Mandala of Chicago premiering Qawwali and Gospel genres March 24

(L) Sonny and ensemble Riyaaz Qawwali; Markeyta Sconiers; photos courtesy of the artists via Mandala

Mandala South Asian Performing Arts based in Chicago, is collaborating with musician Sonny with Riyaaz Qawwali and gospel artist Markeyta Sconiers on the world premiere of Qawwali and Gospel: Singing Together, a performance and workshop series combining gospel music with Qawwali, a devotional musical tradition rooted in Sufi Islam.

The performance, which also features guitarist Fareed Haque and Chethan Anant on the bansuri (Indian flute), takes place March 24 at 3 p.m. at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago. The creation and performance of this work is supported by a 2023 Joyce Award, a press release from Mandala said..

Mandala, Sonny, and Sconiers collaborate with South Asian community members in the Devon neighborhood, also called Little India, including the Indo-American Center, Peirce Elementary School, and the Regal Foundation on Chicago’s North Side, and Black community groups, including Cambridge Classical Academy and a church (TBD), on Chicago’s South Side.

“Together they are creating new music that highlights parallels between the two genres while celebrating their distinct historic roots, bridging communities and cultures,” the press release said about the newest Qawwali-Gospel collaboration.

The public performance of Qawwali and Gospel: Singing Together is the culmination of workshops and conversations that are inviting community members to make connections across their unique linguistic, musical, and faith traditions, organizers said in the press release.

“Participants are exploring the complexities and inherited histories of Chicago’s cultural and neighborhood relationships throughout the project, creating opportunities for learning, reconciliation, and solidarity across different immigrant and diasporic background,” they added.

“This exciting collaboration, which features a unique weaving of music representing different Chicago BIPOC artists, allows us to present cultural understanding and acceptance through the Mandala South Asian lens. And with the support of the Joyce Award, we can continue to build bridges and deepen understanding between different Chicago communities,” Mandala Executive Director Pranita Nayar is quoted saying in the press release.

Mandala is a MacArthur Award-winning organization founded by Nayar. Sonny with Riyaaz Qawwali has more than 29 years of classical music training. Sconiers is a songwriter and independent artist who became a member of Walt Whitman’s Soul Children of Chicago Choir at the age of 14, traveling across the US and abroad, and performing at the White House and with greats like Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond.



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