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In politics of concerts, it is distortion of music

In politics of concerts, it is distortion of music
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The Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar sponsored by the German embassy, New Delhi, was meant to be gesture of goodwill but it could have been organized...

Kashmir has had its own proud cultural heritage; the tradition of Sufi and Bhakti cult, of Nand Rishi, and Nuruddin, the poetess-queen Hibba Khatoon and mystic Lal Ded. Music and poetry are all-pervasive in the valley resonating to tunes of santoor, veena, sitar and harmonium

The Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar sponsored by the German embassy, New Delhi, was meant to be gesture of goodwill but it could have been organized in a better way with a little more care. Named “Ehsas-e-Kashmir” (Feeling of Kashmir), the Government of India fully collaborated with the embassy in the venture that saw music maestro Zubin Mehta perform with a team of the Bavarian State Orchestra for promoting ‘peace and harmony’.

The theme was a provocation enough for the Hurriyat leaders and the proponents of ‘Azadi’ to organize a counter-concert named Haqiqat-e-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir) to pinpoint the plight of the common people amid the prevailing the law and order situation in the valley. Several intellectual and cultural groups in a coalition of civil society joined in.

Undeniably, what was to be a purely cultural initiative assumed a political complexion. Zubin Mehta’s concert was restricted to a select audience of 1,500 ‘screened invitees’ while the other concert was open to the public to ensure of mass participation. Be that as it may, the overall effect was that it all got lost in a maze of one-upmanship.

There was another side. Zubin Mehta is a world famous figure of classical Western music, a violinist and a master of philharmonic art. He is a Bombay (Mumbai) boy, born and educated there while permanently residing in the US. He has retained his Indian citizenship. While Mehta has been associated with many philharmonic institutions in the West, he has been closely involved with the arts in Israel too, an opportunity for dissident groups in Kashmir to oppose the festival in Srinagar.

All this notwithstanding, Zubin Mehta has been a welcome guest in India and has been particularly popular with the audiences in New Delhi, Mumbai as well as other metro cities. It is difficult to understand the wisdom of holding the festival in what frankly is a sensitive State. One objective seemed to be to tell the world of the fact of Kashmir’s total integration into India, but was it really necessary to convey the message through an orchestra about an established fact already known to the world at large? Even if the conditions are far from hunky-dory in the valley, it is an open secret that much of the disaffection is Pakistan-inspired militancy.

The local population is indeed unhappy over the continuance of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and many ugly clashes between locals and the security forces stem out of discontent. But, equally, there is a democratically elected government in the State, the Opposition parties functioning freely. These hard facts are known the world over and in India’s open society nobody hides the facts of life in the State.

Cultural troupes have been visiting Kashmir and other parts of India since Independence, promoting understanding. A Bavarian orchestra should have been a kind of novelty in Kashmir; yet serving the aims for the elite and the neophyte connoisseurs of fine arts.

Kashmir has had its own proud cultural heritage; the tradition of Sufi and Bhakti cult, of Nand Rishi, and Nuruddin, the poetess-queen Hibba Khatoon and mystic Lal Ded. Music and poetry are all-pervasive in the valley resonating to tunes of santoor, veena, sitar and harmonium.

It all lies throbbing in the hearts of the people in the folklore as well as in Saivite tradition. The art and culture the world over know no barriers of language, classical or contemporaneous. As such, Zubin Mehta’s concert should have been welcomed but unfortunately found itself bogged down in unavoidable controversy–thanks to political and diplomatic interplay. Yet, could it be a prelude to an invitation for a troupe from Kashmir to get ‘a feeling for’ German multiculturalism?

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