October 18, 2004

Performances Celebrate Daniel Pearl Music Day

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The day after the world learned of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder in Pakistan in 2002, Pearl’s friend George Pehlivanian was scheduled to conduct the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Troubled by the news of his friend’s death but still determined to carry on with the performance, he dedicated the concert to Pearl, remembering Pearl’s love of music. The roots of Daniel Pearl Music Day were planted.

Last Thursday, several Cornell students in the Alice Cook House collaborated to bring Daniel Pearl Music Day to Cornell, hosting performances by three musical groups and an introduction from Prof. Ross Brann, chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Thursday’s concert was one of 324 Daniel Pearl Music Days held in 37 countries worldwide.

“Daniel Pearl’s journalistic quest was to give voice to the voiceless around the world so that informed Americans might interact more responsibly and sensitively with those with whom we share the planet,” Brann said. “Daniel Pearl Music Day invites us, people of all backgrounds, to re-dedicate ourselves to fostering the sense of our common humanity that is the lasting legacy of Daniel Pearl and a fitting tribute to remembering his life.”

Brann spoke eloquently on the significance of identity as he reminded the audience that Pearl had been murdered because he was Jewish. He also acknowledged the therapeutic possibilities of music.

“In classical Jewish and Islamic traditions, music was considered the language of the spheres. … The Daniel Pearl Music Day takes this insight to another level by celebrating the therapeutic possibilities music offers for the well-being of the community, the society and the world,” he said.

Tarana, Cornell’s only Hindi a capella group, gave the first performance, singing Tera Chehera and Suraj Hua Madham. Composed of two women and three men, Tarana promotes awareness of Indian classical, film and pop music around Cornell.

The Cornell Middle Eastern Music Ensemble (CMEME) followed. CMEME plays Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Greek and other Middle Eastern music using a variety of instruments: lutes, violins, goblet drums, tambourines, clarinets and Arabic accordions.

They gave a lively performance, including a duet traditionally sung between a man and woman; the man makes unwanted advances toward the woman, and she wards him off by explaining why he is not worthy of her company.

The event finished with a vibrant performance by the Cornell University Klezmer Ensemble, a group of Cornell students and staff, Ithaca College students and other community members. The Ensemble performed mostly Jewish wedding music, which ranged in tone from nostalgic and heavy to light, festive melodies to which the audience clapped.

Munira Hyder-Adam grad, a resident fellow at Alice Cook House, first broached the idea to the House’s administration out of a desire to commemorate previous terrorist attacks in Kenya; Hyder knew she would not be able to hold the event in Kenya, so she and several other students affiliated with Alice Cook House collaborated to bring Daniel Pearl Music Day to Cornell.

“This stands for tolerance,” Hyder-Adam said.

“I’m a Muslim, and I decided it’s important to get together with other people … especially because the journalist was Jewish and murdered in Pakistan,” said Mandy Esch, a post-doctoral student. “I thought it was important for Muslims to be at the concert.”

Organizers estimated 100 people were in attendance at the event.

Archived article by Maya Rao
Sun Staff Writer