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Illustrated by Fatema Alrebh

Musifying Glass Group Hosts First Year Cultural Evening

The prospective Student Interest Group, Musifying Glass, hosted a First Year Cultural Evening that offered a space for first year students to bond in the midst of an unprecedented virtual semester.

Nov 1, 2020

On Oct. 3, close to 100 first-year students attended the cultural evening hosted by the prospective Student Interest Group Musifying Glass as their opening event. The evening was dedicated to students in the Class of 2024, with attendees joining virtually from all over the world.
The cultural evening was officiated with the national anthem of the United Arab Emirates, followed by performances such as Colombian Salsa, Bengali music, Qawwalis and Uyghur melody folk songs amongst others.
Gwyneth Bravo, Assistant Professor of Music at NYU Abu Dhabi, was a speaker at the event, and stated that “[the event signifies the] form[ation of] a new musical community in NYU Abu Dhabi that focuses on the commitment of intercultural exchange [through music].” Highlighting the escalation of conflicts across the globe, she explained the instrumental role that traditional music plays in building a culture of solidarity within a diverse student population.
“I hoped to put the [NYUAD] brand of diversity to good use and allow students to see and embrace other cultures… to be culturally prideful in a way and make other people appreciate [classical music] as much as I do,” said Yerkebulan Imanbayev, Class of 2024, who was the organizer of the event. He added that the event was limited to first-years as he wanted to create an intimate and interactive freshmen experience in the unprecedented environment of the Covid-19 pandemic, where bonding has become much more difficult. He hoped to foster a platform for first-years to form relationships while also learning about a myriad of cultures and traditions of music.
Jianna Jackson, Class of 2024 and a performer at the event, echoed Imanbayev’s sentiments: “[The reason for my involvement in the event was a] desire to connect with the freshmen class over common interests.”
“Healing is one word that I would describe [the evening] by,” shared Imanbayev. Although there were words of sorrow, he explained, there were also words of hope. Jackson hoped her rendition of “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley would reach out and touch her fellow Nigerian board members. She wanted to commemorate them and honor their perseverance at a time of conflict.
“I was watching [my board member’s] story on Instagram about the Anti-SARS protests and I truly admired her. She was a pillar of strength amidst the ongoing crisis in her home country,” shared Jackson.
She recalled how the days leading up to the event were also significant in shaping her creative process and forging deeply intimate relations between her and her classmates.
“At first, we had a group chat that wasn’t very active, however, that immediately changed after our dress rehearsal,” she noted.
In undertaking such an initiative, Imanbayev and Jackson acknowledged the fears and challenges in hosting a virtual event.
“My biggest fear was the turnout and how we would sway people to come. I mean, at the end of it, even though we got FYRCE on board as well, there was only a section of the class that eventually attended [the event],” shared Jackson.
The evening resonated with many first-year students.
“It was an amazing experience where I found myself immersed in so many different cultures from across the world, sitting right at my desk,” said Ishika Menrai, Class of 2024. “It was my birthday the day we had the cultural night and if the world hadn't been turned upside down by the virus, I'd have celebrated it with this new family of mine in person [...][B]ut the surprise [of the entire class wishing me together] absolutely made my day.”
“The evening was profound,” Jackson summarized. “[It was] one of the closest representations of what NYUAD should be.”
Ashraya Dutt is a Staff Writer. Email her at
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