The Week, January 2010
On the very outset, I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy and musical 2010. I pray that may this year be full of happiness, joy and peace. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) today is very well known govt. organisation. I remember meeting the first Director General Mr. Inam Rehman (at that time called Secretary). He was a disciple of my father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb and use to learn the Sitar. At the time of Chinese aggression in 1962, I along with a few fellow musicians performed for the National Defense fund and all the money collected was given to the Minister of Culture at that time Mr. Humanyun Kabir who was very popular among creative people. The concert was held at the ICCR auditorium in Azad Bhawan. ICCR was founded in the year 1950. I very strongly feel that ICCR should revise the performance fee of creative artists. I am glad ICCR has opened up many cultural centers like Nehru Centre in London, all over the world. It will definitely help our cultural relations to be more meaningful and closer. Foreign students learning Indian music and dance should be encouraged to perform and carry forward the message of our country’s rich traditional art all over the world. So many Director Generals of ICCR came and performed their duties. The present President is Dr. Karan Singh of Kashmir; with the combination of present DG and President, who is a singer himself, the cultural world of India expect much greater performance by ICCR. It will be a great honour and pleasure to serve ICCR as and when my services are required.

I recall that in the year 1966, ICCR sent a delegation to Afghanistan. In those days every year Afghanistan use to do a festival of celebrating their country called ‘Jashn – E- Afghanistan’. The line up was the playback singer Hemant Kumar, danseuse Yamini Krishnamurty, Pt. Kishan Maharaj (who accompanied me on Tabla) and I. There were other musicians from neighboring countries too. The King, Zaheer Shah and his family liked classical music. In fact, one day he invited me to perform in the palace just for the family. His son Nadir Shah played Sitar with me and I taught him some compositions. His daughter Mariam also loved our music. At that time Indian Ambassador was General Thapar. The whole family including Mrs.Thapar was very kind, loving, and hospitable. Similarly, in the year 1967, Govt.of India sent a delegation to Mauritius headed by Rajya Sabha MP Mr. Sapru. Theartist this time were Ms. Indrani Rahman, the great Bharat Natyam dancer and Miss India 1958! Pt. Kishan Maharaj was there for tabla accompaniment once again. That was the first Air India flight that landed in Mauritius. The Indian Ambassador was Mr. Avatar Singh at that time. After 25 years of cultural silence between India and Pakistan, I was the first musician to visit Pakistan. It was again an ICCR delegation. Gen. Zia –ul Haq who was President of Pakistan at that time. Our Indian Ambassador was Mr. Natwar Singh and in Karachi, the Counsel general was Mr. Mani Shanker Aiyar.

The Bolshoi theatre in Moscow is world famous for their dance Ballets and just for the very monumental look of the theatre. Fortunately, I have seen some of their beautiful presentations in India and abroad.. The closing ceremony of the India festival, which was on for few months in Moscow, supposed to have held on the December at the Bolshoi Theatre; We were looking forward to performing there But due to last months fire in a club, around three hundred people died. The President Vladimir Putin declared state mourning in Moscow. Our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Moscow but ICCR informed us that our concert was cancelled. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the families in Moscow;

This is the first time ICCR invited my sons, Amaan and Ayaan and it was their first experience of a government delegation. Our concerts started from Ukraine and then to Germany. First we visited the University of Kyiv which was founded in 1834. Rector Leonid V. Gubersky honoured me with the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv Medal. The National Opera house of Ukraine also honoured us. The concert was very well received. There was a big banquet dinner after the concert. We met all the guests especially the 60 Ambassadors of different parts of the world. Every time I visit Germany, Austria or Russia, It is like a musical pilgrimage because so many great composers like Bach (1685-1750) Beethoven (1770-1827) Mozart (1756-1791) Schubert (1797-1828) Mussorgsky (1839-1881) Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) and Brahms (1833-1897); all came from these beautiful countries. In Germany, we performed in Darmstadt-Bielefeld- Munich and Berlin.