Presentaion @ Asia Society

Asia Society article on my presentation and video of my presentation about Lollipops Crown at the Asia Society: http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/mohsin-din-kids-kashmir-and-controlled-chaos

 

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.

Gundtha Tzunt

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 :

Rising Above Conflict: Concerts of Cultural Exchange in Kashmir

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mohsin-mohiud-din/post_2132_b_880116.html

Kashmir: Expression/Animation Demo w. CHINAR

*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…..

DONATE TO CHINAR here: http://www.chinar.org

Make Mistakes! Workshops day 1 Kashmir

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.

**SUPPORT CHINAR HOME —donate at http://www.chinar.org

****DISCLAIMER: the views expressed in this blog are of Mohsin Mohi Ud Din alone, and in no way reflect the views of the kids or the centers and staff associated with this project*****

Kashmir Bound–workshops w youth in the Kashmir region

image taken by Mohsin Mohi Ud Din

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…..

A YEAR IN REVIEW: A Look Back at 2010- from MOROCCO to MALAYSIA to NEW YORK CITY

Here is a look back at 2010–Fulbright project: Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative–Morocco:

I: ALBUM OF SOLO MUSIC AND MUSIC WORKSHOPS FROM LOLLIPOPS CROWN MOROCCO

-Recordings of music workshops w/ street children from DARNA and patients at the ASCMP drug clinic, interviews about the project, and free solo music from MOHSIN, written in Morocco.  Listen and donate to the Fulbright Project: Lollipops Crown Music/Arts Initiative Album 2010: Album here: www.mohsin.bandcamp.com

Sample: Track # 9: WORKSHOP W/ ASCMP DRUG CLINIC and Heroin Addicts

come look, listen DEMO w_ ASCMP

As part of my Fulbright project, I was conducting music and film workshops with heroin addicts receiving care at the ASCMP Clinic in Tangier. This clinic is the only one of its kind in the Northern Morocco and it was there I met the poet Mohammed and a singer named Hana. Before her addiction, Hana wanted to be a professional singer. Mohammed loved rapping. Hana was a sweet soul but one could see her sorrow in the somber smile. Mohammed was quite shy and his arms were wrapped in gauze to protect his wounds. Yet once we got together to make music, their music, there was a real energy and optimism and pride felt within the clinic’s examination room where we recorded the song. On this particular workshop, I had my brother Din, lead singer of zerobridge, come with me to work on a song with Hana and Mohammed.

The song was based on a poem written by Mohammed called Aji, Shouf, Sma’a, or Come, Look, Listen. It is about how one can fall into fatal addictions from smaller, lesser addictions, from poverty, from boredom, from a fear of having no way out.  Mohammed had written a very insightful an sincere story about addiction and Hana was brave enough to sing the chorus in a voice that is truly rich, beautiful, and telling of the hardships she has faced. The verses are sung in spoken word forum. (Mohammed is a big Eminem fan.)

Special thanks to Hicham and Hanan, two brilliant social workers who are leading efforts to care for the addicts at ASCMP Clinic.

TO HEAR ALBUM VISIT: WWW.MOHSIN.BANDCAMP.COM

II. PRESENTATIONS AND SCREENINGS of Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative Morocco

-CINEMA RIF, MORoCCO + U.S EMBASSY MOROCCO

-WORLD ISLAMIC ECONOMIC FORUM–MALAYSIA

III. THE ASIA SOCIETY REPORT, CREATIVE VOICES IN MUSLIM WORLD, WRITES ABOUT LOLLIPOPS CROWN


My Fulbright project with street children (Lollipops Crown Music and Arts Initiative)  and the Zerobridge -U.S Embassy sponsored music tour in Morocco during my Fulbright was published in a special report published and released by the prestigious ASIA SOCIETY

The report is titled:’Muslims Making a Difference Through the Arts’: See the published report here: <a http://tinyurl.com/24aqaok”>http://tinyurl.com/24aqaok , page 78.

IV. PRESENTATION AT UNITED STATES INSTITUTE FOR PEACE–WASHINGTON D.C

V. OVER $2,000 DONATIONS HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO PROJECT AND THE CHILDREN’S CENTERS SO FAR……summer 2011—Project Kashmir–stay tuned and keep supporting……