This 30-minute documentary features the March 2012 premiere of "Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring through Music," by composer Jamshied Sharifi ‘83.  Commissioned by MIT Music and Theater Arts, with funding from the MIT Visiting Artists program, the work was first performed by the MIT Wind Ensemble conducted by Frederick Harris, Jr., music director. 

The video, by MIT Video Productions, first broadcast on the Boston PBS affiliate WGBH 2 on Friday, May 31, 2013, was made possible in part by A. Neil ’64 and Jane Pappalardo. 

Video Credits

Lawrence Gallagher, producer; Chris Boebel, documentary director; Bob Comiskey, performance director; Jean Dunoyer, film editor; Craig Milanesi, technical director; Anthony Di Bartolo, audio engineer


Since the Arab Spring revolution began in early 2011, four Arabic-speaking countries have removed rulers from power and nearly 20 more have had some form of protests, uprisings or civil wars. For musician and composer Jamshied Sharifi ’83, the uprisings were personal. Born in Kansas to an Iranian father and American mother, Sharifi was exposed to Middle Eastern music as a child and later watched unsuccessful political protests in Iran. When MIT Wind Ensemble music director Frederick Harris asked him to compose music related to the Arab Spring, Sharifi welcomed the opportunity.

“For those of us with Persian heritage who watched the earlier political protests in Iran, initially with hope and then with bitter disappointment, the success of the civil movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were especially gratifying,” Sharifi says. “The labor of developing effective and responsive political systems in those three countries still remains. But something in the Middle East has undeniably changed. And I tried to honor that shift in this piece.”

There are three movements in the work. The first, Maghreb/Bouazizi/The Uprisings, acknowledges the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose suicide served as the catalyst for the Arab Spring. The second, Reflection: Let Each One Hear Her Own Thoughts, serves as a respite to contemplate the uprisings. The third, Ahead: The Real Transformation Has Barely Begun, looks forward to continued political and social progress.

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MIT Video Productions