Nowruz Persian Music Festival

The Nowruz Persian Music Festival was an event in the Masala World Music Series sponsored by the University of Oklahoma to highlight music from some of the lesser-known areas of the world. I attended the concert performed by a Båmdåd ensemble, which included traditional Persian instruments such as the oud, the santour, and the daf. The concert took place in Sharp Concert Hall in Catlett Music Center, which is a purposefully very hi-fi space, designed so that the listener is focused on the sound of the performance. There are several smaller sounds, though, such as a person coughing or a program rustling that make it a bit more lo-fi; the older woman sitting next to me sang along to the music at times, which added nicely to the soundscape of the concert. Other elements I noticed in the soundscape included quiet murmuring behind me in a language I couldn’t understand and the quiet tapping of feet next to me.

I thought the most interesting aspect of the concert for me was the cultural divide between those who were attending the concert to hear the music that is familiar to them and reminds them of their past or their home and those who were attending for a class, as a professor, or as a sponsor of the event. It reminded me a bit of Scrugg’s article “Come on in North Side, You’re Just in Time”, because there was a sort of ethnic divide between the audience which determined how they listened. There was also a bit of a language divide: I understood none of what was sang, so I felt I couldn’t appreciate the music as much as the older woman next to me who knew most of the words and sang along. Along with these, there was a cultural divide, because this was the music that many attending had heard all of their life or found a piece of shared experience in, whereas I, who had never experienced Persian music before, felt no such connection.

This didn’t prevent me from enjoying the music, though. I thought it was a spectacular performance that exposed me to an aspect of a culture that I am very unfamiliar with. I think my favorite part of the concert was watching the deep connection that each performer had with the music that was visible through their head and body movements as well as their facial expressions. I also really appreciated the quiet singing that came from the woman sitting next to me, who clapped with tears in her eyes after the performance. I’m really appreciative of the university’s efforts to promote music and culture from all around the world, because it allows us as students to see the world, even if just for an hour or two, from a slightly different perspective. I’m really looking forward to attending the other concerts that are a part of this series! 

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Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival

Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience the Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival in Norman:

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There are llamas. Need I say more?
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The weather this time of year is perfect for experiencing a carnival atmosphere!
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There are several different mariachi-type bands that perform!
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The atmosphere is unbeatable: everyone comes together to celebrate the lives of those who have passed and honor them in their death.
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There’s a little something for everyone: a car show, food trucks, street vendors, henna, face painting, live music, and super fun costumes!
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You can meet people who you otherwise would never come into contact with because Dia de Los Muertos is a unifying celebration, because death is a universal occurrence.
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Everyone should experience the Dia de Los Muertos Street Festival! It’s free and it’s a really neat way to experience another culture without leaving your hometown!

Redbud Valley Nature Preserve

Well, I’ve officially been back in the States for 10 days. I’m holding off on writing a “coming back” post because I don’t think I’ve completely processed everything that’s happened in the last four months, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will. The past ten days have been a little crazy–I’ve applied for jobs, been to interviews, been hired, filled out paperwork, hugged about a thousand people, watched my sister and two good friends graduate, and about a billion other things. They’ve been really good, though, and I think home is the place I’m supposed to be this summer.

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starting a new adventure

I think being away for a semester really allowed me to appreciate how beautiful Oklahoma really is. There are no large thousand-year-old churches or grand works of Renaissance art, but there are beautiful plains with thousands of wildflowers and forests full of squirrels and singing birds. There are museums and parks and nature preserves that capture the unique beauty that can only be found in Oklahoma. This summer, I hope to visit these places and write about them as a way to remind myself that each part of the world is worthy of being noticed, not just those that are far away or exotic.

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Today I visited Redbud Valley Nature Preserve with my mom and sisters. It’s an area of land that has been untouched, preserved as a habitat for native Oklahoma birds, mammals, flowers, and other wildlife, a place to see what the land looked like before industrialization.

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There’s a sign at the entrance to the park that instructs visitors to “hike, daydream, bird watch, visit with a naturalist, sketch, photograph butterflies, relax, study the wildflowers, forget things, look for fossils, remember things, sit, stare, listen… do all these things and more. There are a multitude of possibilities – invent some of your own.” It’s the perfect place to take a break from reality and just be for awhile.

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The cool part about Redbud Valley is that it is home to several diverse ecosystems. One trail winds through a forest, another leads through a grassland prairie, and a third requires climbing through a bluff trail: three different homes for many different kinds of plants and animals. The forest trail is perfect on hotter days because the trees provide shade from the sun, while the bluff trail is better for rainy days because the overhanging rocks provide shelter (the rocks do get a little slippery, though, so make sure to be careful!).

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It’s always fun to go with other people and just enjoy the scenery and each others’ company. More eyes also mean more opportunities to spot cool bugs and animals! If you’re near Catoosa, Oklahoma and find yourself wanting to escape from city or suburban life, you should definitely drive down to Redbud Valley for a day. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free to the public. You should take advantage of this hidden treasure and experience some of the beauty Oklahoma has to offer!