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Ismaili Community Ensemble features in London music festival that pays tribute to Ismaili Centre 25th anniversary
Rabiyyah Giga
Naseem Jivraj
25 June 2010
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    Vocalists from the Ismaili Community Ensemble recite uplifting poetry in a concert titled “Expressions of Devotion”. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the UK

    Exhibition Road Music Day, an annual festival of live, international music concerts and workshops in London, renewed itself on 20 June with participation from the Ismaili Community Ensemble. This year's festival also paid tribute to the Ismaili Centre, London, which is marking its 25th anniversary and has been part of London's celebration of Music Day since the festival's inception.

    Participants were invited to experience the rhythm and melodies of the Indian Subcontinent firsthand with Flux at Centre Space in the Ismaili Centre, London. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the UK

    Celebrating the diversity of international culture in the area, a range of indoor and outdoor stages were used to host over 100 performances and workshops featuring a variety of genres from urban, folk and rock melodies to classical, jazz, opera and world music.

    The Ismaili Community Ensemble, which has featured prominently in the festival since 2008, performed a 45 minute repertoire titled Expressions of Devotion that sought to convey the notion of one faith expressed across many cultures. This is reflective of the Ismaili community, which practices a single faith that is articulated through different traditions and cultures in countries around the world.

    Riaz Rhemtulla leads the kathak dance workshop in Centre Space at the Ismaili Centre, London. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the UK

    “Exhibition Road is the cultural heartland of London” commented Exhibition Road Cultural Group chief executive Paul Cutts. “Music Day brings together the world's leading arts, cultural, scientific and academic organisations for a fantastically diverse programme of music of all kinds and from all traditions. And, for the first time, we've commissioned some amazing new music too. There's truly something for everyone.”

    In 2005 Exhibition Road became home to London's annual celebration of Music Day, the city's contribution to Fête de la Musique, the worldwide musical celebration of the summer solstice. The day is organised by the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, a partnership of the leading cultural and educational establishments in the UK, including Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster City Council, and the Ismaili Centre, London. In 2008 Music Day partnered with London Festival of Architecture to present Explore Sites and Sounds, a celebration of music and architecture. Music day also presents an opportunity to bring music, literature, art, and science alive through the concerts and workshops it offers at the festival.

    A lively and interactive debate takes place between the creatures of God, in a workshop titled “Stories from Muslim Lands – The Debate Between Animals and Humans,” based on the 10th century writings of the Ikhwan al-Safa. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the UK

    To mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Ismaili Centre, London, the Exhibition Road Cultural Group presented the world premiere of Flow, a commission by composer Craig Vear. Flow was composed to reflect the diversity of the Ismaili community and the tranquillity and harmony of the Ismaili Centre.

    Flow incorporates the voices, songs, words and melodies of the community, of which the Ismaili Community Ensemble is an integral part. Performed in the peaceful surroundings of the Ismaili Centre's stunning roof garden, the musicians' melodies are surrounded by silence and moments of tranquillity. The presentation allows the building – the fountain, the flow of water and energy, and London itself – to have a voice in the music.

    The Ismaili Centre, London is the only faith-based organisation situated in the Exhibition Road cultural heartland. The festival is an opportunity for the Centre to open its doors and invite the public to engage with Muslim traditions and heritage. Having participated in Music Day since 2005, the Centre has nurtured understanding and dialogue through concerts and workshops featuring music, literature and art from different Muslim traditions.

    “Flow” specially composed for the 25th anniversary of the Ismaili Centre, London, is performed by Jonathan Eato and Thomas Maternik from Royal College of Music together with members of Ismaili Community Ensemble. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the UK