Atlas's 'INTERSECTIONS' Festival Returns for Multicultural Arts Marathon

3/6/2013, 12:36 p.m.

Samia Mahbub Ahmad's gentle vocals that floated over classical Indian instrumentals, seemed more suited for a balmy tropical climate than the chilly rain falling outside of the Atlas Performing Arts Center not long ago. But as she played one of the first full-length concerts of the center's fourth INTERSECTIONS Festival, a full house of music lovers basked in the warm drone of her tanpura, the stringed Indian instrument that accompanied two musicians playing ancient rhythms on the tabla drums and sarod.

This is the second year that the native of Bangladesh has participated in "INTERSECTIONS," which, according to publicist Renee Littleton, strives to be as multicultural as the community that surrounds the Atlas Performing Arts Center in the DMV metropolitan area.

"It was announced in a newsletter that they were seeking proposals," Ahmad said, "so I wrote to Mary Hall (Surface) saying that I play Hindustani Classical music, and I don't know whether it could be part of the INTERSECTIONS theme. She said 'yes, go ahead and send in your proposal.' That's how we got started," she said enthusiastically, still wearing her brilliant orange Bangladeshi sari and gold bangles from her performance.

In Lab 2, Nigerian-born Tosin performed "Igi Nsoro: Talking Trees" an interactive drum circle, story-telling and concert for families, celebrating the tree as the source of a variety of musical instruments. This is the third time that Tosin Aribisala, who is known professionally by his first name, has participated in "INTERSECTIONS," since the first festival in 2010.

While enrolled in an arts program at the Music Center at Strathmore, Tosin's mentor, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jon Carroll asked if the young drummer would be interested in collaborating on a concert. They headlined the first INTERSECTIONS Festival, and the following year, he came back to perform for the free cafe concerts, held in the lobby in between performances.

"After that, I became very familiar with [the] INTERSECTIONS Festival." Tosin intoned in a melodic Nigerian accent. "I didn't participate last year, because I wasn't sure where I was directing my musical path at the time. But I got an email last year about [the] 2013 INTERSECTIONS Festival, and I said 'why not give it a try?' I sent in two proposals; one for the workshop, and one for my band Afrikan Rhapsody."

"I've done my workshop before elsewhere, at Strathmore Music Center and Goucher College summer program, but this is the first time doing it at INTERSECTIONS," he said. "It was part of the proposal I sent, and they were highly interested. We have followings at these events, people who visit my website and know about my performances, but we also open up to new audiences," the multi-talented vocalist, who also plays guitar and piano, said. "The people who came to the workshop were all new to me. INTERSECTIONS exposes us to them."

Tosin and Afrikan Rhapsody, who perform on March 9th, will help close out a marathon of performances at the Atlas, which by March 10th will have seen more than 600 artists and over 100 performances within the span of three weekends, with a weekday or two added during its run.