REVIEW: Layl (Night): A Performance by Ali Chahrour


The Arabic word for night, Layl is a dance concert from Ali Chahrour. It tells the cultural stories from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and other love stories through dance and song. The stage becomes a world in which Chahrour choreographs the performance to symbolize each chapter in the lovers’ story and accompanies them with live music throughout the show. What set the dance performance apart from others was the use of Arabic song and dialogue, and even Syriac poems. The program book contained a full text of the performance in English which wasn’t too difficult to follow alongside the Arabic live performance. I had the pleasure of watching the performance this past Saturday, February 12 at the Power Center in Ann Arbor.

In lieu of Valentine’s Day, this was a moving performance to attend. Chahrour develops a romantic aura throughout the room as the story progressed between two lovers with a tragic fate. The audience followed as the lovers dealt with societal challenges, religious systems, and even severe consequences for their love. Despite the foreign component of the dance performance, these are not new struggles. More importantly, love was clear in the show. It goes to show how such passion is a universal language with no barriers. Yet, this wasn’t the corny, bright pink kind of love you might find on drugstore shelves this week. This love was a lot more powerful. Each performer captured this raw form of love through their dramatic movements and vocal range. I particularly enjoyed each song and poem that sounded like a lullaby at times. The words, however, offer more :

My eyes will not look at another’s beauty / And thoughts of only you occupy my mind 

When I asked  heart to be patient / My heart responded I cannot wait

Oh the eyes that have made me suffer, Oh the eyelashes that have left me

And oh my heart be patient, wait for those who have deserted me 

These specific lines struck me. They highlight the way love only allows us to see one person, even if that one person has left us. It seems like an illness at first, rather than something revered. It also reminds me of how love is never lost by a lover. Instead, it is always there and waiting for the object of their affection. Love is a moving, undying force and the patience required of waiting feels almost unbearable. Love itself can be unbearable. This performance shows how love is tumultuous, painful, and even everlasting across time, space, and more.

At the end of at all, Chahrour has me wondering why the night? Why layl?

REVIEW: Tiny Objects, Big Stories

Where do you go first in a museum?

This was the question behind the “Tiny Objects, Big Stories” virtual tour at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. I hadn’t given the question much thought until now. I realized that in all the hours I have spent wandering museum exhibits, I always began with the largest pieces, expansive paintings and statues. Naturally, these are the first things to catch my eye.

However, there’s a whole other collection of artifacts that are often overlooked. These include smaller tablets, amulets and coins that are typically protected behind glass walls. The “Tiny Objects, Big Stories” tour brings a magnifying glass to these artifacts to offer a closer look. The tour zooms in on amulets, scarabs, seals, coins and other tiny figurines and their respective histories.

I was particularly interested in the different amulets and scarabs. With detailed engravings, these amulets and scarabs were symbols of protection. Some protected one’s health and luck while others focused on navigating the afterlife. The heart scarab, for example, was inscribed with the Book of Dead spell to offer “protection of the deceased’s heart during the judgment in the afterlife.” This small scarab had a lengthy inscription of the spell that would have been difficult to spot during your average museum visit. This sparked an appreciation for the skilled craftsmanship and detail put into such artifacts. It made me wonder what spells may be hidden behind a scarab the size of my thumb.

I began to consider my own tiny objects and the stories they hold, such as an old Snapple bottle cap with a fun fact or an engraved ballpoint pen. They may not be as cool as the artifacts at the museum, but they have a lot significance in spite of their size. It just takes a bit more thought and effort to recognize these pieces.

This virtual tour allowed me to get in all the beautiful details of such tiny artifacts. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology will continue to host such virtual tours for anyone who is interested! It is a great way to stay safe and follow along from the comfort of your home (or squishmallows). Moreover, the Zoom interface creates a close-knit space where tour guides and guests can share comments and questions easily. The museum also hosts other in-person and virtual events you can find here.




REVIEW: Who Am I? Art Exhibit & Interactive Activity

In between struggling to get words on a Google Doc for that final paper and ordering another cup of cold brew, I found the time to slip away to the Who Am I? Art Exhibit located right outside the Michigan Room in the Union.

Presented by the Center for Campus Involvement, the exhibit showcases the work of fellow UM student artists. With the Union having been recently renovated, there are efforts to fill the walls with art. And what better than art from fellow, talented Wolverines. Students were asked to respond to the prompt, Who Am I? with an art piece. The displayed art takes many creative and unique directions, such as focusing on one’s initials or fashion styles.

This past Wednesday, Dec 8, there was an opportunity for students to take a moment answer the question themselves. This interactive component consisted of a chalkboard of different students’ answers. Ranging from answers of “first-generation student” to “a leo,” the board is a bright collage of varying handwriting styles and doodles. It’s reflective of our school community and I love its location in the Union, a central part of campus. I look forward to seeing more opportunities to submit artwork and watch the walls fill up with beautiful art.

The question ignited a bit of self-reflection, who am I? Right now, I’m simply studying (more like procrastinating) recorded lectures and notes for this upcoming week of finals. I hope to give the question more attention after one of many 11:59 PM deadlines. But if you are anything like me, you too can slip away from Canvas and take a look at the artwork during building hours up until Dec 17.

REVIEW: Playboi Carti: Narcissist Tour

In addition to the actual performance, Playboi Carti live was an amazing experience. Fans wrapped around the block in the brisk 30°F hours before the show even began. Some laughing and hugging to keep warm and others dancing to Carti’s music off their phone. Upon being let into the Masonic Temple, there’s a chilling red scene against the ornate walls of the theater. I will say, the Vamps showed up! Everyone in the bathroom looked absolutely stunning from subversive basics, balaclavas, shiny black latex to detailed, smokey makeup looks. You would’ve thought you were backstage at a Rick Owens fashion show.

The stage welcomed Ken Carson, Rico Nasty, and finally Playboi Carti himself. Each artist brought high energy onto stage which was evident in the audience. I was in awe by Rico Nasty’s vocal range as she performed “Tia Tamera” and “OHFR?” She added her own screams that made the crowd go all the more wild. So much so that articles of clothing were being thrown up high into the air in the mosh pits.

I already lost my voice and Playboi Carti wasn’t even out yet. But when he did finally walk the stage, I couldn’t help but sing along a little louder. The. fog grew thicker and we could barely make out Carti, except for a small silhouette. His voice and the crowd’s roars were all that were needed. Not wanting to sit, many  including myself  stood in the middle of aisles to get as close as possible. There we excitedly sang along to each lyric of “Sky” and cheesing at one another during “Rockstar Made” None of us felt like strangers in that moment, but all happy Vamps.

In between each song, the rich sound of the bass and organ filled the theater. Like Rico, he also added new ad libs in the live performance. The rhythm coursed right through me, to the point where it felt like the sound and I had become one. I could lay my hand on my chest and feel the beat coming straight from me. It was surreal.

Some might say it was insane or dramatic, but that’s Carti. And I loved having the opportunity to see him perform live.

PREVIEW: Playboi Carti: King Vamp Tour

Since the release of the highly anticipated Whole Lotta Red about a year agoPlayboi Carti is finally coming to Detroit.

Complex called him the “most musically polarizing rapper on the planet right now” upon the Whole Lotta Red album drop in December of last year. His music falls under both Hip-Hop and Punk cultures, or what I like to call Punk Rap. Whole Lotta Red captures more of the Punk alternative accompanied by mumble rap through the energetic, reverberating beat in each song.

The King Vamp tour is Carti’s first headline tour since 2018 where he returns to the stage with a unique sound. The multi-genre artist creates a hypnotic atmosphere and ambiance with his performances.

Characterized by his punk aesthetic and style, one can expect to see fans follow in suit this Saturday, Dec 4 at the Masonic Temple for an invigorating concert experience.

See you there, Vamps.