Indian Conductor Mehta Eyes Kashmir Peace Concert

14 October 2008
Agence France-Presse

Tokyo: Indian conductor Zubin Mehta said on Tuesday he hoped to lead a concert bringing together Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir as he received a top Japanese award. Mehta, holding a joint news conference with other recipients of this year's Praemium Imperiale award, contrasted himself with the title character in Puccini's opera 'Tosca.' 'Tosca sings an aria called, 'I live for art and I live for love.' I am afraid for me it's not enough,' said Mehta, who has led philharmonic orchestras in Berlin, New York, Tel Aviv and Vienna. Mehta, 72, said he wanted to bring people together, 'especially in times of crisis.' 'I don't want anybody to forget the power of this music. We are only the servants of this,' he said. 'I would love, if I had the time and the sponsors available, to just do music to bring the people of Kashmir - the Hindus and the Muslims, who are at odds with one another - together,' the Mumbai-born conductor said. Kashmir has been disputed by India and Pakistan since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The Indian-administered part of the Himalayan territory - majority Muslim but with a large Hindu minority - has been embroiled in an Islamic insurgency since 1989. Mehta recalled that just two months ago, he put on a concert of music by Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky to some 1,000 Israelis and 500 Palestinians. 'At least for those two hours, there was a certain peace in the audience,' Mehta said. Mehta and the other recipients will receive the Praemium Imperiale at a ceremony Wednesday. The others awarded this year are British pop artist Richard Hamilton, Russian conceptual sculptors Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and Japanese 'kabuki' theatre actor Tojuro Sakata. Each winner receives 15 million yen (143,000 dollars), making it one of the world's most lucrative art prizes. Past winners include Jasper Johns, Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa and Daniel Barenboim.