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Aga Khan Music Awards, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon review: Impeccably organised and presented

4 April 2019

We all know that music is political, but in Lisbon last week, it was asserting that truth in a uniquely benign way, thanks to a visionary scheme headed by the Aga Khan who launched a biennial series of music awards. Impeccably organised and presented, they are bringing a much-needed injection of integrity to the commercially contaminated realm of "world-music". They are open to all musicians from countries with a significant Muslim population. The awards draw on the inspirational work of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, which was originally created to revive the traditional musics of Central Asia, but which now covers a huge swathe of the globe stretching from Mali and Morocco to Xinjiang and Indonesia. While the top award is for performing excellence, subsidiary awards are made for categories of no less importance, from composition and education to social inclusion and the revitalisation of dying traditions.