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  • From Badakhshan, the mountainous eastern region of Tajikistan, the seven-person Badakhshan Ensemble offers trance-inducing mystical songs based on texts by Rumi, Hafez and Nasir Khusrow
    AKTC / Sebastian Schutsyer
Aga Khan Music Initiative and SOAS sign Collaboration Agreement, co-host “Musical Geographies of Central Asia” Conference and Concert

16-18 May 2012 at University of London’s Senate House

(The conference, which is open to the public, will conclude with a concert of Central Asian music at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre on 18 May 2012 at 7.30 pm)

London, UK, 16 May 2012 – The Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have signed a wide-ranging, five-year collaboration agreement to provide education and training to a new generation of cultural development specialists. The programme will focus on building expertise in the music and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia and South Asia, regions of interest to AKMI and SOAS.

Through the agreement, AKMI will leverage the expertise of SOAS faculty and research associates for cultural development and revitalisation projects. SOAS music students and faculty will collaborate with musicians from AKMI regions of activity with the aim of strengthening intercultural exchanges in music and other aspects of expressive culture.

Under the new agreement, SOAS and AKMI are partnering with the London-based Institute of Musical Research to co-host a three-day conference, “Musical Geographies of Central Asia”. The conference runs from 16-18 May at University of London’s Senate House. Convened by Dr Saida Daukeyeva (IMR) and Dr Rachel Harris (SOAS), “Musical Geographies of Central Asia” includes presentations by 33 scholars from 25 countries. The conference’s keynote lecture will be delivered by Theodore Levin, Senior Project Consultant to the Aga Khan Music Initiative and Professor of Music at Dartmouth College. Levin’s lecture is titled “The Geography of Possibility: Mapping the Future of the Past in Central Asian Music.”

The conference explores the musical geographies of Central Asia, focusing on regionalism and borders. The main countries and regions of reference will be Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, the Russian Republic of Tuva, Mongolia, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, and Afghanistan. The conference will aim to locate distinctive regional, cross-regional, national and transnational music practices, styles, genres and sounds within their geo-cultural, political and ideological environments.

The conference is open to the public and will conclude with a concert of Central Asian music, presented at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre on 18 May 2012 at 7.30 pm

Both the conference and the MOU contribute to the Music Initiative’s efforts to create a network of collaborations with institutional partners, both inside and outside the AKDN, whose mission, resources and expertise complement its own. In forging these collaborations, the Music Initiative remains committed to the integrated approach to cultural development work that has made its programme effective.

The Aga Khan Music Initiative is an interregional music and arts education program with worldwide performance, outreach, mentoring, and artistic production activities. The Initiative was launched by His Highness the Aga Khan to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms. 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. AKMI designs and implements a country-specific set of activities for each country into which it invests and works to promote revitalization 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.

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is a college of the University of London. Uniquely combining language scholarship, disciplinary expertise and regional focus, it is the world’s leading centre for the study of a highly diverse range of subjects concerned with Asia, Africa, and the Near and Middle East, and the only Higher Education institution in the UK specializing in the study of these regions.

For more information the conference, please see