Zubin Mehta urges govt., protesting intelligentsia and artists to end ‘Award Wapsi’ with dialogue

New Delhi, Oct.31 (ANI): Mumbai-born music maestro Zubin Mehta has said he has failed to understand why Indian artists, writers’ filmmakers and other intellectuals were returning their state awards, and urged them and the government to engage in a dialogue to resolve their differences.

“Intellectuals are going ahead and giving back awards, whether they are writers or filmmakers. They must feel very strongly and I respect them for what they are doing. On the other hand, I read what the government ministers are saying. I think both parties should meet together and talk about their grievances,” he told media here before his over three-hour-long first concert in Delhi with the Australian World Orchestra.

The renowned conductor is New Delhi as part of the final leg of the debut India tour of the Australian World Orchestra. The orchestra had previously performed in Chennai and Mumbai.

Mehta said that he felt proud to be performing with a world class orchestra in the national capital after 10 years. He described soprano Greta Bradman and the 90 musicians accompanying him as brilliant and superb in terms of talent and potential.

Lamenting the fact that Delhi still does not have a concert hall of its own, Maestro Mehta said, “It is a shame, not only for western classic music, but for all types of music. We need a concert hall. We speak the same musical language. It is in the eyes. India is going forward in all areas, so why can’t we have a concert hall in Delhi. Acoustic should not be an obstacle, but rather must be a plus. All we get is promises and promises; we have to see this translated into facts.”

His other complaint was that Indian diplomatic missions abroad were coming up very short with regard to facilitating the delivery of visas.

“Something needs to be done about this, the system needs to be improved as this gives one’s country a bad name. It took my wife three long weeks to get a visa,” Mehta said.

When asked whether the love for western classical music is on the decline, Maestro Mehta said, “I don’t see a decline in the popularity of western classical music. Concerts give an impetus to young people. We (Indians) have our own music and I see no reason why we should not popularize it.”

Mehta turned emotional when a reference was made to former Indian classical composer Pandit Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka, describing the former as his guru, a man from whom he had learnt a lot and missed a lot, and had several memories of him. About Anoushka, he said that he had known her since she was a five-year-old child, and it was a huge pleasure for him to be composing with her, and gave him a sense of giving back for what her father had taught him.

He also talked about his concert in Srinagar two years ago, wherein, he said that before the event, militants and separatists had given a clarion call to boycott the event, but wonders of wonders, it took place, and 70 percent of Kashmiris watched it on their television sets at home. He also said that the average person on the street had told him that the event had left them yearning for a distant past when culture was at its peak.

He also said that he was waiting for the day when he would have the freedom to cross over into Pakistan from India to perform live there.

‘I am waiting for the day when I can go, maybe with an Indian orchestra, to Pakistan to perform. We must do symbolic stuff to get people closer to each other. We must educate the younger generation about the benefits of learning and performing various types of music,” he said.

In this regard, he said that the Mehli Mehta Foundation set up in memory of his father is teaching about 200 children in Mumbai. (ANI)

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