Srinagar, Sep 7 (PTI): 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.
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[Editor’s Cut] Zubin Mehta Concert: An Exercise In Vanity Or Mere Propaganda?
How can the maestro use music to connect people if the Kashmiri public is kept out of bounds? | By Shougat Dasgupta
He has been airing those fond memories in interviews, recalling the powerful impression Kashmir made on him and his family as he prepares to return to Srinagar on 7 September, accompanied by the Bavarian State Orchestra, for a short performance of some Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Haydn.
“It’s a symbolic effort from all of us,” Mehta told The Wall Street Journal, “to bring Hindus and Muslims together, to have one-and-a-half hours of inner peace and spirituality.” Michael Steiner, the German ambassador to India, made some sunny remarks about the “universal language” of music, about its power to “connect”. It’s an echo of EM Forster’s famous injunction to only connect, an expression of faith in the possibilities of empathy and imagination, faith in the artist’s ability to permeate.
If connection is Steiner’s motivation for bringing Zubin Mehta to Srinagar, if connection is Mehta’s motivation for accepting that invitation, it appears clear that they have failed before a note has sounded, before the conductor’s baton has been flourished. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the prominent separatist, has called for a strike. How, he asked, could Germany justify hosting a concert in ‘occupied’ Kashmir? Furious op-eds and open letters were published complete with allegations of Mehta’s ‘Zionism’ and overwrought analogies to Nazi propaganda. In response, the German Embassy and the Indian government have maintained a ‘show must go on’ stoicism.
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