At a time when embracing pluralism is paramount to society, musicians and artists are able to act as cultural ambassadors to the world. The diversity of cultures, traditions, languages, creative ideas and thoughts that makes up a community is often mirrored in the music it composes and performs. The arts, closely integrated with social and economic development, have therefore played a prominent role in building bridges between diverse peoples and creating understanding and empathy.
One such example is the Diamond Jubilee Music Series which demonstrated a cultural kaleidoscope of talent, both within and beyond the Jamat, concluding with a spectacular finale, ‘Jubilee: Contemporary Expressions of Musical Heritage from the Middle East, West Africa & Central Asia’ on 20 June 2018. This closing event was hosted at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, home of some of the most notable events on the British cultural scene, originally opened by Queen Victoria in 1871.
A concert reflecting pluralism, diversity and the crossing of cultural borders, Jubilee featured Master Musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, with special guests the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet, and Bassekou Kouyaté, one of Mali’s best known and esteemed musicians. In bringing together music, musicians and musical instruments from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, India, Italy, Mali, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States, Jubilee exemplified the way musical creativity has historically developed from the meeting of different cultures.
A special feature of the concert was the dialogue between music, visual imagery and animation in the form of miniature paintings and manuscript illuminations from the collection of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family. Projected on large screens above the stage, the melding of sonic and visual arts in the magnificent auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall symbolised the deep and abiding interconnectedness of expressive culture, decorative arts, and the built environment in Muslim cultural heritage.
The Music Series opened in November 2017 with the Ayoub sisters, whose unique fusion of classical and modern music with a Middle Eastern twist delivered an invigorating performance at the Ismaili Centre, London. They were joined by Giulio Romano Malaisi, an Italian guitarist and Daniele Antenucci, an Italian born drummer.
Jubilee 2018: An Intercultural Concert was held in April this year in Stockholm, Sweden. The event featured a dazzling array of master musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative and guests. The performance of newly created compositions exemplified the way musical creativity has historically developed from the meeting of different cultures.
Mehfil-e-Noor, the concert of light, at the renowned London Palladium in May brought together some of the finest international Sufi musicians. Sufi in this context refers to a form of devotional music, the roots of which are inspired by Muslim mystics including notable figures Rumi and Hafiz. The songs, through their melody, lyrics and performance, sought to unite the musician and the listener with the Divine. The performance featured the Nooran Sisters, who follow in the traditions of legends such as Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as Shadab Faridi, a sensational male Sufi and Bollywood singer.
The Roshni concerts, held in London and Leicester, presented Jamati talent and showcased pieces which warmed the hearts of listeners as they recalled the emotional tunes from the musical soundscape during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s previous visits to the United Kingdom. The music was beautifully accompanied by narration and rare video footage.
Through these diverse performances, the Music Series reinforced our sense of community, providing opportunities for the Jamat to come together and to renew ties with each other during the Diamond Jubilee year.