Songs of Muslim Women Show , by Himika Rashid
This year is a big one for Canada. We’re 150 years old and celebrating the birthday bash with year round festivities in cities and neighbourhoods across the country. Our capital city of Ottawa is marking 2017 as the year to turn a new (insert: maple) leaf to be the coolest kid on the map. And millennials like me in O-town are excited to see if Ottawa will really take the cake for best birthday party ever.
So far, I’ve already attended a few of Ottawa’s events including the opening ceremony for the One Young World summit, Winterlude, Redbull Crashed Ice championships, and the Stanley Cup Tribute concert. But it was in March that I came across a pre-JUNO award event called “Songs of Muslim Women” that really caught my eye. Given the current negative political climate surrounding Muslims and the general sensitivity of the permissibility of music in Islam, let alone by women, I was curious to check out what this was going to be all about.
Set at the CentrePointe Theatre on a Saturday evening, I joined people from various backgrounds as we packed the seats waiting eagerly for the show to begin. The evening opened with a beautiful recitation of the Quran and translation. Then the emcee, Shamima Khan, welcomed the audience and spoke a little bit about Expression of Muslim Women (EMW). The had group formed nine years ago when Khadija Haffajee challenged Muslim women in Ottawa to create an event that celebrated women and in particular, opposed the attitude that Muslim women are oppressed. From then on, EMW had been highlighting the voices and choices of Muslim women through the arts. Tonight was special for EMW, as it was the first time they were performing for an audience of both men and women, in addition to being sponsored by the JUNO Awards Host Committee and Ottawa 2017 Bureau. It was certainly a big achievement for them.
With the smaller Shakepearean-like theatre, the “Songs of Muslim Women”concert became a very intimate affair once the show started. The audience joined the artists many times throughout the night by thumping along to the beat, clapping into crescendos, and humming along to a few familiar tunes. In six musical acts, we went from haunting medieval choral music by Sisters in Song to spoken poetry by Barâa Arar; from the Arabian strumming of Ghadeer Abou-Shakra on her oud to Stéphanie Roy’s renditions of traditional Acadian fishermen’s songs; and from Audrey Saparno’s feel-good pop songs with her band to Nasreen Shoshi’s performances of popular Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu songs. All interpreted and performed within a Muslim context. There were pieces performed for entertaining, there were pieces performed for thought, and there were pieces performed to protest. It was really an invitation for building bridges, and for providing a tiny glimpse into the minds and thoughts of Muslim women from different cultural backgrounds. I personally really enjoyed it.
If you are interested in attending more of EMW’s performances, be sure to visit their website or Facebook page. They will be hosting their 10th Annual Expressions of Muslim Women Show on November 4th so be sure to mark your calendars and show your support.