Eleven Reflections on September
ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING
Poetry Written & Performed by Andrea Assaf
Music Created & Performed by Salah Abdel Fattah, Tim O'Keefe, & Aida Shahghasemi
Sound Design & Engineering by Owen Henry & Keegan Fraley
Cover Image Design & Video Creation by Pramila Vasudevan
Recorded at Pangea World Theater, Minneapolis (USA), 2011.
"Eleven Reflections on September" is a poetry/spoken word & multi-media performance on Arab American experience, Wars on/of Terror, and “the constant, quiet rain of death amidst beauty” that each autumn brings in a post-9/11 world. The theater production is based on the series of poems Andrea Assaf has been writing since 2001, spanning the fall of the twin towers, the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current revolutions sweeping through the Arab world. This multi-disciplinary project includes performances with interactive media design and live music; community dialogues; a visual arts exhibit with collaborating visual artists Steve Durland, Sinem Sinan Goknur, and James Scruggs; open mics, panels and opportunities for action through partnerships with Iraq Veterans Against the War and other peace organizations.
Down - Poem by Andrea Assaf (2001). Taqasim (improvisation) by Salah Fattah on violin and Tim O’Keefe on duduk.
September 17th - Poem by Andrea Assaf (written 9/17/2001).
Quadroon / Shatti ya Dunya - Poem by Andrea Assaf (written September 11, 2003 - six months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq). Shatti ya Dunya (Rain, Life, Rain) is a Lebanese debke by the Rahbani brothers, originally recorded by Fairuz. Here, Salah Fattah plays the oud, and Tim O’Keefe plays darbuka.
September Arabesque - Poem by Andrea Assaf (September 2007). Oud duet (taqasim) by Salah Fattah and Tim O’Keefe.
Summer Rain - Poem by Andrea Assaf (written July 23, 2006 - the eleventh day of the bombing of Lebanon. "Summer Rain" was also the operation name given to the Israeli army’s July 2006 bombing campaign against Palestine, which was concurrent with the invasion and bombing of Lebanon.) This poem is dedicated to Rasha Salti.
Summer Rain (instrumental) - Taqasim on violin by Salah Fattah, with Tim O’Keefe on riqq, and vocal improvisation by Aida Shahghasemi.
Aida’s solo - Vocal improvisation by Aida Shahghasemi.
Autumn Stream - Poem by Andrea Assaf (October 11, 2009). Dedicated to cultural organizer, Julius Joel Ford (1968-2009).
Autumn Stream (instrumental) - Taqasim by Salah Fattah on violin, and Tim O’Keefe playing his “Frankenstring.”
Alert! / Longa Nahawand - Poem by Andrea Assaf (September 2005, in an airport). The Longa is performed by Salah Fattah on violin, Tim O’Keefe on riqq, and Aida Shahghasemi on darbuka.
Dreaming on a Jet Plane - Poem by Andrea Assaf (November 2, 2004).
this woman, this sea / Golhaye Az Sama Kaboud (Frost-Battered Bloom) - Poem in English by Andrea Assaf (this woman, this sea - February 1, 2008). Poem in Farsi, Golhaye Az Sarma Kaboud (Frost-Battered Bloom) composed by Hossein Alizadeh, and originally recorded by Afsaneh Rasaei; performed here by Aida Shahghasemi. Dedicated to Shime Bilal and her family, the Walaalo! Somali Sisters Collective, the women of Nandigram, India, and everywhere that men’s battles are fought on women’s bodies.
Abdo Habib Ghandoura - Violin solo by Salah Fattah. Cocktail party mix by Owen Henry & Keegan Fraley.
When are we going to talk about the wa—? - Poem by Andrea Assaf (September 2006).
Judgment - Poem by Andrea Assaf. Dedicated to Suheir Hammad.
“See You Tomorrow!” is an excerpt of live recording from Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt (February 2011).
Medley for Egypt - Created and performed by Salah Abdel Fattah on oud and vocals, Tim O’Keefe on darbuka, and Aida Shahghasemi on daf and vocals (2011).
The year 2011 marks 10 years of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim prejudice and violence under the so-called War on Terror. I am Lebanese American. I'm also a New Yorker. For 10 years, I’ve been writing poems about this: these wars, the contradictions of identity, the many ways violence manifests in everyday life. And each year, the month of September is particularly poignant for me – full of memory, and littered with images of the fallen.
The poems included in Eleven Reflections on September deal with themes of 21st century Arab American identity, as well as the wars and military interventions that the US is currently involved in, directly or indirectly (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan, and more). Aesthetically, the poems explore the disintegration of language and meaning in the face of unspeakable violence; as such, they progress from lyrical to abstract and broken, exploding into linguistic shrapnel.
When the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt began, I knew immediately that I had to imagine a new ending. That the Arab world was entering a new era of possibility. That something was being reconstructed … And although that ending cannot yet be written—as the struggle for liberation rages on in Libya, and democratic protests across North Africa and the Middle East continue—this spirit of fire and hope are felt in the lingering vibrations of Tahrir Square.
There are many things not yet written. Even as I am always writing these poems, I must speak them. They must be heard, seen, embodied … They stand witness to the historical moment we are in, and to the history we are creating, right now. We have to feel this, in real time, together. We have to talk about it.
I think of the performance as Act 1. It’s an invitation—to feel and think, engage in dialogue with your community, learn about actions you can take … then step out into the world, and do something. Create change. Be part of positive transformation … that’s Act 2.
- Andrea Assaf
Special Thanks - SHUKRAN!
Dora Arreola, for all her support & love through the years of creating this work. Meena, Dipankar and Katie for their utter faith, tireless work, political vision, sacred space, and readiness to take creative risks. Pramila for true collaboration, and stunning visual creations. Aida, Salah and Tim for blessing this project with the remarkable gifts of their music. Marisa, Nimo & Antonio – our absolutely fabulous “understudies,” who turned a solo into an ensemble and brought it! James Scruggs for entrusting me with precious footage, honest and deep dialogues. Steve Durland for visual inspiration. Kathy Haddad for advice, generosity, and connecting me to community here in the Twin Cities. Wes Davey, for shattering my assumptions about veterans, and for all his activism; and Aaron at Iraq Veterans Against the War for getting behind this project. Sandy Agustin, for being a gifted facilitator I always trust. Lana Barkawi at Mizna, for food and support! Co-sponsor Luke Wilcox at the Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project. Jo Comerford and National Priorities Project, for the “If I Had A Trillion Dollars” videos. Kat for years of support, technical and personal; Ari & Tammie for going above and beyond, and the whole completely fantastic tech team!! The entire Pangea World Theater family of interns, staff, associates and artists. And to ALL the incredible Minneapolis-based artists, who were so supportive – Abdellah Ouchagour, Khalil Lulu, Sinem Sinan Goknur, Katie Ka Vang, Michele Steinwald, the Cardamom Writers Group, and more! My mother, Beverly Kessler, and all the donors from around the world who contributed to Art2Action through United States Artists, and helped make this production a reality!!
Produced by Art2Action Inc., 2011.
"Eleven Reflections on September" was commissioned by Pangea World Theater’s 2011 Alternate Visions Festival, and supported in part by the Princess Grace Foundation-USA Theater Fellowship, the National Performance Network Performance Residency Program, and United States Artists.
All proceeds from the sale of this CD go to support the work of Art2Action Inc., a not-for-profit collective of women artists, artists of color,
queer or trans-identified artists, and creative allies who create, develop and produce new and devised theater work, interdisciplinary performances, performative acts and progressive cultural organizing.