Road Stories Blog

Learning through listening

Performing at the Interfaith Dialogue

By Muhammad Najmuddin

Our Charleston, Illinois visit was very successful. We had a large audience present at the Doudna Fine Arts Center. They enjoyed our songs very much and applauded us at the end. Thanks to Mr. Dan Crews who worked a lot to make this concert a successful event for all of us.

On Sunday we moved to Saugatuck, Michigan. Here, on Monday, we performed our first concert with a small number of students and the second one with about 250. Both were very responsive.

Celebrations on the road

People gathered around to get food from a table

By Muhammad Najmuddin

Muhammad Najmuddin is the leader of Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers. He shared these thoughts from the road after their celebrations of Eid-ul-Azha, also spelled Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God intervening at the last moment—a story shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Incredible connections in Charleston, IL

Performers singing with children all around

By Shigeyo Henriquez

We arrived in Charleston, Illinois on Sunday, October 23. We were all tired from the long drive from Red Oak, Iowa!

On Monday morning, we met with Dan Crews, the director of patron services for the Doudna Fine Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University, to discuss the schedule before the first university workshop with international study and music students.

Arriving in Charleston, IL

Qawwali music demonstration

By Muhammad Najmuddin

Muhammad Najmuddin is the leader of Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers. He shared these thoughts from the road as the ensemble continued its tour from Red Oak, Iowa to Charleston, Illinois.

On Sunday, October 21, Shigeyo—our tour manager—drove us on a very long drive of almost 465 miles to reach Charleston, Illinois. Here Mr.

Music as a universal language

Students in audience and on stage with the ensemble

By Muhammad Najmuddin

Muhammad Najmuddin is the leader of Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers. He shared these thoughts from the road after the first week and a half of the group’s tour in Iowa.

In the first formal meeting of our group and Arts Midwest representatives Mr. Kenneth Carlson and Ms. Shigeyo Henriquez, we were briefed about the whole project called Arts Midwest World Fest, which connects small and mid-sized Midwestern communities to world cultures through week-long residencies with global performers.

Qawwali singing in Red Oak

Group photo in formal attire

By Shigeyo Henriquez

The day of the concert in Red Oak, Iowa, was incredibly beautiful, sunny, and warm. It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of October!

The ensemble was dressed in their performance attire and ready to head out to the Wilson Arts Center, and when we stepped outside, the sun was about to set.

This color of sunset—warm and friendly—was like the hearts of the people of Red Oak.

Çudamani in Wausau, WI

Gamelan workshop in a high school music class

By Philip Graulty

The fourth week of Çudamani’s World Fest tour brought us to Wausau, Wisconsin. As we drove through the gorgeous country of Minnesota, it struck us that Wausau would be the final stop of this tour, and our visit to the Midwest would soon be over.

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers in Red Oak, IA

Drum demonstration

After taking a few days to rest and rehearse after their long voyage to the United States, Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers kicked off their tour with workshops for both elementary and college students hosted by Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

The group then traveled to Red Oak, Iowa, where they received warm greetings and led a week full of incredible connections. Photos from their residency are below.

Çudamani in Detroit Lakes, MN

Fishing on a lake pier

By Philip Graulty

The third week of Çudamani’s Arts Midwest World Fest tour brought us to the city of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Coming from a country of 17,000 islands, it is no surprise that Çudamani felt right at home in “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” While the nearby lake provided us with daily catches of fish and beautiful sunsets, it was the warm generosity of the local community that made this visit so memorable.

A festive time in Devils Lake, ND

Marching in the homecoming parade

By Philip Graulty

The second week of Çudamani’s Arts Midwest World Fest tour brought us to Devils Lake, North Dakota. On route to Devils Lake, we stopped off in the small town of Leeds, ND to perform a workshop for an eager group of K-12 students. As I walked through the door, I was stopped by a young child who asked, “Are you here for the demonstration?” When I replied yes, the student exclaimed, “Yay! I am so excited to meet Çudamani!” This student’s sentiment would be echoed in every school we visited.