Sweets Sounds of Harmony in Acrimonious Times
By C. Naseer Ahmad
In acrimonious times when drumbeats of war are aloud with the threats of missiles launches, it is both refreshing and soothing to hear some sweets sounds of harmony in the heart of Washington.
“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” opined Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem. Chances are that if the famous poet had happened to be in Washington on April 27th and 28th, 2017, he might have seriously considered revising his poem, notwithstanding the bellicosity around.
Fresh spring air combined with clear skies provided ample opportunities to relax and enjoy the spectacular views of Washington, DC, from the terrace of the residence of Ambassador Martin Dahinden of Switzerland – who happened to visit Pakistan during the flood relief efforts and is a champion of “demining” – to remove these vicious weapons of war.
Diplomats, scientists, engineers and people from all walks of life engaged in a stimulating conversation as they strolled leisurely in the terrace and the adjoining garden of the diplomatic residence.
Warm hospitality of Ambassador and MrsDahinden and meticulous care by the Embassy staff made guests from different nationalities feel at home. It showed why Switzerland can play the role of a host getting parties with opposing views come together through diplomacy and dialogue.
The audience included among many other distinguished guests, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (retired) and former Congressman and Mrs Tanner and representatives of the Healthcare Businesswomen Association.
According to the Embassy Series, which cosponsored the musical performance “the evening highlight was the World Premiere of Akira Nishimura’s ‘SamudraManthan -The Churning of the Ocean Milk - commissioned by the Van Dyke Family foundation… This piece, in five parts, showcased the skills of the artists as they interpreted this music “telling a story from Hindu mythology where gods and demons try to extract the Amrita (drink of immortality) from the ocean.”
It is not often that world premiers of artists are performed at ambassadorial residences. So from this perspective, Switzerland Embassy in the United States accomplished a great feat.
Members of the Van Dyke Family along with other guests watched the fleeting fingers of Keisuke Nakagoshi - from the east – and Eva-Maria Zimmermann – of Swiss origin – perform their magic with found hands on one piano. Together they are known as the ZOFO - ZO=20 and FO=Finger Orchestra –duet.
On April 28, 2017, the International Students House (ISHDC) in Washington - which accommodates more than 96 international scholars at one time; 300 residents from 70 countries each year - hosted an “exciting evening performance of Arab music and dance sponsored by the Embassy Series.” ISHDC Director Betty Ann Tanner – who supports many charitable causes - along with her husband retired Congressman John Tanner were present in the audience to listen to Karim Nagi, Egyptian multi-instrumentalist & Friends: Kylie Hilali, the Qanun Arabic zither harp, and AbderrahimAmthgal, the Nay Arabic bamboo flutes. Nagi described “the nuances of their instruments, and explained the storyline behind each piece of music they played.”
Commenting on the fantastic performance by Karim Nagi and Friends, Ms.Anne Howard-Tristani, niece of late US Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, commented: “We are grateful to the Embassy Series and the International Student House for increasing our appreciation and understanding of Arabic and Islamic culture by sharing the beauty and authenticity of Arabic music and dance. It provided the audience with a rare opportunity to both enjoy and learn about the complexity of traditional Arab music and dance presented by three outstanding Arab artists. Karim Nagi, a native Egyptian multi-instrumentalist, DJ, composer and folk dancer has been an active performer of Arab music and dance in the United States and around the world, exposing young audiences to traditional Arab cultural arts for more than two decades. He delighted the audience last night by his singing, dancing and performing traditional Arab instruments including The Oud -- an ancient Arab descendent of the guitar, the Riq Tambourine--which has five sets of two pairs of brass cymbals--and the tabla, an Egyptian goblet shaped drum. Nagi accompanists, Kaylie Hilali, delicately played the Qanun Arabic Zither Harp -- a descendent of the old Egyptian harp; and, AbderrahimAmthqal of Morocco expertly played six different Nay Arabic bamboo flutes.”
With the sweets sounds of harmony, Nagi lifted the audience on the magic carpet in the Great Hall of the International Students House and transported them from the banks of Potomac River to the fertile Nile Delta through the streets of Cairo and on a boat to Asyut in Southern Egypt.
With the nimble fingers of the ZOFO duet, the charming diplomatic welcome of Ambassador and MrsDahinden, assisted by Ms Isabel Bauer and the entire embassy staff, the East and West were not just on speaking terms but happily schmoozing together. No wonder guests like Leena Rose Miller drove over a hundred miles and had something to write home about.