Center for Southeast Asia celebrates 50 years

Amirah Ali
Amirah Ali

DeKALB – Amirah Ali, a Northern Illinois University alumna who is now an award-winning Malaysian pop singer-songwriter, will return to campus to headline a March 2 performance celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

The center will officially mark its 50th anniversary with a slate of events March 1-6, including the March 2 free public concert, featuring traditional and contemporary Southeast Asian performing arts. Ali will close the concert and also perform and talk about her music in a special March 4 meet-the-artist event.

A native of Kuala Lumpur, Ali earned a master’s degree in music at NIU in 2009. She is known for fusing aspects of traditional Malaysian music with elements of modern Western pop. Her debut single, “Katakanlah,” garnered two international songwriting awards, including second place in the worldwide International Songwriting Competition for 2010.

“We are thrilled to welcome back to campus Amirah Ali, who is gracious enough to fly halfway around the world to come back and sing for us,” center director Judy Ledgerwood said.

“The concert is part of an intense few days of events that will accomplish what our center has done best over the past 50 years—that is to bring Southeast Asian culture and arts to DeKalb and northern Illinois.”

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies was created on March 5, 1963. Today it is one of seven federally-funded National Resource Centers for Southeast Asian Studies.

Next week’s events include:

• “Republicanism, Communism, Islam: Cosmopolitan Origins of Revolution in Southeast Asia,” a lecture by Jon Sidel, Sir Patrick Gillam Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, at 4 p.m. Friday, March 1 in the Pollock Ballroom at Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

• A coffee talk and tour of the “Rarely Seen Southeast Asia: Art, Artifacts, Ephemera” exhibit at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at the NIU Anthropology Museum.

• A cocktail reception and gala dinner at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at Altgeld Auditorium. A limited number of tickets are available at $50 each. A free concert will follow at 8 p.m. in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

The concert will feature traditional and contemporary performances, nearly all with an NIU connection, including special guest artist Ali. Other concert highlights are NIU music professor Gregory Beyer and the NIU Percussion Studio on antique Burmese bronze drums; the NIU Gamelan Ensemble; the Thai Cultural and Fine Arts Institute of Chicago, directed by NIU alumnus Chamni Sripraram, performing Thai classical and folk music; Indonesian Dance of Illinois performing Balinese dance; vocalists SarahEmily Lekberg and Andrew Voelker, singing excerpts from the Filipino opera Noli Me Tangere; a performance by Amirah Ali.

• The “50 Years of CSEAS and the Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia” exhibit will open at 4 p.m. Monday, March 4, in Founders Library. Amirah Ali will perform and talk about her music at 8 p.m. that evening in the School of Music Recital Hall.

• Open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 in the center’s offices at 520 College View Court.

• Free screening of “The Lady,” a 2011 biopic about the life of Burma democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 in Cole Hall Auditorium.

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