Far too frequently Britain has become divided by narratives of conflict and hate, we see the Britain deeply at odds with notions of ‘us and them’, the majority and the other – so much so that attempts to cross cultural boundaries are often futile or non-existent. Television features and documentaries that try to portray Islam often fall short of presenting the diversity of Islam and some even falter into the same old mistake of portraying it without remotely acknowledging the vitality and vast heritage of global Islam.
There seems to always be a gap, a failure to fulfil.

But the Ismaili Centre, London and the Aga Khan Music Initiative are bringing us a new yet ancient way of celebrating faith, culture and the world: by listening.
Yep, just letting sounds supply the narrative that we so desperately crave.
In celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim Community, the Royal Albert Hall will be inviting Brits to treat their ears to Islam’s instrumental influences.
I want to put it out there how important events like this are, and how rare it is to have such an occasion right in the capital that forefronts Islam, history and the world simultaneously all whilst being conveyed through some of the most ancient forms of art. The performances also aide in promoting one of the fundamental Ismaili Muslim values, a respect for pluralism and the embrace of difference.
Through this positively encouraging occasion, I wonder whether perhaps diversity is something we all need to appreciate a lot more, especially in a country that is so largely multicultural. By bringing such worldly compositions together, the initiative is essentially bridging a cultural gap even beyond the celebration of diversity and of Ismaili heritage.

Islam’s Instrumental Influences

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The Master Musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative who will be performing include:
  • Homayoun Sakhi, an innovative master performer on the rubab, the long-necked lute that many Afghans consider their country’s national instrument
  • Wu Man, a world-renowned virtuoso on the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, who has done more than anyone to popularise the instrument in both the East and West
  • Sirojiddin Juraev, a brilliant performer from a lineage of players of the dutar, tanbur and sato – long-necked lutes indigenous to his native region of northern Tajikistan
  • Basel Rajoub, an award-winning saxophonist and composer-improviser from Syria, whose inspirations include Middle Eastern rhythms and jazz
  • Saler Nader, a virtuoso tabla player who began studying under the legendary Ustad Zakir Hussain at the age of seven
  • Feras Charestan, an accomplished and innovative performer on the qanun, a Middle Eastern zither
  • Andrea Piccioni, a native of Rome and a master percussionist and performer on frame drums
  • Abbos Kosimov, who comes from a famous musical family in Uzbekistan and is a master performer on the doira, an Uzbek tambourine
In addition, ngoni player, Bassekou Kouyate and balafon player, Lassana Diabate, both from Mali, will be performing as well as a special performance from the renowned American string quartet group, The Kronos Quartet.
The master musicians, who are set to perform on the 20th June at the capital’s Royal Albert Hall will journey listeners through West Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean Basin, as well as South Asia and Central Asia. Drawing on ancient traditions through contemporary compositions, the musicians will be bringing a truly special event to London.
For more information on the event or if you would like to attend, click here.
(IG: @shazmeeny)