The Aga Khan Music Awards (AKMA) gala concert part one was held this evening at the unique Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman, in the presence of Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Prince Hussain, and Princess Fareen.

This was the first of two events held to commemorate the 2022 Aga Khan Music Awards, and featured a number of unique collaborations amongst the Laureates. Through the performances, the spirit of the Awards came to life. Artists who had previously never met, came together to craft sounds that juxtaposed genres in celebration of the diverse musical traditions of the Muslim world. 

Prince Amyn congratulated all Laureates on behalf of Mawlana Hazar Imam in his on-stage remarks to guests, and spoke of the centrality of music in the human experience.

“While there is no single music that one could say is a universal language, the urge to make music and to have music in our lives is universal,” said Prince Amyn. 

“Musical traditions have evolved, wherever they may be, as people have travelled from one geographical area, one culture, to another and imbibed parts of the new cultures they experienced, leading at the same time to an evolution in the musical styles and expressions of the countries they visited,” he added. “Such evolution through cross-cultural contact has been at the root of almost all musical creation.” 

Each of the performances this evening displayed this evolution and creation, mixed with a high level of talent, drawing upon the classical traditions of the respective Laureates’ backgrounds. There were hauntingly beautiful moments on stage, such as when Yasamin Shahhosseini from Iran on the oud and Jasser Haj Youssef from Tunisia on violin effortlessly brought together their two very different classical instruments, accompanying the powerful vocals of Yahya Hussein Abdallah from Tanzania for an incredible expression of devotion. 

Similarly, Asin Khan Langa and Dilshad Khan, both from India, created a piece that brought together folk and classical styles on the sarangi. The piece, performed with exquisite talent, made it sound as though they had played together for years. In fact, they rehearsed together for the first time this week. Coumbane Mint Ely Warakane from Mauritania and Afel Bocoum from Mali brought together another unique composition, creating a cool groove underneath devotional lyrics. The crowd expressed their admiration after each of the collaborations.

It was a live demonstration of the immediate impact of the Awards. The initiative also has a longer term aspiration, as Prince Amyn noted in his address. 

“The true impact will be measured by the achievements of the Laureates as they endeavour to use their musical talent and knowledge to contribute to the well-being of their respective societies and of humanity at large,” he said. “Indeed, front and centre in the selection process of the Music Awards jury is a belief that the gift of artistic talent bestows a responsibility on those who receive it to share their good fortune with others, to unite us despite our many apparent differences.” 

In her welcome address, Fairouz Nishanova, director of The Aga Khan Music Programme, explained that the musicians, students, educators, and curators involved with the Music Programme and with the Music Awards “have become a kind of community, indeed, a kind of family whose members live all over the world.”

“At the root of this community,” she added, “is the key idea of pluralism, which His Highness the Aga Khan has repeatedly underscored as a fundamental condition for a peaceful and prosperous world.”

Before the final two pieces of the evening, Zakir Hussain from India was awarded the 2022 Aga Khan Music Award for Lifetime Achievement. As the award citation reads, he was recognised for his “enduring contributions to the musical heritage of humanity, peerless musical mastery, and sustained social impact as a performer and teacher.”

The tabla virtuoso then performed one of his compositions with the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, followed by a finale piece, in which the Aga Khan Master Musicians joined them on-stage. The piece, “Tashkent,” composed by Aga Khan Master Musician Basel Rajoub, showed how different instruments and musical genres from around the world can come together to take listeners on a journey, transporting them to another level. 

Jamal al-Moosawi, director of the National Museum in Oman, also addressed guests at the event. He congratulated the Laureates and thanked all those involved. 

“We wish continued success to the Aga Khan Development Network and the Aga Khan Music Programme, the organisers of this Award, which occupies such a unique cultural role that is close to the hearts of Arabs and people of culture,” he said. “Let’s enjoy music in whatever form we find it, and may all our moments be full of wonder, love and beauty.”