Government officials, many ‘strictly directed’ to keep mum on the issue, cited security reasons

While Zubin Mehta’s German Bavarian State Orchestra is set to perform in Kashmir on Saturday, despite the diktat of the State’s separatist leadership, the guest list for the concert ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ does not include any Kashmiri artists or singers. Government functionaries associated with the much-hyped show maintained that many of the potential stake-holders could not be invited for “security reasons.”

Director of Tourism Talat Parvez did not respond to phone calls. While Khalid Bashir, Secretary, J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, has already disassociated himself from the event, other officials pleaded that they had been “strictly directed” to remain tight-lipped and avoid contact with the media.

Abdul Rashid Hafiz, arguably the Valley’s most popular singer and top exponent of Kashmiri folk art forms Chakri and Rauf, confirmed that he had not been invited.

“We warmly welcome Zubin Mehta and his concert. But, I believe it’s their discretion to choose their guests,” Mr. Hafiz told The Hindu.

“I believe artists should not have emotional reactions. They shouldn’t complain, beg or demand. They shouldn’t feel hurt.”

Top Sufiana maestro Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh is among the few invited. He will welcome the 2,000-odd guests with his santoor at the entrance.

He has the distinction of having conducted four Sufiana concerts in Germany in 1984. Among bigwigs who have been ignored for the show are Ghulam Mohammad Saznawaz, Mohammad Abdullah Shaakhsaz and Abdul Gaffar Kanihami.

Even the descendants of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, santoor maestro and author of the four-volume Koshur Sargam, have been left out. Mr. Aziz’s contribution to music has been appreciated by Josef M. Pacholczyk in his book 'Sufyana Musiqi: The Classical Music of Kashmir', published by the International Institute of Traditional Music, Berlin.

While the author worked as head of the ethnomusicology department at the University of Baltimore in Maryland (U.S.), Mr. Aziz was a visiting faculty in 1988-89. Top female singers Raj Begum, Gul Akhtar and Haseena Akhtar have also been left out.

However, the popular Shamim Dev is likely to watch the show at Shalimar Gardens by virtue of being Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s wife.

Singer and conductor Gulzar Ahmad Ganai described the concert as a “shame for the State government.”

“I feel humiliated as none of us has been invited. We feel embarrassed before our families and children,” Mr. Ganai said. He, nevertheless, said Kashmiri artists supported Mr. Mehta and his show “with profusion of enthusiasm.”

Jehanara Janbaaz and Raashid Jehangir, two of the most popular singers from Chenab Valley, expressed positive sentiments about Mr. Mehta’s presence in Kashmir, as did Kifayat Faheem and Shahi Mumtaz. Singer Shazia Bashir said she had “no interest” in Mr. Mehta’s show.

In addition to santoor player Abhay Rustum Sopori, whose seven-minute classical-sufi composition will be performed by Mr. Mehta’s orchestra, 15 Kashmiri instrumentalists — including three artists playing each of sarangi, rabab, nout and tumbaknari — would be involved in the concert, revealed sources to The Hindu.