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Arab American museum opens fall global cultural series

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

Global Fridays, a music and performance series, returns to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn this week, with a 2016 fall season that has a heavy emphasis on talents from Cuba, India and Egypt.

The series, launched in 2005 when the museum opened, is considered a sister event to its annual Concert of Colors.

Kathryn Grabowski, the museum’s humanities programming coordinator, says the institution that focuses on the Arab American community considers including other cultural perspectives an important part of its mission.

“If we want to tell the Arab American story, we need to tell everyone’s story,” Grabowski says. “So for Global Fridays, we bring in artists from Cuba, India, Ireland, Ethiopia. It’s all over the map. The audiences that come in are sometimes from two different sides of the planet and experience something together.”

Her hope, she says, is that introducing other voices into the museum’s programming will help foster an open dialogue among Detroit’s increasingly diverse population.

“It’s really about community building and representing the great treasure that is the diversity of Metro Detroit,” she says.

The fall series opens at 5 p.m. Friday with a workshop led by Cuban jazz drummer Dafnis Prieto, followed by an 8 p.m. performance by Prieto and his Si O Si Quartet. Prieto is a drummer and composer who plays a traditional jazz drum kit while paying respect to his heritage by incorporating congas, timbales and the rhythmic patterns of rumba and son styles into his music.

Dafnis Prieto and his Si O Si Quartet opens up the Global Fridays series starting Sept. 16.

Prieto says his cultural upbringing is key to his skill set, but he’s not always aware of it.

“Many times I do things that I don’t feel like come from my background, and there are things I do more consciously leaning toward that,” he says. “The most important factor of the music I do is to give it a personal touch.”

The series continues Oct. 7 with a staged reading of Iraqi-American playwright and performer Heather Raffo’s “Noura,” a reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” told from inside the marriage of an Iraqi refugee family in New York.

Raffo, who was raised in Okemos and graduated from the University of Michigan, lives in New York. She said sharing her play in Detroit is a rare opportunity to engage with the population she explores in the piece.

“I was actually just complaining how hard it is to workshop a new piece of theater inside the community you’re writing about,” she says.

Playwright Heather Raffo brings her play “Noura,” a reimagining of “A Doll’s House,” to the cultural series.

Raffo developed the play after receiving a three-year grant from the Doris Duke Foundation.

The museum on Oct. 28 will present a performance of classical northern and southern Indian music featuring flautists Raman Kalyan and Deepak Ram. The series closes Dec. 9 with Egyptian drummer, disc jockey and storyteller Karim Nagi, who gives an alternative educational tour of the Arab Diaspora.

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Global Fridays 2016 Fall Season

8 p.m. Sept. 16, Oct. 7, Oct. 28, and Dec. 9

Jazz workshop with Dafnis Prieto at 5 p.m. Fri. Sept. 16

Open mic, reception and gallery stroll of the “What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of

Civilization” 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7

“Places of Pilgrimage: Identity & Belonging in America” — Storytelling workshop with Heather Raffo

6-9 p.m. Oct. 4

Where: Arab American National Museum

13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn

Tickets: $15 for public, $10 for museum members

(313) 582-2266