Cultural Diplomacy & Chiragh - A Light in the Dark

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Thursday, 25th April, 11:00 - 1:00 p.m.

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Nirupama Rao, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, Viswa Subbaraman and Mini Menon

Asia Society India Centre and South Asian Symphony Foundation present a panel discussion and performance around the launch of the South Asian Symphony Orchestra (SASO) ahead of their inaugural performance in Mumbai. Created as a platform to promote peace, mutual understanding and greater cultural integration in the region of South Asia, SASO has over seventy members drawn from SAARC countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the South Asian diaspora. According to the Symphony’s founder Nirupama Rao “Music is a way of making sense of the world, and of what South Asia is today. We are aware of the divisions that separate us, the partitions that belong to our history and the tensions that tend to create barriers between all the nations in the region. She believes an orchestra serves as the perfect analogy for regional ties, an audible demonstration of what harmony is possible here.” 

Join us as we speak to the Former Foreign Secretary of India, Ambassador Nirupama RaoFounder and Director, Afghanistan National Institute of Music and Asia Game Changer Award Winner Dr. Ahmad Sarmast; and Houston-based conductor and Asia21 Fellow Viswa Subbaraman in a conversation moderated by Founder and Editor of Live History India Mini Menon, about the vision and process behind the creation of SASO, and the importance of cultural diplomacy today.

The conversation will be followed by a special performance by Sri Lankan-born Julliard trained Soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke accompanied by an ensemble of SASO musicians.


Nirupama Rao

A career diplomat by profession, Nirupama Rao retired as Foreign Secretary to the Government of India. She was the first woman spokesperson (2001-02) of the Indian foreign office. She served as India's first woman ambassador to Sri Lanka (2004-2006) and to the People's Republic of China (2006-2009). She was Ambassador of India to the United States from 2011 to 2013. In retirement she has taught at Brown and Columbia Universities. She is currently working on a book on the relationship between India and China. A Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow from 2015-2016, she is a passionate music enthusiast and strongly believes in the power of music as an instrument of peace and reconciliation. With her husband Sudhakar Rao, who retired as the Chief Secretary of Karnataka, she is a Founder-Trustee of the South Asian Symphony Foundation, Bangalore. The Foundation is dedicated to the use of music as a medium to promote peace and understanding in South Asia and building a South Asian Symphony Orchestra.


ahmad sarmast

Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast is a Polar Music Prize laureate (know as the Noble of Music), a recipient of an Honorary Membership Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society, UK and is the Founder and Director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. A winner of distinguished alumni award of Monash University, and an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music, London, Dr. Sarmast received his PhD in Music from Monash University, Australia (2005); and his MA in musicology/ethnomusicology from the Moscow State Conservatorium (1993). His research has been published as the landmark book A Survey of the History of Music in Afghanistan. Sarmast’s accolades include the International Music Council’s Musical Rights Award; the David Chow Humanitarian Award; the Education Award of the Government of Afghanistan; the Charles Ansbacher Music for All Award; the Cultural Heritage Rescue Prize from Priorita Cultura; and the International Citation of Merit Award from the International Association of Performing Arts. In 2013 he was a finalist for "Australian of the Year" and was named “Person of the year” by Radio Azadi. In 2016 Dr. Sarmast was awarded the prestigious Asia Game Changers Award from Asia Society. A subject of many media reports, the feature documentary ‘Dr. Sarmast’s Music School’ and ‘Dangerous Music’ are based on his life. Dr. Sarmast was the victim of a targeted suicide bombing for the work he has done to revive and protect Afghanistan's  musical tradition. In recognition of Dr. Sarmast’s service to Afghan music, the President of Afghanistan awarded him with the prestigious state medal of Said Jamaluddin and the honorary Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Award.


viswa subbaraman

Internationally acclaimed American conductor, Viswa Subbaraman, was most recently Artistic and Music Director of the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee. During his tenure at the Skylight, he expanded the company’s repertoire and placed it at the forefront of the industry in producing contemporary opera and reimaging traditional works. Highlights include Beethoven’s Fidelio, set in a Bollywood production, the world premiere of Somtow Sucharitkul’s Snow Dragonwhich traveled to Bangkok, Thailand; Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox; and acclaimed mountings of Puccini’s iconic Tosca. Recent projects include the world premiere of Voir Direwith Fort Worth Opera in May 2017, which was recently recorded and will be released in the future. Additionally, he led Daniel Bernard Roumain’s first opera We Shall Not Be Moved in its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia’s inaugural festival, O17.
Viswa Subbaraman photo credit: Scott Paulus


mini menon

Mini Menon is an award-winning journalist and author. She is a Co-Founder and the current Editor at Live History India, a digital platform which aims to build a repository of research-based stories with India’s finest historians. Menon was formerly the Executive Editor of Bloomberg TV India, where she was in charge of news and features shows. She has reported on political, economic and business news. She is a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Award for Excellence, The Zee Astitva Award for Journalism, and the 2009 Best Business News Anchor by the Indian Broadcasting Federation. In 2013 she was adjudged as one of the 10 most influential women in Indian Marketing, Advertising and Media by Impact magazine. In 2012, Menon was invited to be a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) National Committee on Marketing, and took over as the Regional Chairperson of CII's Indian Women Network (IWN) in 2014. In 2014, Mini also joined the National Advisory Board of Enactus.

Admission Free | RSVP to asiasocietyindiacentre@asiasociety.org

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Event Details

Thu 25 Apr 2019
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Rangaswar Auditorium,
Y.B. Chavan Centre, 4th floor,
Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021

Add to Calendar 20190425T053000 20190425T073000 UTC Asia Society: Cultural Diplomacy & Chiragh - A Light in the Dark Rangaswar Auditorium, Y.B. Chavan Centre, 4th floor, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021