Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) and The Other Classical Musics
“The short-lived ‘world music’ boom may have brought littleknown musics to international attention, but the term itself perpetuates an old colonialist fallacy: that while Europe and America have ‚classical’ music, other societies – with the exception, perhaps, of North India – have only ‘folk’ music. But Europe has no monopoly on musical sophistication. It’s humbling to learn what dizzy intellectual feats are demanded of classical musicians in Turkey, Thailand, and Java, for example. And it’s fascinating to find that the one thing which unites almost all the world’s great traditions is a common basis in improvisation – a gift which European musicians have largely lost. Yet many of these musics are now under threat, not only from erosion by Western music (both popular and classical), but also from war and persecution. It’s hard to believe that the music of Aleppo, where the beautiful muwashshah song tradition had survived unbroken for eight hundred years until Assad’s barrel-bombs began to fall, will be revivable when ‚peace’ of a sort does finally come. Classical musics can die, so we should treasure the ones we’ve still got.”
(Michael Church, Old and New Music from the Ends of the Silk Route, 2016, 2)
In an age where music traditions are vulnerable a new performance programme is designed to celebrate inspiration and the classical traditions that we still have. With new performance series, the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) presents rare artistic encounters that both celebrate and reimagine time-honoured musical meetings as the Initiative’s leading artists perform a newly-created repertoire of compositions, improvisations and contemporary arrangements inspired by tradition. is group of music innovators demonstrates the transmission of ancient musical traditions to a talented generation of performers who are developing them in new directions, exemplifying musical creativity that has historically been inspired by the meeting of cultures.
The programme is curated by the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI), an international arts and music education programme was launched by His Highness the Aga Khan to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms. AKMI designs and implements a country-specific set of activities for each country into which it invests, and works to promote revitalization of cultural heritage.
In November 2016 the programme “New Music from the Ends of Silk Road” was previewed in Dubai and Al Ain and was later presented at Wigmore Hall in London, Mumbai, Hyderabad and at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India. the programme features a flexible line up of artists who are some of AKMI’s most beloved artist-performers from China, Italy and Syria – a performance arranged for a unique combination of instruments which represent the Eastern and Western ends of the historical Silk Route, as well as ancient and contemporary musical cultures. These include the pipa, an instrument introduced to China in ancient times that originated in Central Asia; qanun, a core member of any Arabic taht, a variety of frame drums, one of the most ubiquitous instruments in the Muslim world; and saxophones, a European invention that has become a universal instrument used by musicians from South India to South Africa to perform myriad forms of traditional, fusion and contemporary music.
The Aga Khan Music Initiative is an interregional music and arts education program with worldwide performance, outreach, mentoring, and artistic production activities. The Music Initiative is a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The Trust, in turn, serves as the cultural development agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s largest private development networks, and the only one that prioritizes cultural development on a par with economic and social development in all of its projects and commitments.
AKMI designs and implements a country-specific set of activities for each country into which it invests, and works to promote revitalization of cultural heritage both as a source of livelihood for musicians and as a means to strengthen pluralism in nations where it is challenged by social, political, and economic constraints. through its work, the Initiative strives to support exceptional artistic talent; promote the revival of historical connections among artists from Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa by organizing creative collaborations among artistic communities from these regions; and disseminate results of this work through a global network of partnerships with educational institutions, arts presenters, and music distributors. To this end, musicians in the Music Initiative’s artist roster participate in diverse kinds of performances that range from concerts of traditional repertory to contemporary expressions of tradition-based art to interregional collaborations that feature talented artists from different countries in the Music Initiative’s regions of activity.
Education is at the centre of the Music Initiative’s work. The Initiative focuses on developing and testing newly created teaching and learning methodologies, setting up teacher-training mechanisms, operating talent-support centres, and presenting performance and artist-in-residence programmes that provide students an opportunity to experience the creative challenges of intercultural music-making. Residencies and workshops featuring musicians from the Music Initiative’s artist roster have been presented at many academic and cultural institutions throughout North America and Europe.
In 2015 AKMI supported the publication of The Other Classical Musics. Fifteen Great Traditions by Michael Church. The book has been awarded the RPS Music Award 2015.