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Ode to Peace: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan wows UN

Last updated on: September 16, 2010 15:48 IST

Sarod maestro's Ode to Peace: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan wows UN

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Suman Guha Mozumder in New York
Suman Guha Mozumder attends sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's Ode to Peace concert at the United Nations in memory of the victims of 9/11.

Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, along with his sons Amaan and Ayaan Bangash, performed at the Ode to Peace concert at the United Nations in memory of the victims of 9/11.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Puri, who was instrumental in organising the concert, told the audience, "Many of our countries had been at the receiving end much earlier (than 9/11) and continue to bleed today. The 9/11 attack, however, had a transformational effect in the sense that apart from affecting the Western consciousness, it touched the global conscience."

An estimated 500 guests, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN Hussain Haroon, other diplomats and eminent New Yorkers, attended the concert.


Image: The sarod maestro cast a spell with his sons Amaan and Ayaan (not in picture)
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'Ustad is the personification of secularism'

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"We are gathered here today to pay homage not only to the 9/11 victims but all similar atrocities," Ambassador Puri said.

"The memories of that day help strengthen our resolve and determination to oppose with even greater strength, the perpetrators of such evil," he added. "It has also strengthened and deepened our commitment to seek peace."

"Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is the personification of secularism and liberal values," Puri said.

Ban, who made brief remarks before the concert began, said it has "never been more important to come together against the forces, which brought about those events -- terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism."


Image: India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Puri; Also seen, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'Music, the language that unites hearts'

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"We have seen the devastating impact of terrorism in Mumbai and Madrid, Nairobi and New York, London and Lahore," the UN secretary general said. "We have seen the destabilising effect of extremism in Somalia and Iraq, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These crimes against innocent women and men are also assaults on our fundamental values -- peace, tolerance, justice and human rights."

"We must condemn them," Ban said. "But we must also work for a remedy. We must work together to create a world where extremism is not an option, where radicalisation has no appeal. A world based on mutual respect and the fundamental values expressed in the United Nations Charter."

"This house is home to many cultures, many languages. Among them, the one language transcends all is music. A language we can all understand; a language that unites hearts and minds in celebration of the finest expression of the human spirit. Maestro Khan, I look forward to hearing your 'Ode to Peace'."


Image: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon felicitates Ustad Amjad Ali Khan ahead of the concert
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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The Ustad and his sons enthralled the audience

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Over the next hour, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons enthralled the audience with a composition that he said was specially composed for the occasion.

"I started with Mahatma Gandhi's famous Ramdhun followed by Rabindra Nath Tagore's Ekla Cholo Re with some improvisation," the Ustad said. "The composition was set in Darbari Kanara, a nightly raga that evokes pathos which is in keeping with the mood of the event -- to pay respect to all those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack."

"I am really grateful to the Permanent Mission of India, especially to Ambassador Puri, for organising this beautiful event and to give me and my sons a chance to musically express our feelings about this horrible tragedy of 9/11," Ustad Amjad Ali Khan told rediff.com


Image: The sarod maestro had created a special composition to mark the occasion
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'Education is failing to create compassion'

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"I am greatly honoured," Ustad Khan said.

"It is greatly lamentable that education is failing to create compassion. Violence and bigotry must be brought to an end for the sake of the coming generation, for the sake of humanity," Khan said.

While younger son Ayaan said 'it was a tall order to play at the United Nations', his elder brother, Amaan, stressed that 'it is because of my father that this is happening.'

Pakistan ambassador Haroon, who evidently enjoyed the performance, along with others welcomed the maestro.

"There is not doubt that cultural exchanges between the subcontinent and the United States would be beneficial," he said.


Image: The Ustad casts his magic along with his sons
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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