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Discourse for Desis

Riyaaz Qawwali will present a music and dialogue series to engage Houston’s South Asian community, to exercise its political strength this fall. Music videos will utilize the art form of qawwali to touch on issues relevant to the South Asians—such as healthcare, the pandemic, and xenophobia––and connect viewers to voter engagement resources. Preview materials will take audiences along on the journey of producing the music videos. Post-performance panel discussions, held in partnership with OCA Greater Houston and Emgage Texas, will be held to further explore civic issues, and inspire Houston’s South Asian community to participate in this November’s election.

Riyaaz Qawwali

Sonny: Having performed for 20 years, my music career started in Houston and has taken me across the US and the world. Riyaaz Qawwali, my current ensemble, was founded in 2006. In 2013, I first performed in South America, and returned again in 2018. I performed in Europe in 2016 and 2017. With fluency in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English, I can be a cultural ambassador for Western audiences and second/third South Asian generations. In 2012 I released my first album of original music, featuring poetry never before used in qawwali music. I have since released a second album of poetry presented in the qawwali genre for the first time. Both album releases were both followed by successful performances at Asia Society Houston, which drew in over 250 people each. #HTownVotes project will be an extension of the innovative work I have been doing for the past decade. Other artistic highlights include my albums being featured on Huffington Post, NPR, NY Times, and Miami Herald. In 2015, my music was featured at the White House. Since 2018 have I lectured and performed at Dartmouth University, Harvard University, University of Chicago, US Military Academy and several major museums. In 2019, I was awarded individual artist funding through the Houston Arts Alliance for Riyaaz Qawwali’s performance of “An Evening of Firaq: Qawwali music & Ghazal poetry of Progressive India”. The performance will feature the poetry of Firaq Gurukhpuri, an Urdu-language poet whose writings celebrate interfaith unity and communal harmony. In the Spring of 2020, our music was featured on Houston ABC13 News and Houston Chronicle for our innovative music production during the pandemic.

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