I am four-months into Kings County as it’s Folk Arts Director. During this time, I have teetered between exhilaration and exhaustion. This was most obvious during the Sweetest Song Festival. Exhilaration– brought to me by the committed and brilliant expressions of cultural heritage I have been honored to be in the presence of. See evidence of this here. Exhaustion—brought to me by the promotion, presentation, and documentation of the nineteen Sweetest Song programs that occurred over a one month period. I have walked away wiser for the time and in awe of Dr.Kay Turner’s physical stamina. How did she do it? I have come to realize that the exhaustion is quickly extinguished when you work with people like Eric Alabaster.
You might remember Eric as the co-curator of The Sweetest Song Festival’s “Pakistani Encounter: Midwood’s Master Ghazal and Thumri Singers” on May 3rd 2014. As luck would have it, that encounter” was a prelude to a program fully curated by Mr. Alabaster called “Pakistani Music in Brooklyn” on Friday, June 13 @7:30pm at the Royal Catering Hall.
In lieu of this event, I got to spend time with Eric and learned about his involvement with the Pakistani community in Midwood. I learned how his home studio got renamed ‘Eric Ki Beithak’ and was transformed into a center for sharing traditional music and knowledge, from all over the world:
“A friend named the place Beithak, my studio, where a lot of musicians from Pakistan, and other parts of the world come. And we play music together and drink tea and eat food. Beithak is from the verb Beithana, which is to sit. So it’s a sitting place, or a hangout. So this got me involved and I met musicians in my neighborhood from this culture. And their music, their food, their love, and generosity sort of drew me in. My home has become…my studio has become… a meeting place where people come and speak Urdu or Punjabi, and sometimes English also.”
I appreciate the music Eric creates. Even more than this, I appreciate his approach to engaging with it and the people that carry it forward. I see this as more than an approach to music, but an approach to Brooklyn. For Eric, Brooklyn is more than a cultural playground. It is a classroom. His neighbors are his teachers. It is a place where “social” is more than idle conversation, but a chance to exchange our expressive lives– the equipment for living–that turns talk into music.
Please join us for Music in Pakistan in Brooklyn with Eric Ki Beithak on Friday, June 13 7:30pm -10:00pm