I waited and dreamt of this moment all my life: Zubin
The next time he will like to play in a stadium in Kashmir, music maestro Zubin Mehta said tonight after achieving his ambition of playing at the Shalimar Gardens.
Obviously aware that he was performing before a an invited audience of about 1,500 people, the 77-year-old musician said, "Because, we want to do good. And, I promise next time, let's do that concert 'sabke, sab Kashmiris mufat' (free) in a stadium. Everybody should come. We don't want only select few," he said.
Holding his baton, the Mumbai-born opera music conductor greeted the crowd with folded hands and started his speech in Hindi by expressing his extreme delight to be present on the occasion, hosted by the German Embassy at the historic 17th century 17th century gardens here.
"'Hum bahut khush hain, bahut khush hain'(I am very happy)...and the wonderful soloists who will perform for you this evening, they are those whom we have heard inadvertently".
Mehta said it was something "I have waited and dreamt of this moment...practically all my life. And, every person on this subcontinent will agree with that this is where it (concert) should be...
"The moment the music starts, a very positive wave goes across this stage to all of Kashmir, to all our friends, to all our critics, and god bless them all, thank you," he said in his address at the concert.
Against the backdrop of the picturesque 400-year-old Mughal Garden with its magnificent chinars, some as old as 300 years and more, Mehta and his Bavarian State Orchestra held the audience spellbound at the 'Ehsaas-e-Kashmir' concert with an array of classical orchestral pieces.
The event kicked off with the maestro leading the orchestra in concert with Abhay Sopori's troupe with traditional Kashmiri instruments and ended with a fusion of Kashmiri folk tunes and western classical music to thundering cheers from the packed venue.
In a text prepared before the performance, the opera conductor said it has always been his conviction never to underestimate the power of music, to bring people together.
"After having involved in such activities all over the world, I am extremely proud to finally make music in my beloved Kashmir," he said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah invoked Amir Khusrau's famous couplet by saying, "if there's is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here".
"Would I do it again, if I am given a chance, yes I will do it....We hope that the music from here will lift our spirits and lighten our souls for a better tomorrow," Omar said.
German Ambassador in India Michael Steiner, who hosted the concert, said, "The distance between Munich and Srinagar is 7,756-km. Today, the distance reduces to zero. German and European cultural heritage bow to Kashmir, to its history, to its beauty and to its difficult reality and journey."
"The world is looking at you, 'Ehsaas-e-Kashmir'," he said, going on to quote Kashmiri poet Habba Khatun and German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.
While acknowledging the support of the state government and the Chief Minister, Steiner said, "I thank you all, but most of all I thank you all Kashmiris".
The Bavarian State Orchestra played full cast of works of legendary composers Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
In opposition of the event, a parallel concert was held by the civil society, called 'Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir' (Reality of Kashmir) at the Municipal Park, not far away from the Shalimar Gardens, created by Mughal emperor Jehangir in 1619 for his wife Noorjehan.