The Aga Khan Master Musicians (AKMM), a six-person ensemble brought together by the Aga Khan Music Programme to explore how musical innovation can contribute to the revitalization of cultural heritage, made its North American debut last week in three specially-produced concert films commissioned and broadcast by prestigious arts presenters: Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College (November 10); the Aga Khan Museum (November 13), and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Asian Art (November 14).

According to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), originally scheduled as live events, the concerts were moved online after the pandemic shut down concert halls around the world.

With AKMM’s members grounded in California, Europe, and Tajikistan, the Aga Khan Music Programme organized a technically challenging production process involving recording sessions on three continents during which the artists played their parts while listening through earphones to parts recorded hours earlier by their fellow ensemble members on other continents.  Audio and video tracks were subsequently edited together into the three finished films according to specifications of format and duration provided by the commissioning presenters.

AKMM consists of Wu Man (pipa), Basel Rajoub (saxophone, duclar), Sirojiddin Juraev (dutar, sato), Feras Charestan (qanun), Abbos Qosimov (frame drums), and Jasser Haj Youssef (viola d’amore).  All six artists contributed their own original compositions and arrangements to the programs performed in the films, which included world premieres of two new pieces by viola d’amore player Jasser Haj Youssef.  Other works featured in the films have previously been performed by AKMM in the Diamond Jubilee Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in June 2018, at the opening concert of the Aga Khan Music Awards ceremony in March 2019, and at a preview of new works by the Master Musicians at the Ismaili Center in Lisbon in December 2019.