With controversy surrounding his concert in Srinagar,music maestro Zubin Mehta began his performance on Saturday saying he would like to play in a stadium in Kashmir next time.
Performing before an invited audience of about 1,500 people at the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert,the 77-year-old musician added,We want to do good. And I promise,next time,lets do the concert sabke sab Kashmiris,muft (with all Kashmiris attending,free) in a stadium. Everybody should come. We dont want only a select few, he said.
In Srinagar,Zubin says music binds: Next time,let it be held in a stadium,free to all crowd with folded hands and began his speech in Hindi by expressing his extreme delight to be present at the event,hosted by the German Embassy,at the 17th-century Shalimar Garden on the banks of the Dal Lake. Hum bahut khush hain,bahut khush hain (I am very,very happy), he said.
I have waited and dreamed of this moment…practically all my life, Mehta added,saying he has always believed that the power of music to bring people together could not be underestimated. And every person on this subcontinent will agree that this is where it (concert) should be… The moment music starts,a very positive wave goes to all of Kashmir,to all our friends,to all our critics. And god bless them all.
Mehta and his nearly 100-member-strong Bavarian State Orchestra performed an array of classical orchestral pieces,to the delight of the audience,including bureaucrats,diplomats,senior politicians and several top industrialists,with the restored 400-year-old monument at the garden serving as the backdrop.
The performance kicked off with Mehta leading the orchestra in concert with Abhay Soporis 15-member troupe playing traditional Kashmiri instruments for a seven-minute piece called Halftarang. The piece went slightly offbeat towards the end,with Mehta not looking happy,but fell into place soon after. Mehta also wrapped up with a fusion of Kashmiri folk tunes and western classical music.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah,who was present,invoked Amir Khusros famous couplet for Kashmir,If theres is heaven on Earth,it is here,it is here.
In a reference to separatists objections to the concert,the CM added: Would I do it again,if I am given a chance,yes I will…We hope that the music from here will lift our spirits and lighten our souls for a better tomorrow.
German Ambassador to 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,Ehsaas-e-Kashmir. He went on to quote Kashmiri poet Habba Khatun and German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
While acknowledging the support of the state government and Omar,Steiner said,I thank you all,but most of all I thank you all Kashmiris.
The city was converted into a fortress,with the Army,CRPF and police personnel deployed in strength. A three-tier security system allowed only VVIP vehicles till the main gate of the garden.
Mehta commented on the tight security at the end of the show,saying: There were so many soldiers and in the end it looked like an occupation,which is not the case here most days.
Mehta began with Beethovens Leonore Overture No 3 in C Major and went on to Haydns Trumpet Concerto and Tchaikovskys interesting and complicated concerto for violin and orchestra in D major. But the star was Beethovens Symphony 5 a fixture now in popular music all over the world.
If he was disconcerted with some of the audiences behaviour,including the eating,the ringing cellphones,the clicking of photographs,the applause at the wrong places and even the occasional wailing child,Mehta didnt show it.
Later,talking about the opposition to the concert,he said while he agreed with some arguments,it wasnt correct that all the invitees were personal friends of the Ambassador. These were people from all walks of life,a mixture and cross-section of Kashmiri society,of Hindus and Muslims,and this is what I always wanted.
Steiner said: It was a beautiful concert that gave the world a chance to see Kashmir and its culture. The concert is likely to open avenues for more international cultural activity in the state. Music is not political and this concert did not come with a political agenda. I hope people understand that.