This is the second article of a two-part series on students’ involvement in music and performances organized at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. Read part one here.
The University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign is home to a highly diverse student body and their respective student associations, which aim to cultivate and share with each other their music, food, art and traditions.
In this piece, we feature an event organized by the Iranian Cultural Association (ICA) on our campus during the Spring 2019 semester. ICE hosted Kayhan Kalhor, a globally recognized musician from Iran known for his transcendental music and for his ensemble collaborations with other musicians across the globe. Kalhor is known to play several instruments in particular the Kamancheh and the Setar. This event was made possible by the ICA along with support from Center for South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and several other units on campus.
ICA president and PhD student Atyeh Ashtari and ICA board member Kasra Tabatabaei spearheaded the effort to bring Kalhor to campus. Atyeh studies Urban & Regional Planning has a background in Architecture and Landscape Design and is interested to work on topics related to urbanization and feminism. Through her work with ICA and the event with Kalhor, she hoped to showcase the beautiful culture of Iran and its people through music.
In a time of much political upheaval and the current travel ban, Atiyeh and the ICA community at large wanted to bring together people from different cultures and musical tastes together. The unimaginable challenge of not being able to travel to their home country of Iran due to the ban poses a unique burden on not just the Iranian community in Urbana-Champaign and in the US overall but also others from nations that are on the banned list. Atyeh says this political move causes pressure, restriction and feeling of loneliness in the lives of the students and community members who have not been able to see their close family and friends.
The political climate and travel ban meant bringing in Kayhan was even more of a challenge but due to the combined efforts of all the wonderful units on campus this event was made possible. The sold out concert drew students, community members, and staff to Gregory Hall.
Kayhan Kaylor was accompanied by his student Kiya Tabassian. Kayhan chose to play the Setar for this occasion and mesmerized the crowd. What followed was a night of ethereal music which filled the auditorium and the hearts of everyone present. I noticed several audience members sitting around me were deeply touched by the music and some even cried! One can only imagine the range of emotions that must have been evoked by the beautiful music! The musicians played non-stop for an hour and forty five minutes. Atyeh says the duo’s performance was completely impromptu and based on the reactions of the audience.
Interested in learning more about Iranian culture? Check out the ICA website to stay up to date on upcoming cultural events.
Sulagna Chakraborty is a third year PhD student pursuing the program in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology from the Department of Kinesiology & Community Health. She is a current member of SAGE. Her research is focused on vector borne diseases globally. She wants to combine her backgrounds in microbiology, social media, and public health towards a future career as both a chronic disease and infectious disease epidemiologist. She is an avid traveler and an amateur poet and writer, and she loves to sample different cuisines, dance, and make meaningful connections with people.