The Week, May 2011

It was Indira Gandhi’s far sightedness and commitment to the Indian cultural legacy that she felt the need to connect the world, through art and traditional music of India which gave bith to the first festival in the year 1982 which was held in UK and later on in USA and France. The Following prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narashimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee continued the same tradition of India festivals all over the globe. I would like to congratulate the present President and (Director General) DG of Indian Council of Cultral relations (ICCR), Dr. Karan Singh and Mr. Suresh Goel for the India Festival that took place in Canada and Washington DC earlier this year. This was the first India festival in Canada and it was an honour to perform for the inauguration on Ottawa in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Mr. Steven Harper who inaugurated the festival.

As a young musician, I remember meeting the first DG of ICCR, Mr. Inam Rehman (as that time the similar post was addressed as secretary ICCR). My first interaction with ICCR was in 1966 when I was one of the participants in a delegation which included playback singer Hemant Kumar and Bharatnatyam Danseuse Yamini Krishnamoorthy. I was accompanied by the great Kishan Maharaj on Tabla. Our Indian ambassador in Afghanistan was Gen. Thapar. It was a memorable experience. The King of Afghanistan Zaheer Shah and his family members bestowed a lot of love and warmth. The Jashan-e-Afghanistan festival was the yearly event and musicians were invited from all over the world. It was indeed the glorious period of Afghanistan. The country was sheer poetry! Second interaction with ICCR was in 1967; a delegation was prepared for the inaugural Air India flight to Mauritius. The other artists were the legendary Bharatnatyam Dancer Indrani Rehman (who in later years was a teacher at Julliard School of music in NY). At that time the Prime minister of Mauritius was Mr. Ram Gulam. The leader of the Indian delegation was Mr. Sapru, who was a Member of Parliament of Rajya Sabha that time. There have of course been a long association ever since but It is always a great pleasure and honor when ICCR or the Indian government invites an artist to represent India overseas.

As an artist, I hope that every creative genius is preserved and protected the way Shakespeare in England and Beethoven in Germany has alongside their work. I am very grateful to the Government that a road in the name of the monumental icon of Indian classical music; my father and guru Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb was inaugurated by the Honourable Chief Minister, Smt. Sheila Dikshit recently in New Delhi. This is the 2nd entry road to Nizamuddin Railway Station. This is the only road named after an artist after Tansen and Thyagaraja in the capital city. This road is about 300 meters long. The Givernt of India has also released a stamp in the name of the Maestro in the year 2001.

Recently, I was playing a series of concert in the US including the Savannah Festival in Georgia and at the Place of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I was playing in Savannah with Zakir Hussain; I think we played together after a gap of seven years in the US! We have a wonderful audience and also had many artists like Daniel Hope, Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer in the audience. Amaan and Ayaan had played at the same festival a few years ago with the guitar cult figure, Derek Trucks.