Center Stage Artists Announced!

Jul 12, 2011

Center Stage Artists Announced!

Rebecca Blunk

Executive Director

Center StageSM Artists Announced
Contemporary ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia and Pakistan
will tour the U.S. in 2012

(Boston, MA – July 12, 2011) Sufi-rock bands from Lahore…a comedy trio from Karachi…master Haitian troubadours…puppetry and Hip Hop collectives from Yogyakarta…power-house contemporary dance companies from Port-au-Prince and Padang…

Acclaimed at home but little-known to many Americans, 10 ensembles from Pakistan, Haiti, and Indonesia will travel to the U.S. in 2012 as part of Center StageSM, a new cultural exchange program initiated by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).

Center StageSM is designed to provide opportunities for international performing artists to engage with diverse communities, including youth, throughout the United States, and will offer Americans the chance to grow in understanding and appreciation of other nations.  These tours provide for deeper engagement for both Americans and visiting artists, who will return home with direct experiences to share in their own communities.

“When the State Department developed Center StageSM, we felt strongly that cultural exchanges allow us to take the diversity of cultures, customs, and communities from across the globe, and leap over distance, language, and generations to share the human spirit and strike sparks of enduring understanding and insight,” said Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock.

Each of the 10 groups will make independent month-long tours between June and December 2012 to four to seven different American communities.  With an emphasis on reaching audiences in small and mid-sized cities, each group will offer performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, visit local museums and attend community events. The first stop on each tour: Washington DC and an opening performance on the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Tours are being routed this summer and fall; tour schedules will be announced in the winter of 2012.

“Center StageSM builds on NEFA’s work to offer new perspectives,” said NEFA executive director Rebecca Blunk.  “The Center StageSM ensembles are among the leading creative voices of their generation. As change-makers and idea brokers, these artists are curious to discover America and are eager for Americans to connect to their cultures.”

The inaugural Center StageSMperforming arts ensembles are:

  • Arieb Azhar (Islamabad, Pakistan) With his powerful, expressive baritone, Azhar leads a quartet of acoustic musicians in an eclectic mix of urban and folk-based songs grounded in Sufi and other humanist poetries from the subcontinent and Europe.  “As Arieb Azhar renders the works of Sufi virtuosos, his voice resonates with singular devotion.”  (Coke Studio, Pakistan)
  • BélO (Pétion-Ville, Haiti), has been hailed as Haiti’s musical ambassador to the world.  A socially conscious singer-songwriter with a sophisticated sound, BélO and his band deliver a high-energy mix of Jazz, Worldbeat, Rock, Reggae and Afro-Haitian traditional rhythm known as Ragganga. and
  • Compagnie de Danse Jean-René Delsoin (Pétion-Ville, Haiti) Delsoin’s outstanding, vibrant dancers and drummers embody choreography that captures Haiti now --- raw and refined, spiritual, powerful, and precarious.
  • Jogja Hip Hop Foundation (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) This sharp Javanese rap collective promotes tolerance and pluralism with hooks that meld global rhythms, gamelan music, ancient Javanese poetry and literature.
  • Nan Jombang (Padang, Indonesia) The island of Sumatra is home to this family of artists whose work is a compelling mix of Minangkabau performing arts traditions (drumming, dance, martial arts) and contemporary movement.  Percussive, persuasive and explosive modern dance.   
  • noori (Lahore, Pakistan), one of Pakistan’s top pop bands, helped define Sufi-rock.  “As one of the leading names in Pakistan’s music industry, noori is often credited for revitalizing rock music for Pakistan’s youth.” (Coke Studio, Pakistan)
  • Papermoon Puppet Theatre (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) In a country with world-renowned puppetry traditions, the young, expert artists of Papermoon are extending the form and creating works that imaginatively explore identity, society and  Indonesia’s recent past.
  • Ti-Coca & Wang-Nègès (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) masters of Haiti’s acoustic twoubadou (troubadour) tradition, Ti-Coca and his band are “a loose-limbed, rootsy treat.” (BBC News)
  • Very Live (Karachi, Pakistan) Up to the minute sketch comedy, and satiric mirth from a trio of sweetly smart cut-ups:  Saad Haroon (Pakistan’s separated-at-birth Jon Stewart comedic twin), Danish Ali (the doe-eyed and goofy sidekick) and guitarist Amin Arif.
  • Zeb & Haniya (Lahore, Pakistan) This acclaimed singer-song writing duo paved the way for many female musicians active on the Pakistani music scene today. Original songs and newly interpreted tunes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia carve a space for music that transcends national boundaries.

About NEFA and Center StageSM
Based in Boston, NEFA (New England Foundation for the Arts) provides leadership and resources that benefit artists, the public, arts funders, and policymakers throughout New England, nationally and internationally.  NEFA was established in 1976 as one of six regional arts organizations designed to cultivate the arts regionally and strengthen the national arts infrastructure.

Center StageSM was initiated and is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by NEFA, in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with additional support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council.  General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.


Press Contact    
Ann Wicks    
617. 951.0010 x534

Tour Contact
Lisa Booth Management, Inc.