The Aga Khan Music Awards kicked off its three-day event in Oman on Saturday, showcasing rousing performances by world-class and regional talent from Southeast Asia and West Africa.
The opening night of the lavish event – broadcast on Oman TV – was held at the Royal Opera House Muscat in the presence of Prince Amin Muhammad, the younger brother of the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
First held in 2019, the triennial celebration aims to honor and support artists in preserving musical traditions in regions such as the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and North Africa.
This year’s 10 winners were selected by a jury of international art professionals including Sheikha Hala bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Director General for Culture and Antiquities, and British dancer and choreographer Akram Khan.
All Aga Khan Music Award winners receive cash prizes totaling $500,000.
In his keynote speech, Prince Amin Muhammad described the return of the award as poignant given the economic and cultural disruption caused by the pandemic.
“Losing live performance opportunities literally overnight means more than a loss of livelihood; It also means losing a vital source of inspiration,” he said.
“It is the inspiration that arises in performers when they perform in front of a live audience and can feel the emotions, the thoughts that give rise to their music.”
‘A great pat on the back’
All 10 winners will be honored during the ceremony, which ends on Monday.
Indian musician Zakir Hussain received a lifetime award on the opening night.
Born in Mumbai to revered Indian percussionist and composer Alla Rakha, Hussain was recognized for an extensive six-decade career during which he elevated the global status of the Indian percussion instrument tabla. He has built cultural bridges through world tours and musical collaborations, from Hollywood and Bollywood to working with Beatles member George Harrison.
talking nationalHussain expressed his happiness on receiving the award.
“The award is a great pat on the back that tells me I’m on the right track and I should keep going,” he said. “I see this as the beginning of the next phase of my journey towards something we all strive to achieve, which is perfection.”
He cited his latest album, grooveAs part of the international percussion collective Planet Drum, exemplifying his constant search for new creative ground.
As one of four collaborative performances on the first night, Hussain teamed up with the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra to play a section of his Tabla Concerto. Peshkar
Weaving through the strings and brass of the muscular score, Hussain showcased his mastery of the instrument, morphing from profound to strident.
“Improvisation is important if you want to interact and have conversations with musicians of other genres,” he said. “It’s only by concentrating and focusing on the moment at hand that you can really open yourself up and make those connections.”
It’s a principle that other award winners took to the stage on Saturday.
Tabla player Dilshad Khan joins Indian artiste Asin Khan Langa for an evocative instrumental performance featuring the latter’s sarangi, a bowed, short-necked string instrument that closely resembles a quivering human voice.
There was also a duet by Tanzanian spiritual singer Yahya Bihaki Hussein and Malian guitarist Koumbane Mint Eli Warakane and Mauritanian singer Aphel Boukam.
Among the award winners playing on Sunday and Monday are Indonesian dancer Penny Candra Rini and British-Indian sarod player Soumik Dutta.
‘A rich source of knowledge and civilization’
Jamal bin Hassan Al Mousavi, Secretary-General of the National Museum of Oman, outlined the sultan’s rich musical history.
During his keynote speech at the awards, he traced the country’s cultural history, from the discovery of Oman’s oldest instrument, the jim (a 7,000-year-old traditional trumpet available for viewing at The National Museum) to the establishment of the Royal Ensemble for the People. Arts and Music in 1976, followed by the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra in 1985 and the opening of the Royal Opera House Muscat in 2011.
“Music is a universal language that is easily spoken and understood by all people, which facilitates dialogue between civilizations,” he said.
“Through the language of music, we are working to highlight the role of the Sultanate of Oman and what is specific to its rich source of knowledge and civilization.”
Aga Khan Music Program Director Fairuz Nishanova welcomed Oman’s contribution to the organization, which aims to build a more inclusive society through arts and culture.
“This musical fellowship and family that we have created is the most important and gratifying outcome of the Aga Khan Music Program,” he said.
“At the core of this community is the core idea of pluralism as a fundamental condition for a peaceful and prosperous world.”
The full list of winners is available here www.the.akdn
Updated: October 30, 2022, 12:09 PM