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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
Pluralism and governance
Tradition-Bearers Programme

Among the many components of good governance is one that is often overlooked: pluralism, which can be defined as appreciation, tolerance, and openness towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and beliefs.

Music, for example, plays a vital role in the cultures of Central Eurasia and the Middle East, where it has traditionally served not only as entertainment, but as an expression of moral values and the power of community. In the region, musicians often fulfill the role of cultural ambassadors to neighbours and the wider world beyond. 

Cultural institutions are therefore a part of a healthy civil society, yet in many areas of the world traditional cultures are facing decline – in some cases, disappearance. The Music Initiative in Central Asia, which was established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 2000, is designed to help ensure the preservation of Central Asia's musical heritage and its transmission to a new generation of artists and audiences.

Its Tradition-Bearers Programme comprises a network of music schools and centres in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in which master musicians train disciples through the time-honoured process of apprenticeship known as ustâd shâgird. Revival of the ustâd shâgird system is intimately linked to the revitalisation of orally transmitted music itself.