See clips from exclusive film project/arts diplomacy workshops with the brilliant youth of CHINAR Orphanage in Kashmir. Here is a summary video of the workshops I did with the orphans this time last year. In particular, these oprhans wrote, directed, and acted in 4 short films tackling issues related to pollution, female education, corruption, and the importance of relgious tolerance in politics. Politicians will remain incompetent, but the youth have their ears to the ground and much to teach us.
Dedicating this one to the beloved cousin Izhar Wani (Rest In Peace) and my brother Murt who helped make this a reality. Love and prayers to the youth of Kashmir.
This Saturday, March 3rd, I will be speaking on a panel about LC Arts and the arts diplaomcy workshops I led for youth in Kashmir in 2011. There will be some amazing speakers sharing their projects and ideas related to the arts, philanthropy and development in Kashmir. I am looking to expand this project for youth in other regions, so I hope to meet some potential partners and donors to keep the momentum going.
These kids were always brilliant, and it was this arts diplomacy project that gave them a little push to begin opening some new frontiers. I am in awe of these children and their efforts to do good in this world, a world that in many ways has exploited them. As of late, I have received messages from some of the orphans and street kids in Kashmir, India as well as Kenitra, Morocco. Thought I’d share some:
FROM KASHMIR: CHINAR ORG
I’m Pratik Tandon. I’m interning with CHINAR kashmir. I’ve heard alot about you from the kids here. They really miss you and I can make out they had indeed spent some memorable time with you. Yesterday, they had asked me write a mail to you. They gave me a letter for you and here it goes-
Deal Mohsin Bhaya,
Aslalam Alaikum, we are kids of CHINAR. How are you?Last time we requested you talk to us online but you only sent an e-mail. Again, we are asking you about online talking. Please return in summer. We still remember your every teaching and especially your great advices. “MAKE MISTAKES..ETC”. Noor Jahan saw you in her dream that you were again teaching us.She now wants you to realise this dream.
Rubeena: I have met many foreigners but you were the best!I will never forget you.
Nusrat:I miss you very much.
Jabeena:You all great guys. I miss you.
Zubaida: Please……..come again.
Bisma:I miss you so much.
Ishrat:I hope you will come again…….in 2012. We have all passed our previous classes.
Uzma:Thanks a lot for giving us precious gift of knowledge. You encouraged us to be brave. I still remember when we lost game with boys and were sobbing but you were the one who encouraged us, I love you all.
We all miss you very very……much. You all are great people and will always remain in our hearts.
PLEASE COME AGAIN.”
MESSAGE FROM MOROCCO: Dar Lekbira Association
“good mornings mohsin im hanaa your my brather im from dar lekbira moroco kenitra. ok antadiro itisalek halian ok bay mohsin is 12ou cklook ok my brather my favourite sebgect is english and art and chante and dance and plage and teater my favourite sport is basketball and football im in class is 9 im16yers old i miiiisss youu ok by”
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
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…..
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.
Preparing to fly to Kashmir to continue with the Lollipops Crown (Fulbright) film and music workshops for orphans at CHINAR organization, led by dear family friends Shireen Qadari and Irfan Shahmiri. Will also be doing some video projects and interviews with Kashmiri youth leadership groups and activists. I have no money for this project which has made continuing the great work from the Morocco workshops quite difficult. But dear friends have donated and helped to make this summer’s workshops for youth happen. The grant from the IIE and State Department and the Fulbright Fellowship hepled fund the successful implementation of these workshops in Morocco last year. Today, Amber Zerzan has bought a microphone and computer battery needed for video workshops and interviews. Ashley Van Ergen helped raise $700 which will go towards equipment/workshop costs. Columbia University has donated $600 to help with costs. My parents have paid for my ticket. $1,000 is not a lot to work with. But at the end of the day, you either do it or you don’t. All talk and no play is a lame status quo these day. Here, we are trying to, in a small scale, build cultural diplomacy, empower youth from disadvantaged communities, and ultimately move mountains in a world that sometimes seems hopeless. (To donate and get free music from the project: visit www.mohsin.bandcamp.com) This project is NOT about politics or religion. The views of this blog are of me and me alone.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2008 that “Between 60,000 and 100,000 children in this state of 5.5 million people are thought to be orphans – including fatherless children with mothers too poor to care for them”. The international humanitarian organization Medicins Sans Frontier reported that 1 in 3 Kashmiris have lost members of their family because of the armed conflict.
Some basic background on developments in Kashmir:
Kashmir is disputed territory between Pakistan and India and has been the main topic of contention between the two nuclear armed rivals. India claims Kashmir to be an integral part of the country whilst Pakistan claims Kashmir, a Muslim majority territory, should be put to a referendum. Pakistan has enabled violent militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. Separatists militants have fueled extremism and indiscriminate attacks on Kashmiri civil society. Meanwhile, India, who has some 500,000 military and paramilitary forces occupying the region, has committed systematic human rights abuse on Kashmiris resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of people and the disappearances of several thousand.
It is reported that approximately 70,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989. Contrary to popular belief, the security and economic and political development today is as fragile as it was in the early 1990s. Last summer for example, over 100 unarmed civilian protesters were killed.
Whether you are Hindu or Muslim or Kashmir or Pakistani or Indian, everyone has been affected by the conflict in Kashmir, yet it is the Kashmiris in and around the Kashmir Valley, in particular, Kashmiri mothers and the youth who have suffered the most. It is my hope that the Lollipops Crown project and our band, Zerobridge, can help give back and expand the international community’s identification of Kashmiri culture and Kashmiri youth.
In addition to leading workshops with orphans in Kashmir, I am also trying to organize some acoustic concerts for our band, Zerobridge, led my brother Mubashir (lead singer, songwriter, guitarist) and myself (drummer). Music and art can be the avenue to show a different side of the youth of Kashmir, one not marred by violence or oppression. The Lollipops Crown workshops and Zerobridge concerts I am trying to organize, would have a goal of helping to expose the world to the talents and intellect of Kashmiri youth by showcasing the arts of the valley’s youth. In Kashmir we hope to first learn more about Kashmir and then promote understanding and dialogue with fellow artists via music and film. Kashmiri youth till now have been unfairly labeled as angry, violent, closed minded, uneducated, unartistic. Yet Kashmiri youth are in fact intellectuals, artists, humanitarians, musicians. (See Nafeesa’s article on Kashmiri youth and the arts for Guernica Magazine) They are tolerant and seeking a more pluralistic and more developed society.
Stay tuned dear friends. The future is unwritten…..