For the past two months,a small hall in the heart of Srinagar has been resonating with the strains of santoor,rabab and sarang. About 20 Kashmiri folk musicians from Soz-o-Saaz,a folk music ensemble,have been working on a composition written by Srinagar-based santoor player Abhay Sopori. The group,along with Sopori,has been rehearsing the Kashmiri folk tune at the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art,Culture and Languages.
Over 5,000 miles away,the same tune has been playing at the State Musical Academy auditorium in Munich,Germany,but on violins,violas and cellos.
On September 7,when renowned music conductor Zubin Mehta takes the stage at Srinagars picturesque Shalimar Bagh,on the banks of the Dal Lake,for the much-talked about Ehsaas-e-Kashmir,a concert organised by the German Embassy,the two orchestras will come together to open the concert with this tune,a tribute to Kashmir according to Sopori.
The concert by the India-born conductor,which is open to 1,500 invited guests only,has been at the centre of a row. While separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a shutdown on the day of the concert,the Coalition of Civil Society in Kashmir has termed it as an attempt to mislead the people of Kashmir and the world and organised a counter-concert at Lal Chowk,five kilometres from Shalimar Bagh. There have also been allegations that the concert is not for the people of Kashmir and does not portray the reality of Kashmir.
Sopori,who was roped in by the state government and the German embassy,said the concert should be open to all,but conceded that security becomes a major issue.
Had there been a political agenda,I would have walked out myself. This concert is an opportunity for my musicians and a gateway for the people of Kashmir for further events, he said.
It is not a political concert. Whenever it is something to do with Kashmir,people feel it must be linked to politics. Most people may not know the type of music Zubin Mehta plays. I think this concert will actually inspire people to do great things. This concert will open many avenues for the people of Kashmir,including better education facilities abroad, said Salman Soz,son of J&K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz who has been vocal about his support for the concert.
It is being broadcast live in 50 countries,including everywhere in India. The ambassador is well-meaning and has the best intentions in mind, he added.
But Khurram Parvez,spokesperson of the Coalition of Civil Society in Kashmir responsible for organising Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir,the counter concert,said: We are being made to believe that the concert is not political… How is the Ministry of External Affairs involved? If you plan a programme under the shadow of the gun,how is it going to touch the hearts of people? Nobody is against music… but this concert sends the wrong message… It is a disputed area and when a foreign government comes and holds a show like this,it disregards the problem.