The Roshni concerts, held in London and Leicester, presented Jamati talent and showcased pieces which warmed the hearts of listeners.
THE.ISMAILI | 28 June 2018 | UNITED KINGDOM
Cultural pluralism at the heart of Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the UK
The Diamond Jubilee Music Series, held at venues across the United Kingdom jurisdiction, promoted pluralism and cultural encounters through the medium of music, culminating in a spectacular finale at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall.
At a time when embracing pluralism is paramount to society, musicians and artists are able to act as cultural ambassadors to the world. The diversity of cultures, traditions, languages, creative ideas and thoughts that makes up a community is often mirrored in the music it composes and performs. The arts, closely integrated with social and economic development, have therefore played a prominent role in building bridges between diverse peoples and creating understanding and empathy.
One such example is the Diamond Jubilee Music Series which demonstrated a cultural kaleidoscope of talent, both within and beyond the Jamat, concluding with a spectacular finale, ‘Jubilee: Contemporary Expressions of Musical Heritage from the Middle East, West Africa & Central Asia’ on 20 June 2018. This closing event was hosted at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, home of some of the most notable events on the British cultural scene, originally opened by Queen Victoria in 1871.
A concert reflecting pluralism, diversity and the crossing of cultural borders, Jubilee featured Master Musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, with special guests the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet, and Bassekou Kouyaté, one of Mali’s best known and esteemed musicians. In bringing together music, musicians and musical instruments from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, India, Italy, Mali, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States, Jubilee exemplified the way musical creativity has historically developed from the meeting of different cultures.
A special feature of the concert was the dialogue between music, visual imagery and animation in the form of miniature paintings and manuscript illuminations from the collection of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family. Projected on large screens above the stage, the melding of sonic and visual arts in the magnificent auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall symbolised the deep and abiding interconnectedness of expressive culture, decorative arts, and the built environment in Muslim cultural heritage.
The Music Series opened in November 2017 with the Ayoub sisters, whose unique fusion of classical and modern music with a Middle Eastern twist delivered an invigorating performance at the Ismaili Centre, London. They were joined by Giulio Romano Malaisi, an Italian guitarist and Daniele Antenucci, an Italian born drummer.
Jubilee 2018: An Intercultural Concert was held in April this year in Stockholm, Sweden. The event featured a dazzling array of master musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative and guests. The performance of newly created compositions exemplified the way musical creativity has historically developed from the meeting of different cultures.
Mehfil-e-Noor, the concert of light, at the renowned London Palladium in May brought together some of the finest international Sufi musicians. Sufi in this context refers to a form of devotional music, the roots of which are inspired by Muslim mystics including notable figures Rumi and Hafiz. The songs, through their melody, lyrics and performance, sought to unite the musician and the listener with the Divine. The performance featured the Nooran Sisters, who follow in the traditions of legends such as Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as Shadab Faridi, a sensational male Sufi and Bollywood singer.
The Roshni concerts, held in London and Leicester, presented Jamati talent and showcased pieces which warmed the hearts of listeners as they recalled the emotional tunes from the musical soundscape during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s previous visits to the United Kingdom. The music was beautifully accompanied by narration and rare video footage.
Through these diverse performances, the Music Series reinforced our sense of community, providing opportunities for the Jamat to come together and to renew ties with each other during the Diamond Jubilee year.
Diamond Jubilee Special: Taste of Culture - Lisbon, Portugal
To celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam's Diamond Jubilee, The.Ismaili Nutrition Centre is pleased to launch "Taste of Culture" - a celebration of our cultural diversity through the joy of food. Travel around the world with us, as we dish out food secrets from across the world. From Dar-es-Salaam to Dallas, discover some of the most notable and mouth-watering local dishes that promise to make you a cultural connoisseur. Our next stop: Lisbon, Portugal!
In addition to boasting a stunning coastline, avant-garde architecture, and winding cobbled streets, Lisbon is renowned for its charming gastronomy. The city is crammed with bustling street markets, quaint coffee shops (pastelarias), and plenty of tascas or neighborhood eateries. Shaped by peasant cookery and immigrant influences, Lisbon's cuisine is marked by rich, flavourful spices, fresh local ingredients, and of course, lots of fish — particularly bacalhau (cod). Read on to discover the city's culinary wonders and experience a taste of the Portuguese palate!
The Jubilee Arts Festivals, held in countries across the world and culminating in the International Arts Festival in Lisbon in the coming days, has engaged the creative talent of the global Jamat for the past year. This is the first undertaking of its kind, bringing together Ismailis from around the world to celebrate art, film, photography, dance, music, and other forms of artistic expression.
In this age of increasing materialism, the arts are often considered to be an afterthought for many, perhaps reflecting Oscar Wilde's definition of a cynic as one "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." What is also undeniable is art’s immeasurable value, as it reflects what is important to a culture at a particular time, defining its eventual legacy. Art can be viewed as writing history through creative expression, rather than factual documentation.
Culture is connected to “cultivate,” which the dictionary tells us includes “the artistic and intellectual side of development.” Cultures pride themselves on their traditions and accomplishments, and the hallmarks of civilisations past include not only their military and economic triumphs, but also their legacies in the realm of architecture, painting, literature, and other creative endeavors.
''Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts — the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art,” said John Ruskin, a leading English art critic of the Victorian era.
Every great civilisation has left a legacy of their art that fills museums around the world. With the passage of time, it is often through examining their art that we unravel the mysteries of the past. The Iliad was poetry to Homer, written some 700 years BCE, but today it is a treasure-trove of history and mythology, offering us valuable insights into the discourse of the time, and how people thought and lived.
The oldest art is thought to be the cave paintings in Sulawesi, Indonesia, made about 35,000 years ago. What they tell us is that these almost-Neanderthal societies recorded in art form what they saw in their environment. So art has been with us since the advent of modern humans and the need to use creative forms of expression has not diminished over the millennia.
The Andalucian poet-philosopher Ibn Hazm wrote that “Beauty is something that has in language no other name (than the one) that designates it, but is unanimously perceived by the souls when they see it... It seems like something that lies within the soul of the contemplated object and is found by the soul of whoever contemplates it.”
Artists are often also invaluable social commentators. Picasso’s Guernica, for example, illustrates the horror of war and humanity’s propensity for self-destruction. It contains both a political message and also a challenge to the viewer to confront immoralities. Reflecting the cathartic impact of his art on himself, Picasso has said, "Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Addressing the value of music, the Sufi poet Ruzbahan Baqli of Shiraz, acknowledged and celebrated the use of music, as in the sama tradition of some Sufi groups. He wrote: “May God increase the best of joys for you in listening to spiritual music” and “spiritual music is the key to the treasure of Divine Verities.”
Much debate has ensued over what can be defined as ‘Islamic art.’ Seyyed Hossein Nasr has differentiated between the sacred art of Islam and traditional art. He writes: “Islamic art, like any other sacred art, is not simply the materials used but what a particular religious collectivity has done with the material in question.” And even if not expressly sacred in nature, that art frequently draws its inspiration from the religion itself.
We see this in the form of inscriptions of Qur’anic verses on buildings, coins, textiles, and other objects. Similarly, many paintings have been inspired by religious texts, poems, and stories originating in the Muslim world.
In the same vein, while architecture attempts at ordering space, sacred architecture is an attempt to use the space and harmonise one’s sensory traits in a particular direction: towards the Creator. The Taj Mahal and the Suleymaniye Mosque were built for the mundane and the sacred respectively, but both had eternity in mind and share a common artistic vision and history.
On numerous occasions, Mawlana Hazar Imam has spoken of the importance of art. In the foreword of Spirit and Life, published in 2007, he stated that "The arts have always had a special significance for my family. More than a thousand years ago my ancestors, the Fatimid Imams, encouraged patronage of the arts and fostered the creation of collections of outstanding works of arts and libraries of rare and significant manuscripts...I believe that these works all contribute to an understanding of some of the aesthetic values which underpin Muslim arts and the humanistic traditions of Islam."
The significance of art to society is evident, and in an effort to re-invigorate interest in the arts and to promote, share, and preserve Islamic art, Mawlana Hazar Imam has established the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan Music Initiative, and the Aga Khan Museum, illustrating his commitment to creative expression.
By the same token, the Jubilee Arts programme fits in with the rich cultural heritage of the Ismaili community, harking back to Fatimid times. The initiative will act as a legacy programme of the Diamond Jubilee and aims to provide an inspiration to Ismaili artists from around the world to showcase and further develop their talents both during and beyond the Diamond Jubilee year.
The Jamat will gather in Lisbon in a few days to view entries from 20 countries, in a united display of the global Jamat's creative diversity. We will be able to view the talent on display and recall the words of poet John Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”
AKDN in Tanzania hosts DJ Celebrations in Parliament
“The AKDN in Tanzania hosted Diamond Jubilee celebration in the Tanzanian Parliament in Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital city. Ethics in Action (EIA) exhibition, a DJ initiative was showcased. It is apparently the first time in the history of AKDN that DJ celebration was held in a sovereign Parliament and also a first for EIA to have been showcased in a country’s parliament. The Speaker also invited AKDN to the Parliament chambers while in session and officially recognized the presence of AKDN and its representatives. Mehboob Champsi (whom I have personally known for many years) was one of 7 mentioned in Parliament. A dinner was then hosted with the Prime Minister as the guest of honor and attended by all the Parliamentarians.”
The Andheri Versova Aga Khan Baug Band marches in, signalling the opening of the Pátio Mela.
Today marked day one of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration - Lisboa 2018, where the global Jamat were welcomed to Portugal with a number of events organised by Jubilee Arts, Pátio Mela, Exhibitions, and Jubilee Concerts.
Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad join Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Lisbon
Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad attended the Diamond Jubilee Celebration on 8 July, to join members of the Jamat in viewing films, exhibitions, galleries, and performances by artists from around the world.
The visit began at NOS Cinemas, the venue for the International Film Festival, where Prince Aly Muhammad’s short film Close to Home, highlighting climate change in Northern Pakistan, was among the many pieces being shown this week. Joined by Prince Hussain and leaders of the Jamat, Prince Aly Muhammad viewed a screening of his film, and two others, alongside approximately 300 attendees.
Explaining the context behind the film in his introductory remarks, Prince Aly Muhammad said, “Climate change is an issue that is becoming more and more urgent. And it’s an issue that my generation and young adults will have to deal with. And that’s why I went to Northern Pakistan and I made Close to Home.”
Members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family attend the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Lisbon
Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa, Prince Irfan, Prince Sinan, Miss Sara Boyden, and Master Iliyan Boyden visited the Diamond Jubilee Celebration today, where they went on a tour of the Exhibitions before taking in the International Art Gallery and the International Talent Showcase.
During the visit, they took the time to acknowledge the crowds gathered across the Parque das Nações, stopping to smile and wave.
Along with Jamati leadership, the members of Hazar Imam’s family walked through the Rays of Light exhibit, then stopped at Prince Hussain Aga Khan: Nature Photographic Exhibition. At the Aga Khan Museum Pop-Up Experience, Prince Amyn was pleased with the lifelike representation of the Bellerive room at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, while Princess Zahra was impressed with the atmosphere and set-up of the Exhibitions space at the Feira Internacional de Lisboa.
Following the Exhibitions, the family toured the International Arts Gallery and enjoyed performances at the International Talent Showcase. As he was taking his seat with Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa, and Prince Sinan, Prince Irfan acknowledged the crowd by standing on a chair and waving to the audience, who responded by waving back.
Later in the evening, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa returned to Parque das Nações to attend the International Talent Showcase evening performance at Altice Arena.
“Sufi Voyage” takes audience on an inspirational journey
On 10 July, renowned music artists Salim-Sulaiman, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Nobovar Chanorov collaborated for two concerts, sharing the stage with Jonita Gandhi, Vipul Mehta, and Raj Pandit. The artists had the opportunity to perform for Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, who joined an enthusiastic audience for the evening show.
After 23 global concerts and entertaining various audiences across the world, the artists came together for the finale of the Jubilee Concerts series. According to International Task Force Convener for Jubilee Concerts Ashraf Ramji, this performance aimed to “create an environment of celebration, instill greater appreciation of arts and music within youth and all members of the Jamat, and introduce the Jamat to various genres.”
In line with the concert’s Mystical theme, the music was influenced by Sufi traditions. International recording artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant explained that “Sufi music is not just devotional. It’s liberating.” Nobovar Chanorov also noted the heightened significance of the Jubilee Concert series. For him, however, the impact of this concert was not just about the Jubilee year, it was in the broader pursuit of fostering an inclusive, diverse culture within the Ismaili community.
“I feel like I am the ambassador of this music to others, to people who are not as familiar with Tajik music, with Central Asia,” he said. Nobovar prepared for the performance with this in mind, as he explained: “Every word that comes out of my mind, every song that I’ve chosen is specifically for this. It's not just a random song but it's all been chosen for this event because I am representing my forefathers.”
The Sufi Voyage concerts took place in the afternoon and evening at the Altice Arena in Lisbon. Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan opened the show, wowing the audience with qawwalis. After finishing the set, the qawwali group received a standing ovation.
As a finale, all the guest artists joined Salim and Sulaiman on stage for a rendition of “Jubilee Mubarak,” an original track released by Salim-Sulaiman to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee opening ceremonies last July. With that as the close of the concert, and effectively the Jubilee year, inspirational music created the ideal denouement for the Jamat throughout the past 12 months.
Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee concludes with global gathering in Lisbon
Commemorations in Portugal include parliamentary address, arts festival and cultural events
Lisbon, Portugal, 11 July 2018 – 61 years after he first acceded to the Ismaili Imamat, becoming the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan concluded the year-long commemoration of his Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon. Portugal, an important and long-standing partner for the Imamat and for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), served this week as the host of a global celebration of His Highness’ Jubilee, a celebration that included an address to Portugal’s members of Parliament, meetings with the President and Prime Minister, the inauguration of a special exhibit of leadership values, and exhibitions highlighting the scope of the work carried out by the AKDN all over the world.
In his address in the Senate Chamber to Portugal’s members of Parliament, His Highness praised Portugal as a leader on the global scene, one that is widely acknowledged as a country of opportunity, and thanked Portugal for a “progressive partnership” with the Ismaili Imamat. He noted the longstanding ties between the Ismaili Imamat and Portugal, which serves as the site for a Seat of the Ismaili Imamat, following the signing of an historic agreement in 2015. The Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Portugal share a long history that has encompassed partnerships to help improve quality of life for people in Portugal and around the world. The Aga Khan Foundation, an agency of the AKDN, has been active in Portugal since 1983, working on initiatives related to early childhood education, poverty alleviation, economic inclusion, strengthening of civil society, and care for the elderly.
Filmmakers shine spotlight on world cinema at International Film Festival
As part of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, the inaugural Jubilee Arts International Film Festival was held in Lisbon last month. NOS Cinemas at the Vasco da Gama mall in Portugal’s capital hosted over 20,000 visitors, who watched film submissions screened in six movie theatres over the course of four days.
The festival received 54 high-quality film submissions from all over the world, exemplifying the diversity and talent existing within the global Jamat.
Set in Africa, Doomsday Beckons Change shed light on the devastating impact of climate change, and aimed to promote an increased awareness of environmental sustainability. Kenyan filmmaker Amyn Khan used the lens of faith as a reminder of humankind’s responsibility to conserve and protect the natural environment, and to create rather than further deplete. Amyn said he would like the film to encourage people to think about “an increased use of renewable energy sources, planting of trees, curbing pollution, and leaving our world in a better environmental state for future generations.”
A submission by Zeeo Zia and Fayeem Avzl from Hunza, Pakistan, entitled The Last of the Wakhi Shepherdess told the unique story of a courageous and determined individual, keeping the centuries-old tradition of shepherding alive. The shepherdess deserts her home to live and work high up in the mountain pastures of Northern Pakistan, persevering in the face of extreme and harsh conditions, with little contact from the outside world.
Ayaz Palma from Portugal travelled to the United Arab Emirates to create his film Islamica, which presented the people and unique landscapes of the region. His aim was to capture the facial expressions of people going about their everyday lives, and to promote increased eye-contact, thus acknowledging the presence of others.
Explaining why he chose to shoot parts of the film in slow motion, Ayaz said “in slow motion we can have proper time for that moment of the other person, and to enjoy the moment of the look of the eyes of the person. And that’s my passion; my passion is to connect people again, look at people in the eye, connect, get into their soul and let them in.”
The International Film Festival received numerous other submissions from filmmakers around the world, including Benazir Karim from Tanzania, and Farah Merani from Canada. All participating entrants were invited to an exclusive red carpet opening event, attended by acclaimed Indian film and stage actor-directors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak.
The festival also provided an opportunity for budding directors and cinematographers to hone their craft. Moderated panel events allowed participants to hear from professional and amateur cinematographers and directors about their experiences, while a Children’s Animation workshop invited youngsters to learn the basic skills of filmmaking, and create their own stop-motion and cut-out animation.
Jubilee Arts volunteer Heena Jiwani from the USA explained “The Film Festival was not only a platform for filmmakers to showcase their talent, but also for those of all ages interested in the industry and the art of filmmaking to learn more through the various panels, master classes, and workshops. It was incredible to see the accomplished group of guests the Jubilee Arts team had lined up for everyone to interact with and learn from.”
As part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSBP), in collaboration with the Ismaili Councils for Lower and Upper Chitral and the Regional and Local YSB, organised a “Diamond Jubilee Youth Festival” that celebrated Art and Culture, Sports, Leadership and our admirable Ismaili Scouts and Guides.
The event brought together 3000 Jamati members from all over both regions. This festival incorporated all four thematic areas of AKYSBP, with different programmes and activities organised in the fields of arts and culture, sports, leadership, and scouting and guiding. The festival was an opportunity for Jamati members of all ages to come together to enjoy and applaud the efforts of the youth of the Jamat. Organising and participating in the different activities gave young members of the jamat the opportunity to acquire and build on key skills such as discipline, teamwork and creative thinking. The festival aimed to provide the youth of the Jamat an opportunity to showcase their talent and to help create an environment in which freedom of expression, diversity, artistic creativity and sporting excellence can flourish.
We take a look back at the memorable National Games of the Diamond Jubilee Sports Festival (DJSF) at the Jinnah Complex in Islamabad. Over 1300 athletes from eight regions competed for medals in 17 different sports, supported by enthusiastic crowds.
On the occasion of Salgirah Khushiali, The.Ismaili is pleased to share with the global Jamat its first interactive digital magazine looking back on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic Diamond Jubilee year.
This special edition recalls Hazar Imam’s visits to various regions of the world in 2017-18, including his meetings with the Jamat, with world leaders, and initiatives of the Ismaili Imamat and Aga Khan Development Network.
The digital magazine is interactive, and includes icons to watch videos, view speeches, scroll through photos, and more. It can be accessed on all devices, including smartphones, although is best viewed on a web browser or tablet computer, in full-screen mode, for a fully immersive experience.
On behalf of The.Ismaili, we sincerely hope you enjoy reminiscing and reflecting on the journey of the Diamond Jubilee, and we wish you a warm and hearty Salgirah Khushiali Mubarak.
An NTV video production nicely covering the life and achievement of H.H. The Aga Khan. Produced at the time of his Jubilee. NTV (Nation TV) is a branch of Nation Media, created by H.H. The Aga Khan at the beginning of his Imamate. A few minutes production that covers a lot. To watch and watch again! Share the link.
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