Connecticut College to host Pakistani rock band

Photo by Ammar Shareef.
Photo by Ammar Shareef.

A wildly popular rock fusion quartet from Pakistan will bring its exotic sound to campus and the New London community in October.

Khumariyaan is touring the United States through Center Stage, an exchange program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The tour’s purpose is twofold: entertain crowds with pulsing rhythms produced through a blend of sitars, guitars and clay drums, and bridge cultural divides between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Khumariyaan arrives in New London Oct. 8 for the series of events on campus and in the local community, highlighted by a special performance during the College’s Fall Weekend for parents and alumni in Palmer Auditorium, Saturday, Oct. 11. Khumariyaan’s appearance is part of the 2014-15 onStage at Connecticut College season. 

The quartet’s visit to Connecticut College has special significance for Director of Arts Programming Robert Richter ’82. Center Stage, which is administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts, selected Richter for a four-person talent scouting delegation to Pakistan in the spring of 2013.

Richter says he didn’t know what to expect from his trip to the war-torn region, and that friends and colleagues worried about his safety. Conversely, when he arrived in Pakistan, Richter says people there had misgivings and fear of the United States, especially “Connecticut” because they had heard of the state only in the context of the tragic Newtown school shooting.

“We just hear the bad stuff about each other,” Richter says. “I’m worldly enough to know that’s not how it is. The need and reality for programs like Center Stage is so we can get to know each other better.”

The delegation visited Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad in search of artists that could appeal to American audiences. The moment that Khumariyaan began to play in an Islamabad music hall, Richter says, he knew he had found the right act.

“As soon as Khumariyaan took to the stage, everyone started dancing,” Richter said. “In Urdu, the word khumariyaan means ‘intoxicators,’ and their sound was truly intoxicating for me.”

The group’s hometown of Peshawar sits near the Khyber Pass and the Afghanistan border. Historically, the Khyber Pass has played an important role in military strategy, from ancient invasions by the Persian and Mongol empires through the ongoing Afghan conflict. 

“These types of cultural exchanges are what we are all about as an institution,” Richter says. “I’m very excited that Khumariyaan is coming here for Fall Weekend, so alumni and parents can also join this cultural journey with our students, faculty, staff and local community members.”

Khumariyaan arrives in New London on Wednesday, Oct. 8. The following day, the group performs as part of Live Lunch Break, The Day newspaper’s livestreaming concert series featured on On Friday, the group meets with the Global Islamic Studies faculty at Connecticut College and students from the College’s Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, a center for interdisciplinary scholarship. Khumariyaan will also perform a brief concert for students at the Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School in Waterford.

Saturday’s feature performance begins at 8 p.m., in the College’s Palmer Auditorium. General admission tickets are $22, with $20 tickets for seniors and $11 tickets for students.  

Khumariyaan’s U.S. tour also includes performances in Washington, New York and Greater Boston. 

October 6, 2014