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Music and Dance at the Pakistani Independence Day Mela

The neighborhood of Midwood, also known as “Little Pakistan,” is a refuge for Pakistani-Americans. The neighborhood is also cultural nucleus of music, dance, henna, and moonlight Ramadan celebrations. In August, the annual mela (Sanskrit for “gathering”) street fair celebrates Pakistan’s 1947 independence from Great Britain. In Brooklyn since 1990, the festival attracts more than 15,000 Pakistani-Americans from around the country with booths full of ethnic Pakistani cuisine, a main stage with pop artists from Pakistan, handicrafts, boutiques, and children’s entertainment. However, the growth of this festival and immense popularity creates a challenge for local Brooklyn traditional artists to be heard.While most of music starts at 5 p.m. on the main stage (Coney Island Avenue and Avenue H), we wanted to spend some quality time with local artists at the BAC Folk Arts tent. Please join us for Punjabi folk songs, and music from Peshawar.




12 pm - 6 pm

Aziz Peerzada
Originally from Rawalpindi, Abdul Aziz came to the United States in 1987 for better life and to be closer to his family. Naturally talented and self taught, Aziz had already been performing on national television for almost eight years. In the US, he has been performing on various platforms ranging from family weddings to performances in embassies, and has performed in almost 25 states to date. His son, Saboor, now 11 years old, is a naturally talented tabla player and has been performing alongside his father for couple of years now. Along with singing, Aziz plays tabla and harmonium. His repertoire is versatile; although most of Aziz’s work is classical-oriented and based on older renditions of ghazals, he also plays Punjabi folk songs with equal ease and talent. Aziz Peerzada has also been involved in promoting Pakistani culture and heritage in New York. Besides being personally involved in managing Brooklyn Mela for years, his organization Pakistan Music and Culture Association had been active in organizing cultural events in schools to promote Pakistani music in the 90s.
Sahib Gul
Sahib Gul, born in Peshawar, has been living in New York for the last eight years where he runs a Middle Eastern food joint, Gyro King, at the intersection of Foster and Coney Island Avenue. In Pakistan, Gul was a well-known music director, composer, and a harmonium player. Pashto music, despite its vibrance and rich character, has been quite subsided in Pakistani media. However, Gul’s efforts to popularize his musical heritage and language have made him popular in many places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also in Europe and the US. Having to leave his home in Peshawar after receiving threats from the radical Islamist groups in Pakistan, Gul sought asylum in the US. Even though he is far away from his land, he attempts to recreate parts of it at his house on Friday nights. Pashtun men, after a long week of labor, gather at his house located right above the joint he manages, for music and food. Two of his sons also accompany him, his eldest son a singer and the younger one, a tabla player.
Rhythm Tolee is an award winning New York City based Punjabi band with members from Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Jersey City area. "Tolee" means "A free spirited group of people" in Punjabi language. This is exactly what Rhythm Tolee is, a group of free spirited artists with Rhythm. Rhythm Tolee performs a wide variety of songs by mixing Punjabi Folk and Sufi music with hip tunes.
Eric Alabaster with Akbar Chaurdy
Eric Alabaster is a drummer, composer, tabla player and music educator based in New York where he was born.  He has played on Broadway on Cruises and traveled throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia. He has composed and arranged for theater radio and T.V. Some of the artists Eric has worked with: the guitarist Marc Ribot; recorded and performed with saxophonist Roy Nathanson and trumpeter Duane Eubanks: worked with trombonist Roswell Rudd;  Pakistani vocalists:  Fariha Pervez; Tahira Syed; Muni Begum; Fidah Hussain ; Nazakit Ali; the Benjamin Sisters; the husband and wife team of Salamat Ali and Azra Riaz. Eric studied composition with the legendary Jimmy Heath; drumming with Elliot Zigmund, Desi (South Asian) Rhythms and Tabla with Ustad Mulazim Hussain, radio/T.V. Islamabad, Pakistani; Eric has a M.A. in Music from Queens College, N.Y. Besides English Eric continues improving his reading writing and speaking skills in Yiddish, Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish. Eric’s involvement and close relationships with the Pakistani community has enabled him to be a performer and a presenter of the music of Pakistan at festivals, functions, events.  He has received grants from and worked as a consultant and curator for the Brooklyn Arts Council.
Special thanks to Mr. Shahid Khan, Mr. Ashraf Mian, Mr. Eric Alabaster and all members of Eric Ki Betauk, Laila Rajani, The Pakistani Merchants Association of Coney Island Avenue, In Concert Audio, and A-Z Party Rental. 
Saturday, August 20th
Coney Island Avenue and Avenue H
BAC Folk Arts Presents Festivals Traditional Style is made possible, in part, through public funds from: National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council; and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office. Major foundation and corporate support is provided by Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Con Edison, and TD Bank.

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