The Social Hall at The Ismaili Centre in London, was filled with people of all ages eager to hear the spectacular fusion of sounds from an incredible mix of western and eastern instruments on 21 June 2007, as part of the Exhibition Road Music Day festivities.

Exhibition Road Music Day is London's annual free festival of live music which coincides with the Fete de la Musique celebrations across Europe and other cities around the world. This year, over 70 exhilarating performances by both professional and amateur musicians brought Exhibition Road alive, showcasing an incredible range of sounds and styles all celebrating the diversity of musical culture in Europe.

Musical exploration and collaboration

Nine venues in London were chosen to host the Fete de la Musique festivities this year. As one of the chosen venues, the Ismaili Centre London showcased a series of compositions by the ensemble MAQAM, with each performance exhibiting a different fusion of cultural expressions and musical instruments. The performances at the Ismaili Centre culminated with a collaborative piece between MAQAM, renowned drummer Khaled Hakim, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – an awe-inspiring synthesis of artist, instrument and sound.

In addition to the performances, three workshops were conducted at the Ismaili Centre during the day, allowing school groups to experience Middle Eastern culture and music. The interactive classes, taught by musician and teacher Khaled Hakim, encouraged children to work as a team to create vibrant drum rhythms which they then performed accompanied by an assortment of Middle Eastern instruments.

Other locations across London hosted similarly compelling workshops and performances. The Natural History Museum, across the street from the Ismaili Centre, showcased the samba (Brazilian dance music), blues and rock, while other local institutions such as the Goethe-Institut and Imperial College London hosted everything from choirs to klezmer (a Yiddish musical tradition). School groups and visitors from across Europe joined in various musical workshops and enjoyed the performances around the various locations.

A commitment to culture and diversity

Music is a fundamental expression of any human culture. Farnoosh Behzad, MAQAM's composer and conductor who is originally from Iran, believes that music is “about achieving unity – people and instruments of all shapes and sizes can fit.” This expression of unity through diversity – a central part of the Islamic ethic of pluralism – was reflected in Mohammed Assani's musical performances at the Ismaili Centre on Exhibition Road Music Day: his improvisation with the tabla (hand drum) seamlessly fused with other instruments from around the world that he accompanied.

The Exhibition Road Music Day perfectly reflected the esprit of the Fete de la Musique: the festival used music to bring together people from various backgrounds in a celebration of cultural expression. Whatever your musical taste, the performances at the Ismaili Centre and other venues in London and across Europe, opened your ears to a world of sounds.