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 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 Bavarian State Orchestra rehearsal hall in Munich,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 seven-minute Sopori composition will be followed by some of the more famous western classical compositions by Beethoven,Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
The concert,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 that day,the Coalition of Civil Society in Kashmir has termed it an attempt to mislead the people of Kashmir and the world and organised a counter-concert at Lal Chowk,a few 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.
Announcing the concert last month,German ambassador to India Michael Steiner had said in a press statement,This is a wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir and its warm-hearted and hospitable people. Music is a universal language. Music connects. With the magic power of music,crossing geographical,political and cultural borders,we want to reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement.
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 kind 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.
But Khurram Parvez,spokesperson of the Coalition of Civil Society in Kashmir responsible for organising Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir,the counter concert,said: 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.
Speaking to The Indian Express,tabla maestro Zakir Hussain said,It is the first time that such a performance is being organised in Kashmir and its important that the people of the city be allowed. I feel sad that the layman who lives in that part of the world will not see what an Indian of the stature of Zubin Mehta has been able to achieve. Its an attempt to bring music to the Valley,and thats something I support. But personally,for me,its music which has the capacity to create great moments,where everyone can come and enjoy,and where all fears are forgotten.