We humans share our culture through many forms of creative expression, which together embody the arts. Arts encompass multiple ways of channelling creative impulses through poetry and literature, visual, imaginary, and performance. Over time, culture informs, shapes, and transforms the way human society comes to present various art forms which it learns to cherish and covet as civilisations evolve and progress.

Music is perhaps the most expressive language of culture. From the beginning of humanity, from the earliest moments of life, music in the rhythm of the beating heart heard by the unborn foetus in the womb and later the mother’s gentle lullaby rocking her child to sleep, has imprinted rhythmic sounds of music within us from our earliest moments. At religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, schools, concert halls, sports stadiums, and more recently through smart devices, music continually influences us, and in turn we influence the music that others create.

Music can be seen as the “secret of life,” a cultural conduit; its magnetism attracts, engages, and connects people of all ages, cultures and communities together, irrespective of race, wealth, nationality, or religion. Music brings strangers together, it builds bridges, dissolves barriers, and provides an opportunity to learn, understand, and engage with others.

Some six years ago, the Ismaili Centre, London opened its doors to music events as part of the Nour Festival of Arts. This series of lunchtime musical performances held at 1pm in the afternoon has since come to be known as “Music @ One.” The objective was to deliver an enjoyable musical pathway for greater cultural connectivity with neighbours and those visiting London’s borough of Kensington and Chelsea. These mini concerts would deliver world music events showcasing diversity in both music and culture. Visitors would enjoy a short session with performances taking place around the Ismaili Centre’s entrance fountain, a calm and tranquil space in the heart of London’s busy cultural quarter at Exhibition Road.

Since 2014, a variety of extraordinary musicians have performed at the Centre. London-based Francesco Iannuzzelli, an Italian Oud musician opened the first lunchtime performance in October 2014. Since then, the Centre and its visitors have enjoyed a diverse variety of musicians, inspired by their encounter with musical instruments from around the globe.

Among the unusual traditional musical instruments and sounds delivered at the sessions were instruments such as the Tar and Setar performed by Iranian musician Veria Amiri; the Kamancheh by Adib Rostami; Jali Bakary Konteh delivered a most unusual sound on the Kora, a West African Harp, together with Yahel Camara on Calabas and Djembe, West African drums, while Tara Jaff performed on a classical harp to name a few.

In addition, there has been a storytelling musical production of “Thumbelina” by Merit Ariane, and  we have celebrated our community musicians with a performance from the Ismaili Community Ensemble.

London-based singer-songwriter Elaha Soroor, informed by her Afghan and Iranian roots, delivered a musical journey from Afghanistan to Andalucía, whilst merging both traditional and contemporary compositions with jazz and flamenco.

Springtime classics by Primavera String Ensemble for example, delivered a musical recital for string quartet to celebrate the season of life’s renewal, which included compositions by Mozart, Haydn, Dvorak, and others.

An international group comprising of Paul Livingstone from Scotland on viola, Paulina Mikolajczyk from Poland on cello, and Ani Batikian from Armenia on violin, travelled to London to bring the 2018 season of Music @ One to a close with classical renditions of festive music.

Over the years Music @ One has joined with musicians from SOAS, the Scottish Opera House, the Royal College of Music, and many others delivering music from North Africa, the Middle East, South and Central Asia, South America, China, Australia, and all across Europe. There has been music inspired by jazz and blues, classical and popular, traditional and contemporary.

Music @ One has delivered an extraordinary range of musical performances which have been open to all. The events have welcomed members of the community, neighbours, local businesses, and neighbouring institutions along with passers by around South Kensington. We have enjoyed visits from local government, councilors, and representatives from embassies.

The Ismaili Centre London’s Music @ One sessions align with the words of Kahlil Gibran, who said that “music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”