Collegiate Times, "Far from home, playing for a change: Khumariyaan comes to Blacksburg"

Collegiate Times, "Far from home, playing for a change: Khumariyaan comes to Blacksburg"

Sep 22, 2014

Matt Minor, news staff writer

With the sun bowed out behind the mountains of Blacksburg, a band unknown to most of the country climbed the stage at 130 Jackson on Thursday night.  

Amid curiosity-driven applause from an eclectic mix of observers, Khumariyaan took their instruments out, still covered in specks of dust from a show they had played four hours earlier in front of 430 people at the Moss Arts Center.


At the same time, nearly 7,000 miles away, the sun was just beginning to rise over the band members' homes in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Khumariyaan, also known as “The Intoxicators,” came to the U.S. on Sunday under the direction of Center Stage, an offshoot of the U.S. State Department, that aims to introduce foreign musicians, dancers and theatrical performers to American communities. Blacksburg became a blip on their radar via the efforts of WUVT, Tech’s in-house radio station, and Virginia Tech faculty member Jim Dubinsky.

“Language and music are the two things that really break down cultural barriers,” Dubinsky said. “This is the sort of thing every community needs every once in a while — bands that want to change the world.”

Dubinsky is a long-standing supporter of the local music scene in Blacksburg; he DJ’ed at WUVT for eight years and hosted a concert series dubbed “Monkey House Concerts” in his own home.

Khumariyaan followed their debut performance at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday with a show in Dubinsky’s living room.

“All I can say is that they’re doggone fabulous,” Dubinsky said as he addressed the crowd in an introduction. “When they come out and start to play, you won’t be able to stop enjoying life.”

The Boston Boys, a band that hails from New York, also shared the stage on Thursday night as fellow members of Center Stage. The four-piece folk-style band’s first tour was in the Middle East and Morocco, a venture in which they were sent as American ambassadors in the same vein as Khumariyaan’s Pakistani ambassador role.

Pat Kirby, the company manager for Khumariyaan’s tour, noted that although the Blacksburg stop-over has been a bit “loose” in contrast to the fairly rigid structure Center Stage is accustomed to, it has offered a welcome change of pace.

“This has allowed both bands to have a little more fun and play a bit more openly,” said Kirby. “I think it has helped us settle things down after such an intense first few days.”

Khumariyaan’s main mission with this tour has been to bring light to an otherwise shadowed-over area in American contemporary awareness. During a Q-and-A session at their Center for the Arts performance, the band stated that they hope their music, a seamless blend of hard-edged Western and traditional Eastern influences, can bridge the American and Pakistani cultural divide.

Most of all, the band wants to shed the preconceptions Americans may have for their culture due to the extremism shown throughout the country nearly every day.

“Khumariyaan was born in the age of Talibanisation, sectarian violence, military operations and neo-imperialist expansions,” reads the band’s SoundCloud page.

“In our country and particularly in our region, playing music, or indeed, anything that is art, is a form of resistance, a resistance that many have paid for with their lives,” said lead guitarist Sparlay Rawail in a WUVT news release.

Jim Dubinsky hopes that by spreading educational and entertaining messages like these under the flag of WUVT, the radio station can become much more appreciated within the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg area.

“Why did I do this? Because I believe in WUVT,” Dubinsky said. “It’s a community treasure that not enough people know about, and being able to bring together members of the community and say that this is WUVT — that’s important.”