Zubin Mehta (right) at a rehearsal for Saturday’s concert in Srinagar. (AFP)
Srinagar, Sept. 6: Abhay Sopori can’t hide his excitement over his tryst with Zubin Mehta tomorrow.
The young santoor player is leading a group of 17 Kashmiri musicians who will perform alongside Zubin at his concert tomorrow at Shalimar Garden on the Dal’s banks.
“It is an honour. It is a dream come true that the Bavarian Orchestra will play our tunes,” Abhay, in his early thirties, said. He was referring to the Mumbai-born conductor’s group that will play at Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (feel of Kashmir), as the show has been called, tomorrow evening.
The 90-minute programme, organised by the German embassy and backed by the central and state governments, is expected to draw over 1,500 guests, including diplomats, politicians and celebrities.
Those opposing the event argue that it “legitimises the Indian occupation of J&K” and suggests all is “normal” in the Valley.
But Abhay believes the show, to be telecast live in 104 countries, will give “Kashmiri musicians an opportunity to showcase their talent before the world”.
The organisers are tightlipped about the identity of the other Kashmiri musicians, probably wary of the protests. A source said some of them had wanted to back out but were persuaded to stay on. “We hope all the 17 will perform,” he said.
Both groups will be led by Zubin, with the local artistes playing traditional instruments like the santoor and the sarangi in a seven-minute Kashmiri folk composition scored by Abhay.
“The programme will start with us. It is not only a tribute to Kashmir but also feels great as the celebrated Bavarian Orchestra will play my composition,” he said.
Abhay sent his piece to Zubin a few weeks back after he was approached by the organisers, who were keen to blunt allegations the show had nothing to do with Kashmir. Zubin’s team later rehearsed it at their base in Germany.
Abhay, who learnt the santoor from grandfather and Kashimiri stalwart Shambu Nath Sopori, said the concert was “a tribute to the rich musical culture of Kashmir”.
The comments echoed that of German ambassador Michael Steiner who has insisted there is nothing political about the show and maintained “it is for Kashmiris”.
“My wife and myself are hosting this event. It’s purely cultural and does not alter the political positions of Germany and the EU on Kashmir,” Steiner said in a recent open letter addressed to Kashmiris.
The Kashmiri composition will be followed by the main performance show in which the Bavarian Orchestra will perform the tunes of legends like Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.