On 29 March, the Gulbenkian Orchestra, led by maestro Pedro Neves, performed new works with Master Musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative from Tajikistan, Syria, and Afghanistan, in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family.

Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by Prince Amyn, Prince Hussain, and Prince Aly Muhammad at the concert, which celebrated the diversity of artistic expression through music. Also in attendance were distinguished guests including the former President of the Portuguese Republic Dr Jorge Sampaio, and the former Prime Minister of Portugal Dr Francisco Pinto Balsemão.

The Master Musicians are a collective of artists who create new music inspired by their deep roots in the cultural heritage of the Middle East and Mediterranean Basin, and South and Central Asia. They are venerated performers and composer-arrangers who appear on the world’s most prestigious stages, while also serving as teachers, mentors, and curators, who enrich the Music Initiative’s interregional network of education programmes.

Linking countries and continents, and present and past through explorations of diverse forms of classical, folk, jazz, and contemporary concert music, the ensemble contributes strongly to the Music Initiative’s mission to invigorate cultural and intellectual pluralism in the nations it serves.

In his remarks to introduce the concert, Prince Amyn spoke of the importance of music in today’s society.

“At a time when strengthening tolerance and pluralism has become an acute worldwide priority, music is one of the arts which offers a medium for reaching, involving and uniting global audiences by engendering emotions which we all share as human beings,” Prince Amyn said. “I once said that music is made of dreams and the echo of dreams, and I believe mankind shares the same dreams in large measure.”

Prince Amyn also spoke of his aspirations for the Aga Khan Music Awards, saying that he hopes that they should “serve as a catalyst for many future projects that draw on the rich tapestry of Muslim musical heritage while reaching across the boundaries of time, place, and culture, assimilating the traditions and characteristics of other heritages into a global pluralistic sound.”

Isabel Mota, President of the Gulbenkian Foundation, acknowleded the significance of the Awards, calling them “of paramount importance for the recognition of tradition-inspired contemporary music in cultures shaped by Islam.”

“We need a world in which different identities and cultures are respected and where we can share an idea of common good,” Mota said. “The Aga Khan Development Network, through the Aga Khan Foundation in Portugal, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have been strategic partners for decades, in different domains, especially in the social arena, but also in the arts and its ability to foster more inclusive and tolerant societies.”

A reception was held prior to the concert where the CEO of CTT (Portugal Postal Services) Francisco Lacerda unveiled a special commemorative stamp in honour of the Awards.