World tour comes to Queens for Passport Fridays at QMA

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Passport Fridays have begun at the Queens Museum of Art and are taking us on a trip across the globe to magical, wondrous places like China, Ecuador, India and Mexico.

On Friday the front lawn of QMA transformed into a stage for the far-off land of Morocco. Sandwiched between relics from the World's Fairs that have been hosted in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the setting is equally as awe-inspiring as the world that is represented.

Musicians from the Rachid Halihal Ensemble performed traditional Moroccan pieces in addition to classical Egyptian and Lebanese Debke from the region of Fez, Morocco, and all across the Fertile Crescent. DJ Alias took over to play some contemporary hip-hop from Morocco and the Arabic world. Afterwards Evie and her student belly dancers from the group Dance of the Word displayed the many talents they possess in the ancient art of belly dancing, or "raqs sharqi" if you are cultured. Following up was a feature film, "I Love Hip Hop in Morocco," which follows a group of youths who wish to achieve their dreams of staging the first ever Moroccan Hip Hop Festival despite many obstacles, such as money and disagreement as to its existence.

Passport Fridays originally started as a movie-only night.

"The beginning of it was just getting this large projector," says Prerana Reddy, director of public events for the Queens Museum of Art. "We wanted to show more than the art that is hanging on the wall."

Now in their fourth year, they bring a mix of both traditional and contemporary aspects of the culture that is represented, in an effort to show that these cultures are not static, but every bit as mutable as our own.

Coming up Aug. 1 will be China. The Renaissance Chinese Opera Society will perform classical Peking or "Kun" opera, complete with Chinese folk songs, colorful costumes and ancient dances to teach the audience a little something about Chinese history. The movie being shown is "The King of Masks," in which an aging street performer and wizard of the mask-making variety wishes to pass on his craft to a suitable male heir. Without children of his own, he decides to buy a boy on the black market and teach him. However, the child carries a secret and a difficult decision must be made.

On Aug. 8 Passport Fridays will take you to Ecuador, with performances from Andrea Haenggi and the dancers from AMDaT, who will do something involving rolling business chairs and dollar bills. Following will be the musicians of Inkhay, which literally translates to "tend the fire." They tend the fire of pre-Hispanic Andean musical culture by performing on such instruments as end-notched vertical flutes, transverse flutes and ocarinas. The movie this evening will be "How Much Farther," in which a tourist from Spain and a college student in Ecuador decide to hitchhike when their bus is stopped by a workers strike. Through the journey they re-evaluate aspects of their own lives.

Aug. 15 is when Passport travels to India. Paul Singh and his group Singh and Dance have a message to spread about consumerism and will do it in the form of song and body movement, one would suspect. DJ Rekha will then take the stage and play music that mixes both the traditional bhangra music of South Asia and hip-hop music from today.

She will be accompanied by a live dhol drummer and a bhangra instructor who can teach the audience some moves they can try out themselves. The movie for this night will be "The Namesake," which follows the Ganguli family as they struggle with concepts like heritage, identity and the American Dream. It is a highly original film based on a highly original novel by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Aug. 22, the last night of Passport Fridays, will take us to Mexico. Dance in Queens awardees Laura Peterson Choreography and Anthony Whitehurst will put on a performance that examines New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. After that we will return to Mexico and see and hear Mariachi Oro de Mexico. Bandleader Jose Guadelupe actually started his career as a young mariachi in Mexico with his father before coming to New Jersey to start a mariachi band.

The movie will be "Under the Same Moon," the story of a mother working in America to pay for her child in Mexico to come and stay with her instead of her grandmother in Mexico. When granny dies, the young child, Carlitos, decides to make the trek himself to be with his mother, reminiscent of Fivel of "An American Tale."

Throughout Passport Fridays, the Queens Museum of Art will keep its doors and exhibits open to the public. Events will start at 6:30 p.m. and the movies will start at 8 p.m. For more information call 718-592-9700 or visit

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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