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Understanding cultures

"This is the work I like to do," he said. "It appeals to me because it's community-oriented."

Shope brings am impressive educational background to his new job. He spent two and a half years in the north Indian state of Uttarpradesh studying ethnic folk music there. Prior to that, he earned a master's degree in folklore at Indiana University and is a Ph.D. candidate at the Folklore and Ethnomusicology Institute there.

"At a lot of the ongoing functions here like the International Express Tour [the QCA's celebration of the route of the No. 7 line], we show the folk art from ethnic communities," he said.

Shope said it's necessary to meet an array of people to gauge what is good, ethnic art and what is not so great. "Ninety percent of doing field work is talking to people," he said. "I find out what role music plays in their culture, and in what context it's used. I have to figure out what the aesthetics are and how it all fits in. It's very hands-on, and culturally anthropological."

Folk art, he said, is "never something separate, within itself. It's part of the larger community."

"One thing I want to do," Shope said, "is bring in groups, highlight their music on radio." He said he would also like to make film and videos of performances.

He's also working on Web development, focusing on specific themes such as religious music. He would want to show "why the music is different, and how it's different. Then you can understand how the cultures differ, in this case from a religious context," he said.

In the QCA's Folk Arts program, musicians visit a Queens public library one Saturday a month. Shope is excited about promoting a performance by ethnic Afghans following the World Trade Center attacks.

"Today [Friday] we had a meeting to work with and try to decide what to do in the wake of the disaster and foster an air of tolerance," he said

He planned to work closely with Hayat Masudi, president and founder of the Afghan Community Center in Flushing, who is coordinating a concert performance by ethnic Afghans from Pakistan who arrived here Sept. 7. Earlier plans for the concert were called off after the terrorists' attack on the 11th.

"They wanted to cancel it entirely," Masudi said, "but I said don't. We want to raise a lot of money and donate it to a disaster relief fund."

The tentative date for the fundraising performance is 8 p.m. Saturday night, Oct. 27 at Flushing High School. Masudi said, though, that because of the U.S. bombing of Taliban sites in Afghanistan that started Sunday,  the musicians might not want to perform, and that there might not be a significant audience turnout, anyway.

To find out more about scheduled QCA events, visit their website at www.queenscouncilarts.org.

Reach Qguide writer Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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