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?

The total value of the Awards is US$ 500,000. This 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 will select laureates in the domains of Music Education, Creation, Social Inclusion, Preservation/Revitalisation/Dissemination, and Distinguished and Enduring Contributions to Music.

What is this new Award trying to achieve?

Besides recognising and supporting exceptional talent, the Awards 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 long does the nomination process last?

Nominations begin on 1 November 2021 and close on 31 December 2021. 

What are the criteria for nomination?

Nominees should have accomplished one or more of the following:

1. 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 or film);

2. Achieved distinction as a performer or composer/improviser-performer;

3. Achieved a high standard of excellence in a music-related social or humanistic endeavour (education; preservation, documentation and dissemination; and/or research and scholarship); or

4. Made significant contributions to the development, sustainability, and availability of music or musical institutions.

5. In each case, this should be in a manner relevant to societies in which Muslims have a significant presence.

Who are the nominators?

To maintain the integrity of the process, we do not disclose the names of our nominators. Nominators comprise an international network of music specialists including musicians, music presenters, producers, and educator-scholars, ensuring a diverse body of nominees.  

Can I be a nominator?

If you would like to become a nominator, please contact the Aga Khan Music Awards secretariat.

Can artists directly apply to be considered for the Aga Khan Music Awards?

No, you must be nominated by an official nominator.  

When were the first Awards given?

The first Music Awards ceremony took place in Lisbon, Portugal from 29-31 March 2019. Finalists gathered for a three-day ceremony featuring concerts, workshops, master classes, roundtables, jam sessions, and the awarding of prizes.

How often will they be given?

The first Awards ceremony was held in March 2019. The second Awards ceremony will be held in 2022. 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 are the Awards governed?

The Music Awards are 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 Programme?

The concept of the Music Awards emerged from the work of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, now the Aga Khan Music Programme. This is 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 Programme 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 Programme 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 include 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 programme 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

2021-22 AKMA Steering Committee members

Members of the Aga Khan Music Awards Steering Committee include: 

His Highness the Aga Khan

Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Ara Guzelimian, Special Advisor, Provost Emeritus, The Juilliard School; Artistic and Executive Director, Ojai Music Festival

Farrokh Derakhshani, Director, Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Sir Jonathan Mills, Director, Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Joseph Melillo, Executive Producer, Emeritus, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

Luis Monreal, General Manager, Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Salima Hashmi, Professor Emeritus, Beaconhouse National University

Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, University of Central Asia (UCA)

Zeyba Rahman, Senior Program Officer, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

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