Srinagar, Sep 7: After his successful concert in Shalimar Gardens, music maestro Zubin Mehta said that next time he would like to play in a stadium in Kashmir. Aware that he was performing before a an invited audience of over 2,000 people, the 77-year-old musician said, “Because, we want to do good. And, I promise next time, let’s do that concert sabke sab Kashmiris, mufat (All Kashmiris for free) in a stadium. Everybody should come. We don’t want only select few,” he said.
Holding his baton, the Mumbai-born opera music conductor greeted the crowd with folded hands and started his speech in Hindi by expressing his extreme delight to be present on the occasion, hosted by the German Embassy at the historic Mughal era gardens.
“Hum bahut khush hain, bahut khush hain (I am very happy)…and so are the wonderful soloists who will perform for you this evening. I have waited and dreamt of this moment…practically all my life. And, every person on this subcontinent will agree with that this is where it (concert) should be… The moment the music starts, a very positive wave goes across this stage to all of Kashmir, to all our friends, to all our critics, and god bless them all, thank you,” he said in his address at the concert.
Against the backdrop of the picturesque 400-year-old Mughal Garden with its magnificent chinars, some as old as 300 years and more, Mehta and his Bavarian State Orchestra held the audience spellbound at the Ahsaas-i-Kashmir concert with an array of classical orchestral pieces. The event kicked off with the maestro leading the orchestra in concert with Abhay Sopori’s troupe with traditional Kashmiri instruments and ended with a fusion of Kashmiri folk tunes and western classical music to thundering cheers from the packed venue.
In a text prepared before the performance, the opera conductor said it had always been his conviction to never underestimate the power of music to bring people together. “After having involved in such activities all over the world, I am extremely proud to finally make music in my beloved Kashmir,” he said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah invoked Amir Khusrau’s famous couplet by saying, “If there’s is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here… We hope that the music from here will lift our spirits and lighten our souls for a better tomorrow.”
German Ambassador in India Michael Steiner, who hosted the concert, said, “The distance between Munich and Srinagar is 7,756-km. Today, the distance reduces to zero. German and European cultural heritage bow to Kashmir, to its history, to its beauty and to its difficult reality and journey. The world is looking at you, Ahsaas-i-Kashmir.” He then quoted Kashmiri poet Habba Khatun and German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. While acknowledging the support of the state government and the Chief Minister, Steiner said, “I thank you all, but most of all I thank you all Kashmiris”.
The Bavarian State Orchestra played the works of legendary composers, including Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
In opposition of the event, a parallel concert was held called Haqeeqat-i-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir) at the Municipal Park, not far away from the Shalimar Gardens. The parallel concert started with the poetry of Nayeem Ahmad, a Baramulla resident who was killed in 1993, days after he wrote the poem. Then the singer Irfan Bilal’s sang about the pain of the past two decades. “Ye kaem woan che subhas gasnai Digar (Who said that our dawn should turn into dusk),” the first line of song read. A large gathering of people had collected to watch the concert despite the shutdown. The audience included half-widows and the parents of the disappeared persons. The event ended with Bhandh Pather, a traditional satirical show.
Between the two events, there were three incidents of violence. Four persons were killed in the firing when militants reportedly attacked a CRPF camp in Shopian. While police claimed that two among the four were militants who fired at the CRPF, the local people say that all the four were civilians. Soon after the incidents, protests broke out in Shopian.
Nine persons, including five police personnel were injured in the neighbouring town of Pulwama when militants lobbed a grenade. In downtown Srinagar, the CRPF fired at a vehicle, injuring one person. There were also protests and stone pelting in some places.
However, this violent fallout has not deterred the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah or Mehta from talking about holding another concert in Kashmir. While Mehta talked of a “muft (free)” concert for Kashmiris next time, Omar said that if given chance, he would facilitate the event again: “Would I do it again. If I am given a chance, yes I will do it.”
(With inputs from PTI)