Building Bridges: Muslims in America

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In Spring 2018, Duke Performances launched its three-year Building Bridges: Muslims in America initiative, a new project showcasing the richness and diversity of Muslim culture in this country. Working in partnership with the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), Duke Performances will host residencies by U.S.-based Muslim artists featuring substantial engagement with the Duke and Durham community, visits to nearby high schools, and public concerts. Durham-based filmmaker KidEthnic will provide a behind-the-scenes look at each residency through short films documenting the series.

Alsarah & The Nubatones

February 26 thru March 1, 2018

Drawing on the musical traditions of her native Sudan, Alsarah brings her infectious brand of East-African retro-pop to Motorco Music Hall in downtown Durham on Thursday, March 1, where she will perform with her band The Nubatones as the culmination of a weeklong residency.

Alsarah’s visit is part of a joint initiative with the Duke Islamic Studies Center and Duke Middle East Studies Center entitled “Building Bridges: Muslims in America.” Funded in part by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the project seeks to strengthen understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the greater Durham area. Alsarah is the first of five US-based artists who, between Spring 2018 and Spring 2020, will make visits to Duke classrooms and local public schools with the aim of fostering understanding, respect, and dialogue around Muslim art and culture.

As part of her residency, Alsarah will be making two daylong visits to the Durham School of the Arts to work with students in the chorus and creative writing programs.  Additional activities include visits to Duke Arabic and Public Policy classes, as well as a free public conversation at Beyù Caffè in downtown Durham.


October 15 thru October 18, 2018

Amir Mohamed el Khalifa — the acclaimed rapper and producer better known as Oddisee — came to Durham in October 2018 for a weeklong residency as part of Duke Performances’ Hip-Hop Initiative. Oddisee’s visit coincided with Duke Performances’ ongoing 'Building Bridges: Muslims in America' series, a three-year project that seeks to foster understanding, respect, and dialogue around Muslim art and culture. In addition to two daylong engagements with Durham high school students, Oddisee visited Duke classes in the departments of African and African American Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and took part in a free public conversation at The Pinhook in downtown Durham. Backed by a sensational live band, he then brought his perspective as a Sudanese-American Muslim artist to bear in a culminating performance at Motorco Music Hall.

Brother Ali

March 4 thru March 7, 2019

This spring, the iconic Muslim-American rapper and activist Brother Ali comes to Duke for a weeklong residency and a culminating performance at Motorco Music Hall on Thursday, March 7. For twenty years, Brother Ali has paired feverish calls for social justice with candid admissions about his own mental fragility. And he has never walked this tightrope more powerfully than on 2017’s gripping All the Beauty in This Whole Life. Written during a period of extreme political upheaval, Beauty not only acknowledges the world’s problems but aims to overcome them — celebrating love in the face of hate, wisdom in the midst of madness.

Mumu Fresh

September 19 thru September 21, 2019

Maimouna Youssef (aka Mumu Fresh), grew up pivoting between genres and styles — singing gospel and jazz with her mother in an African-American Muslim household and drawing inspiration from her Choctaw and Muscogee grandparents. Following a GRAMMY nomination for her vocal work with The Roots, Youssef has blossomed into a unique musical force.

Rafiq Bhatia

November 4 thru November 7, 2019

A member of heralded experimental pop trio Son Lux, Rafiq Bhatia — a Raleigh native and the son of Muslim immigrant parents — was recently described by The New York Times as “one of the most intriguing figures in music today.” The guitarist and composer’s 2018 album Breaking English finds a visceral common ground between ecstatic avant-jazz, mournful soul, tangled strings and building-shaking electronics, using surprise and contrast to fuel a meticulous, hybrid style all his own. It’s an enveloping piece of musical cinema, demonstrating just how challenging and exciting Bhatia’s songcraft can be to listeners eager to break free from the predictability of genre or categorization. Bandcamp praised this sui generis full-length as “less about easily-understood messages, and more about the passion it takes to push through the barriers that separate us.” Following a weeklong residency at Duke and in Durham, Bhatia’s trio performs Breaking English at the von der Heyden Studio Theater alongside entrancing visual projections.

Building Bridges: Muslims in America is funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art & the National Endowment for the Arts, & co-sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center & the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.