October 6 - November 3, 2011
Barely back from her tour of Russia in the summer of 2011, Mary got an unexpected call from The Humpty Dumpty Institute gauging her interest in signing on to a tour different from most others. Would she consider a series of performances and workshops in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Her answer was an immediate “Yes!” Quickly enough, her band said they were on board as well.
It was then that planning began for a month long tour this Fall, during which Paul Carbonara and Greg Beshers on guitar, Dan Carr on bass, and Grammy-award winner Bobby Lloyd Hicks on drums, and Mary played concerts in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dharan, in Saudi Arabia, and Islamabad, Lahore, Gujrat and Karachi, in Pakistan.
The first stop was Jeddah, on the coast of the Red Sea, where they opened the tour at the American Consulate and were joined onstage mid-performance by a young Saudi band called Al-Fareeba. Their stop in Jeddah also included a performance and workshop at the Help Center, a home for severely developmentally disabled children. Mary performed several of her original songs before getting the children on their feet to dance to the Rolling Stone’s Route 66 and children’s songs worked up especially for younger audiences on this tour. Mary’s longtime bass player Greg Beshers said, “we now play a mean rock n’ roll version of the Hokey Pokey.”
Their tour then continued on to Riyadh where they played a concert in honor of Daniel Pearl Music Day at the home of United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jim Smith, and his wife Janet Breslin Smith. The audience was a mix of men and women, Saudis and Americans, and invited guests from the diplomatic community. Ambassador Smith wrote, “I cannot begin to tell you how much your visit touched all of us. Your music touched our souls, but your character struck an even deeper chord with our Saudi hosts.”
Continuing on to Dhahran in the Eastern Province, they played concerts for students at the American School, as well as another concert honoring Daniel Pearl at the American School.
Arab News editorial writer Abdulateef Al-Mulhim saw McBride’s concert in Dhahran and wrote, in his editorial McBride and the Saudi Melody, “singers can put a smile on the face of people with their melodies and words, even if the audience doesn't understand the song if it is in a different language.”
Following their concerts in Dhahran, Mary and the band drove across the Saudi causeway to Bahrain, where they played a special concert at the U.S. Naval base, before heading to Pakistan.
Mary’s arrival in Islamabad coincided with an official visit of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The group met the Secretary and had the opportunity to attend her Town Meeting and Press Conference hosted by Moeed Pirzada of Pakistan TV. Mary told Pakistani TV that “It was especially exciting to meet Secretary Clinton in Islamabad, on the day we were embarking on a cultural program hosted by the State Department. The commitment that she has made to supporting cultural programming in Pakistan is allowing us to forge connections through our music that might otherwise not have existed.”
The band’s tour officially kicked off the next night when they performed at ‘A Tribute to Daniel Pearl: A Celebration of Life and Music,’ which was arranged by the Embassy of the United Sates of America in partnership with Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). The evening was hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter and his wife, Dr. Marilyn Wyatt. Mary ended the night wearing the Pakistan cricket team’s jersey and singing a modern version of “Dil Dil Pakistan,” which got the crowd was on its feet.
The performance was lauded by the Pakistani press. Pakistan Today wrote, “Mary McBride acted as a de facto ambassador of the American people to the people of Pakistan and truly spellbound the audience in a non-stop performance that lasted over two hours.” The Tribune Express hailed McBride’s music as “uplifting and distinctive ‘Americana’ style — a union of bluegrass, country, blues, gospel and Dixie jazz — brought the best of America’s honky-tonk soul to Islamabad, engaging in much-needed cross-cultural dialogue.”
Another highlight performance in Islamabad was Mary’s concert for students enrolled in the U.S. State Department’s English Access Microscholarship Program, which provides English skills classes to talented students from disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and intensive summer sessions. The concert was hosted by prominent philanthropist and Chairperson of Volunteer Women's Organization Sameena Shah Pirzada at her home. Approximately 50 students who attended the concert had been encouraged to learn some of my lyrics as part of their English training, and many sang with Mary throughout the concert.
Following the concert for the Access students, the group flew to Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab. Their first stop in Lahore was the Lahore Press Club, an association of news journalists, academics, and members of the public service in Lahore, Pakistan. The band was introduced to the press corps living in Lahore and they also performed another concert in honor of Daniel Pearl World Music Days and Pakistani journalists, many of whom have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The following night, Mary performed a special performance hosted by the Pakistani Directorate of Promotion and Placement and Plektra-Music Society and arranged in coordination with the Consulate General of the U.S. in Lahore. Mary was thrilled to be joined by Pakistani percussionist Omer Saud, and also to have the opportunity to hear local musicians Amanat Ali, Quratulain Baloch, and Pashtu sensation Irfan Khan perform their songs. Pakistan Today wrote, “Mary McBride, the much anticipated final act of the concert, performed and a wave of enthusiasm was seen reverberating through the crowd.”
The following morning, they traveled two hours outside of Lahore to perform at the University of Gujrat. Their visit started with a tour of the campus and a meeting with Professor Dr. Mohammad Nizamuddin, who has instituted one of the first transport systems for students living in and around the agricultural Gujrat District. This transport system has been credited with hugely increasing the female student population, as it allows them to travel safely to and from their homes. Mary and her band then attended live performances by students from the University’s School of Art and Design, before playing a full concert for several hundred Gujrat students.
Their next stop was Karachi, where Mary was the first American to take part in a Daniel Pearl Memorial Concert, which took place on the outside lawn at the home of US Consul General William Martin. The Daily News wrote, “Renowned American musician Mary McBride and her band along with famous Komal Rizvi, Fareed Ayaz Qawwal and Ali Muhammad with companions enthralled audiences with western music, traditional eastern Qawwali and Sufi music and their true fusion.”
The group’s stop in Karachi also included a concert at Dar-ul-Sukun, a home for mentally and physically disabled children and adults. Dar-ul-Sukun has been in existence since 1979, and accepts children with any special needs and also does outreach throughout Pakistan to find abandoned and neglected children to give them a home.
Mary was introduced by Dar-ul-Sukun Director Sister Roth Lewis and by a young woman named Cookie Lewis, who has been a resident at Dar-ul-Sukun for many years. The Pakistan Tribune wrote, “For American singer Mary McBride, her audience at Dar-ul-Sukun could not have been better. Around a dozen people were already dancing by the time her band of five musicians finished the first song. Four of them even joined her on the stage and sang with her. The only difference was that the audience was physically and mentally challenged.”
Mary’s visit included a performance for the Community Schools, which included students from the tribal region between Balochistan and Afghanistan. Many of these students had never heard live music before and were able to dance and sing on the stage with the band. Another highlight of the tour was an evening of performances by musicians from all the regions in Pakistan hosted by Hammed Haroon, Chief Executive Officer of Dawn Media Group (DMG), Pakistan’s leading media conglomerate, and Arshad Mahmud, Director of Programs at the National Academy of the Arts.
On the last night of their stay in Karachi, the entire band had a final dinner with Consulate staff at Al-Sajjad restaurant at Clifton Beach. After having made great friends and played for such dynamic crowds, Mary and the band agree that if they were given the opportunity again to tour and collaborate with local musicians in Saudi and Pakistan, they would do it in a heartbeat.
Funding for this program has been provided by U.S. Embassy Riyadh and U.S. Embassy Islamabad.
at Joe.Merante@theHDI.org or at +1-212-944-7111