Remembering our week in Detroit Lakes
By Shigeyo Henriquez
We arrived in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota at the most beautiful time of the year—fall colors at their best. The weather was perfect, warm, sunny, and in the 80’s the whole week. Is this really northern Minnesota? People in Wausau told us it would be much, much colder in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. Wust el Balad are not used to the cold weather, so they really loved this unusually warm fall.
We drove from Wausau on Sunday, Sept 25th and the following day was supposed to be a day off. Well, I got a call from Becky at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center (DLCCC) and she said that TV station crews from Fargo were on their way to interview us! It was a beautiful, warm, and sunny day and the hotel garden made the perfect background for the interview. Other hotel guests heard their singing and came out to see what was happening. The news of the Egyptian ensemble was televised on the 5, 6, and 10 o’clock news shows which reached into North Dakota. It was great publicity for the concert and the workshops.
One of our weekly workshops was at the White Earth Indian Reservation. Wust el Balad brought some percussion instruments from Egypt and handed them out to volunteers. Everyone lined up with the instruments and Mizo and Bob instructed them in some simple rhythms and step dancing. This rhythm and dancing comes from the southern region of Egypt, and people sing and dance to it at special occasions, like wedding and festivals. While they danced the rest of ensemble played their instruments.
One instructor, Tom, brought a traditional drum. They invited Bob and Mizo (Wust el Balad’s percussionists) to the drum circle. Bob and Mizo were very honored to be invited. It was an unforgettable experience for everyone.
Also in Detroit Lakes, Greg and Marsha invited us to their home along with the arts council members, friends, and neighbors. Marsha had looked up several middle eastern recipes and served us a delicious, home cooked meal. Tim, the police chief of Detroit Lakes, was the entertainment for the evening. He sang everything from oldies, to country, to Elvis, and more. Asaad joined in on some of the songs, but soon he let Tim take over the night.
September 28th was Omar’s birthday. I had mentioned it to Becky earlier and so they had prepared a big ice cream birthday cake for him, and we all sang “Happy Birthday to you” in English and Arabic. It was a very special birthday for Omar. He thanked everyone and said he would never forget this evening.
The concert in Detroit Lakes was at the Historic Holmes Theatre. Amy, Becky and staff were very pleased to have such a full house for the show. Just before the concert, while Amy was making the announcement, we all gathered back stage. The ensemble members put their hands on top of each other’s and prayed. I asked if I could join and they let me. I felt very honored.
For the first half of the show, I stayed behind the stage, but the second half I had a job to do. I am a part of the ensemble now. My job is to get the audience involved in the show, so I stood up and started to dance. Soon, all of the audience was dancing! George, a 92-year-old man danced arm and arm with his wife, stepping right to left with a big smile on his face. They danced for one full song. He told me he was only 29 years old tonight.
The concert was a great success. After we put all of the equipment and instruments away, we headed out to Zorba, a local hangout, to celebrate the success of the concert. Becky, Amy, Viva, and several people who worked with us during this week came and we continued to have fun till 2 in the morning. We could stay up late because there were only three hours of driving to North Dakota the next day.
Everyone had such a great time in Detroit Lakes, and we couldn’t wait to continue the fun to the next stop of the tour!