At a momentous and celebratory event held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, the Aga Khan Music Awards reached a crescendo, as His Excellency President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Mawlana Hazar Imam, and Prince Amyn awarded prizes to ten laureates, representing 13 countries around the world.

Shortly before the Prize-Giving Ceremony, each of the laureates performed at a concluding Gala Concert, in which music artists from different regions performed for guests, in what represented a showcase for diversity and pluralism through music.

His Excellency the President of Portugal addressed guests gathered at the event prior to awarding the prizes, saying that, “This prize is a start of a long journey together. You and us, thinking of peace in the world, multilateralism, dialogue, a common fight against intolerance, and music is a great way of doing this.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam established the Aga Khan Music Awards in 2018 in recognition of his commitment to creative expression. The Awards recognise exceptional creativity, promise, and enterprise in music performance, creation, education, preservation and revitalisation in societies across the world in which Muslims have a significant presence.

In his remarks, Hazar Imam explained the significance of music in Muslim contexts: “The cultural heritage of Islam has long embraced musical language as an elemental expression of human spirituality. Listening to music, practicing music, sharing music, performing music - have long been an intimate part of life for Muslim communities across the world, as has the chanting of devotional and historical or epic texts,” he said.

The Gala Concert and Prize-Giving Ceremony brought together nine laureates in six categories: Mustafa Said (Performance); Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (Creation); The Omnibus Ensemble (Education); Badiaa Bouhrizi (Social Inclusion); Oumou Sangaré, Ballake Sissoko, and Dariush Talai (Distinguished and Enduring Contributions); and Farhod Halimov and The Gurminj Museum (Preservation, Revitalisation, and Dissemination). A special Patron’s award was also conferred to Mohammad Reza Shajarian for his contributions to music, and sustained social impact within Iran and beyond.

Throughout the history of Muslim societies, arts and music have played an important role as a source of spiritual enlightenment, moral inspiration, and social cohesion. The elegant sounds of traditional instruments, the allure of poetic lyrics, and the depth of human vocals for example, have also been used by artists to recognise the splendour of the world, and provide a reflection of the Islamic tradition which gives beauty its own intrinsic value.

Remarking on the outstanding artistic talent of the musicians gathered on this occasion, Hazar Imam said, “Here in Lisbon today — and across the world in the months and years to come —  their voices will, we trust, continue to transcend old boundaries of time and place, reminding the world that every individual can respond to art and music, whether it emanates from a different culture or not.”