FAQs for the Aga Khan Music Awards

FAQs for the Aga Khan Music Awards

Q&A with
Fairouz Nishanova, Director of the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) and the Aga Khan Music Awards (AKMA)
& Theodore Levin, AKMI Senior Consultant


Fairouz Nishanova, Director of the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) & Theodore Levin, Senior Consultant Aga Khan Music Initiative.

What are the Aga Khan Music Awards?
The Awards recognise exceptional talent, creativity, promise, and enterprise in music performance, creation, education, preservation, and revitalisation in societies across the world in which Muslims have a significant presence. Nominees, however, need not be Muslims. Instructions to nominators underscore that nominations are to be made without regard for religion, race, gender, and age.

What is the total amount of the Awards?
Total value of the Awards is US$ 500,000, which includes cash prizes and professional development opportunities arranged in collaboration with the Music Awards, including commissions for the creation of new works, contracts for recordings and artist management, support for pilot education initiatives, and technical or curatorial consultancies for music archiving, preservation, and dissemination projects.

Which genres and categories of music are eligible for the Awards?
The Awards focus on the constellation of devotional music and poetry, indigenous classical music, traditional folk music, and tradition-inspired contemporary music that has flourished in cultures shaped by Islam.

How many Awardees will be selected?
The Master Jury has already selected laureates in the domains of Music Education, Creation, Social Inclusion, Preservation/Revitalisation/Dissemination, and Distinguished and Enduring Contributions to Music. The Master Jury will select a laureate in Performance following the presentations of finalists in Performance to the Master Jury and the public on 30 March.

What is this new award trying to achieve?
Besides recognising and supporting exceptional talent, the Awards will aim to strengthen tolerance and pluralism around the world by promoting musical genres and styles that embody music’s traditional role as a source of spiritual enlightenment, moral inspiration, and social cohesion.

Fairouz Nishanova: “Our work over the last 16 years has provided a glimpse of the extraordinary musical talent around the world that has been shaped by Muslim cultural heritage. The Music Awards will give us the opportunity not only to seek out that talent, but to support it in a concrete and tangible way.”

Theodore Levin: “The Music Awards aim to illuminate the diverse forms in which Muslim musical heritage is expressed in the contemporary world by assisting the career development of individual artists as well as the development of educational and cultural organisations working to preserve and further develop this heritage.”

How does the nomination process work?
Nominations for the Awards were solicited from a group of some 200 music specialists around the world. Both individuals and organisations were eligible to be nominated.

What are the criteria for nomination?
Nominees should have accomplished one or more of the following, in each case, in a manner relevant to societies in which Muslims have a significant presence:

  • Demonstrated exceptional artistic achievement and promise through the creation of a musical work or body of work (which may be in the form of recordings, video, film).
  • Achieved distinction as a performer or composer/improviser-performer.
  • Achieved a high standard of excellence in a music-related social or humanistic endeavour (education; preservation, documentation and dissemination; research and scholarship).
  • Made significant contributions to the development, sustainability, and availability of music or musical institutions.

When will the first awards be given?
The first Music Awards ceremony will take place in Lisbon, Portugal from 29-31 March 2019. Finalists will gather for a three-day ceremony featuring concerts, workshops, master classes, roundtables, jam sessions, and the awarding of prizes.

How often will it be given?
The first Awards ceremony will be held in March 2019. The second Awards ceremony will be held in 2021. Thereafter, the Music Awards will be held every third year.

Are the winners chosen independently?
The Master Jury has complete independence to select the winners. No one directly associated with the Aga Khan’s institutions is eligible for the Award. The Master Jury is drawn from eminent performers, composers, festival directors, music scholars, and arts education leaders.

How will the Awards be governed?
The Music Awards is governed by a Steering Committee co-chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan and his brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, and managed by the Aga Khan Music Initiative. Members of the Steering Committee are distinguished leaders in the fields of education, the arts, and culture. A full list of Steering Committee members is available below.

What is the relationship between the Music Awards and the Aga Khan Music Initiative?

The concept of the Music Awards emerged from the work of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, an interregional music and arts education programme with worldwide performance, outreach, mentoring and artistic production activities. Launched in 2000 to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms, the Music Initiative began its work in Central Asia, subsequently expanding its cultural development activities to include artistic communities and audiences in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

The Initiative promotes the revitalisation of cultural heritage both as a source of livelihood for musicians and as a means to strengthen pluralism in nations where it is challenged by social, political, and economic constraints. Its projects have included publication of a comprehensive textbook, The Music of Central Asia (Indiana University Press, 2016), a 10-volume CD-DVD anthology, Music of Central Asia, co-produced with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, a worldwide performance and outreach program that nurtures “East-East” as well as “East-West” musical collaborations, and a network of music schools and centres that develop innovative music curricula and curriculum materials in the Music Initiative’s regions of activity. https://www.akdn.org/akmi

2018-2019 AKMA Steering Committee members

Salim Bhatia Director of Academies, Aga Khan Development Network
Farrokh Derakhshani (ex officio) Director, Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Ara Guzelimian Dean and Provost, Juilliard School
Shamsh Kassim-Lakha Chairman of the Board, University of Central Asia
Joseph Melillo Executive Producer, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Sir Jonathan Mills former Director & Chief Executive, Edinburgh International Festival
Luis Monreal (ex officio) General Manager, Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Azim Nanji, Member, Board of Directors, Global Centre for Pluralism
Risto Nieminen Director of Music Service, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Zeyba Rahman Senior Program Officer, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art
Catarina Vaz Pinto Councillor for Culture, Lisbon Municipality

Aga Khan Music Awards Secretariat

Fairouz Nishanova, Director
Theodore Levin, Senior Consultant
Joseph Jabbour, Technical Director
Kirill Kuzmin, Regional Coordinator
Nathalie de Groot, Administrative Coordinator