Zubin Mehta kept his date with Kashmir, enthralling a select audience at the picture-perfect Shalimar Bagh with Beethoven and Tchaikovsky interspersed with local music to the tune of the Kashmiri sarang and matka.
The 400-year-old Shalimar Bagh, a royal pleasure garden of Mughal kings and queens, once again came to life as the highly anticipated and conroversial peace concert of famous music conductor Zubin Mehta was held in Srinagar amid heavy security and incidents of violence in which four suspected militants were killed and scores policmen and civilians were injured.
The select audience in the concert which was called the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, was enthralled as the Bavarian state Ochestra played its full cast of works of Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
The concert, a first of its kind in Kashmir, was organised by the German ambassador to India, Michael Steiner who called it a tribute to 'people of Kashmir'.
Expressing his happiness to be in playing Kashmir, Mehta said, "I have waited and dreamt about this since last year or shall I say all my life. And everybody would agree this is where it should have been," he said.
Trying to answer his critics Zubin Mehta said that his "intention was to do good".
"There are those we have hurt inadvertently. I promise next time we shall do this with everyone in a stadium where everyone can come, so it won't be a select few. Though I can see when the music starts, a positive wave goes from this stage everywhere," 77-year-old Mehta said before his performance.
The concert began with the India-born maestro leading the orchestra along with Abhay Sopori's troupe with traditional Kashmiri instruments. The Kashmiri-western intrumental fusion called 'Haft e Rang' became an instant hit with the audience.
The audience could be seen mesmerised by the combination of Kashmiri Sarang, Matka, Rabaab with the cellos, violins, Clarinets and horns from the Munich Orchestra.
The over 100-minute concert was telecast live in many European countries as well as India, was attended by over 1500 people, mostly locals.
The audiences included many dignitaries from the country and abroad.
The concert which had hit a controversial note with Kashmiri separatists calling it an attempt to 'digress from the human rights violations in the state' was marred by a series of violent incidents across the Valley.
Meanwhile a counter concert, called Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir to highlight, organised by civil society groups to highlight what they called reality of Kashmir was, held, 10 km away from the Zubin Mehta concert.
Saturday’s concert was held in the backdrop of violence — in which four suspected militants were gunned down and scores of policemen and civilians injured — and a complete shutdown called by separatists.
The bloodshed came after militants attacked a CRPF camp in Shopian area of south Kashmir at around 1pm, triggering violent protests in the Valley as the locals claimed the dead were stunt bikers. Nalin Prabat, IG CRPF, said the attackers “fired at a bunker and the alert jawans retaliated, killing them all”. Police sources confirmed the incident but said the identity of the dead was still being ascertained.
Hours later, under a heavy security blanket at the 400-year-old Mughal garden, the maestro — in a white bow tie and black coat-tails — conducted the Bavarian state orchestra through a series of symphonies that left not just the 1,500 guests there but TV viewers in India and abroad mesmerized. Giving him company was Abhay Sopori’s troupe with traditional Kashmiri instruments.
“I have waited and dreamt about this since last year or shall I say, all my life. And everybody would agree this is where it should have been,” Mehta, 77, said on taking the stage at ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’. “There are those we hurt inadvertently. I promise next time, we shall do this in a stadium where everyone can come.”