The Week, September 2011
True to age-old tradition, Indian classical musicians have always followed the timings of ragas, especially those for mornings and evenings. Every musical composition in the world is based on seven or twelve musical notes. Some ragas are designed to be rendered at noon, while some are made for early evening hours, some for late evening and some others for late night. In India, not just musicians but organisers also follow this convention religiously.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received an invitation to play at the Edinburgh International Festival held last month. The specialty: I was asked to play only morning ragas. The evening ragas, apparently, would be presented by Ravi Shankar. The Edinburgh Festival, which began in 1947, is one of the oldest music festivals in the world and this year it was dedicated to Asia. The participating artistes were fromIndia, China, Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam.

The brochure of the festival is a collector’s item by itself—with in-depth information on the artistes and their art forms. I was back at this festival after eight years and was glad to find that my performance at the Queens Hall opened to a packed house at 11a.m.! My ties with Scotland go back to my Sarod Concerto Samaagam that was premiered at Orkney Islands a couple of years ago.

For over 60 years, the Edinburgh Festival has brought in artistes from around the world to Scotland’s beautiful capital city. The director of the festival chooses and invites the artistes, ensembles, companies and orchestras. The founders of the festival aim to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”. They also believe that if the festival succeeds in its artistic ambitions, it would create a major source of revenue for Scotland.

The realisation that a world-class cultural event, which brings together people and artistes from around the world, would also bring significant changes to the social, cultural and economic fabric of Scotlandremains relevant even today. The city and the country play a crucial role in the success of the festival, and its residents are its best ambassadors.

The Edinburgh music festival is at the core of ?the city's 12 major year-round festivals. Collectively, they offer a diverse and distinctive experience, promoting cultural understanding, generating about £261 million additional tourism revenue for Scotland and sustaining 5,242 full-time jobs.

It is also truly inspiring to perform in a city with a strong musical history. As part of my recent tour of the US, I was thrilled to perform in the land of Louis Armstrong, the iconic American jazz trumpeter and singer—New Orleans, Louisiana. It was after many years that I was visiting New Orleans, especially after it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. The energy and feeling of playing in the birthplace of jazz was uplifting. Though jazz evolved from the work and creativity of many people and places, one can trace its roots to the city.

New Orleans also respects its artistes. The airport’s name was changed to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in honour of the maestro on his 100th birth anniversary. I wish we, in India, too, honoured our gifted artistes in a similar way.

-By Amjad Ali khan