morocco learned how to write and play basic
rhythm notation and then learned how to write short stories based on social issues and their daily lives. The end of each story sought to explore their perception of hope and their future aspirations. As a result of the LC Arts initiative, the street kids directed, filmed, and acted in 17 short films dealing with poverty, street life, social challenges, hopes, fears, and dreams. The films and photographs were all products of the children and were screened for exhibition to the local community at the famous art house cinema, Cinematheque de Tangier, (cinemathequedetanger.com). The work of the Moroccan youth has been screened at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Malaysia, the United States Institute for Peace in Washington D.C and the LC Arts initiative has been acknowledged in a report by the Asia Society titled, ‘Creative Voices in the Muslim World’.
In 2011, I implemented a second installment of the LC Arts workshops in Kashmir, India with the help of CHINAR orphanage. In 6 weeks of workshops, the project successfully taught the children how to read, compose and play their own rhythm notations. They also wrote directed and filmed 4 short films about social issues of importance to them involving: pollution, female education, religious tolerance in politics, and corruption in the education system. The LC Arts initiative has been moving mountains with youth from disadvantaged communities from Morocco to India. The last two years have opened spaces of discovery, creativity, and confidence within the youth communities and has bridged perspectives from cultures far apart. The project is ongoing and is done independently. With your help, I hope to continue its mission for youth empowerment in the arts in the U.S and other countries. Please follow the work of the children and support the project at the All Places From Here blog:www.dangerville.wordpress.com or donate and get music from the project at www.mohsin.bandcamp.com or email LC Arts directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just played our 1st zerobridge show in Kashmir. I’m still in shock. A dream of so many years actually happened. With the backdrop of Kashmir’s mountains, we played to 100s of Kashmiris. Strangers united tonight + felt hope in the music. The show inspired the crowd + inspired us. Still can’t believe it. This time last year the entire valley was imprisoned under a 6 month crackdown amidst mass protests which resulted in the murder of over 100 Kashmiri youths. But this summer, at this concert for cultural exchange, we achieved what many said could not happen in a place affected by war + broken promises. Srinagar tonight rose above it and sang across the valley.
The Huffington Post has published my latest article about our first concerts for cultural exchange in the embattled Kashmir. Article contains exclusive video from our first concert in Srinagar Kashmir and talk about the experience of organizing the rock concert and collaborating with local traditional Kashmiri musicians, as well as the Lollipops Crown Workshops with the Children of CHINAR orphanage :
*animation demo filmed by and starring the children of CHINAR:
In the third week of workshops, the kids of CHINAR orphanage in Kashmir have been growing in their confidence and in their avenues of musical expression. They can readily write, play, and express themselves via rhythm playing and notation. (My brother Din, lead singer, song writer and guitarist, of our band zerobridge has joined the workshops, thus adding new elements of creativity and singing and guitar to the workshops.) Yet, some understandble challenges remain with the medium of film and animation. Putting a camera in one’s face makes things uncomfortable. This demo sought to challenge the kids to: 1) use thier hands and faces to act out how they feel and not be afraid of expression and 2) it taught kids how to shoot with a camera and make animation. The emotions expressed showed happiness, sadness, anger, shame, confusion and frustration. Not everyone expresses an emotion. Some just wanted to act out something as simple as playing cricket or acting like spiderman. The kids picked up the camera work quite well. Some are still afraid to push the camera shot button while others cannot stop taking pictures.
The children of CHINAR continue to surprise me. Much has been moving in the last few weeks and its difficult to update the blog from the Kashmir valley, but here is just one of the demos filmed by and starring the children of CHINAR, via animation. The kids have been exhibiting breakthroughs in their boldness to express different things and they are learning fast. The goal is to get them confident, get them empowered and comfortable with expressing themselves and nurturing the concept of pluralism and creativity. This demo was a good first step. Much more on the way…..
Maroc-USA collab: The films + stories + art from my Fulbright project with the talented street kids Morocco (from the associations of Darna, Al Wafa, Dar Lekbira) is being made for a cross cultural theater production with BLTC company in Philadeplhia USA. The production is called All Places From Here, (a phrase I kidnapped from my travels abroad in Morocco and Jordan.) If you in Philly, tonight, June 4th is 1st public ‘work in progress’ presentation of the collaboration which we have been working on. Check out the facebook invite here:: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=148786641859444
The final theater production of the stories will be live at the Philly Fringe Festival in September.
I wish I could be in Philly to see the work in progress but I’m currently in Kashmir carrying on with the Lollipops Crown workshops with the kids of the CHINAR orphanage.
Wish kids in Maroc could see the theater work being done with Bright Light Theater Company. The kids of Darna, AL Wafa, and Dar Lekbira should be proud. It is their voices, their stories, their films, their spirit which has inspired this production.
All Places From Here
a cross cultural collaboration
TOMORROW NIGHT AT 9:00pm!
The Courtyard of the
Saturday, June 4that 9pm
a public work-in-progress showing of our newest piece
Bright Light Theatre Company has teamed up with NYC-based Fulbright ScholarMohsin Mohi-Ud-Din in order to bring to life the multi-dimensional arts and music youth program, Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative. By utilizing live music, dance, and uniquely crafted projections of the short films from Tangier, BLTC will create a full-length multi-media performance.
Presented as part of the LIVE ARTS/FRINGE FESTIVAL
Join us on June 4that 9:00pm for the work-in-progress performance and interactive talk-back with the production team of
All Places From Here!
The Arts Parlor, 1170 S. Broad Street Philadelphia, PA
Closing Reception to Follow- Wine, Cheese and Hummus
Concept created in collaboration between Bright Light Theatre andMohsin Mohi-Uh-Din.
All Lollipops Crown material was created by the kids
of Darna, Dar Lekbira, and Al Wafa Youth Associations and the ASCMP Drug Clinic.
As mentioned earlier, Lollipops Crown is carrying on with its projects, this year in the valley of Kashmir, India. Read Here. The project with CHINAR, it must be mentioned, are to be nonpolitical and non commercial. This is simply an arts initiative for disadvantaged youth, not about the Kashmir conflict or Kashmir’s political situation, even if the conflict is in the background of where we live and work.
The children of CHINAR are extremely kind, well mannered and gentle. I must say they are also quite intelligent. The other day I had the first formal workshop with the kids. I will be conducting music, film, and arts workshops with Kashmiri orphans at the CHINAR home 3 days a week.
20 or so Kashmiri boys and girls sat across a room. I made them gather in a circle. It occurred to me early on that we had to as a group challenge the shyness and confidence levels in our group, especially amongst the girl participants. A lack of confidence can come from a fear of making mistakes. But without mistakes, how can one evolve and learn and discover? These were the most important points to share with the kids. The most comfortable way one can promote this is through music. The first workshops so far will be music, in particular, building the kids’ confidence levels in expression through teaching them how to read, write, and play basic rhythm notation. The approach should be ultra sensitive towards the kids feeling inadequate or incapable of performing and reading. Perseverance is also another lesson that can be learned in these workshops.
I introduced the instrument I bought for the orphanage from America, called a Cajon. The kids did not know how to read music or play the drum. I first pushed the boys then the girls to just hit the drum once, as hard as they could. They became unafraid of making noise which is crucial. The girls especially were unwilling to hit the drum loud but eventually started having fun and were letting their guard down.
I then began teaching basic rhythm notation, writing on a cracked white board. The kids started learning how to clap basic rhythms in quarter notes then eight notes and eventually got comfortable on reading rhythms. The next step in building their confidence was having the kids come to the front of the room to write their rhythm composition and have the class play it together. The excercise went extremely well. Both the girls and boys were writing music, when just an hour before they couldn’t say they knew how. The boys and girls were reading one another’s compositions and playing them together and listening to one another. Once they finished, the composers signed their names next to the musical sentence they composed.
Everyone wanted to keep going. I asked them, ” If someone asks you can you read music, what will you say?” The kids responded in a low tone, “Yes.” I said ” Come on look at what you created today!” The kids then screamed in urdu “Yes!!” Not a bad first. Much more work to be done.