East York’s own Aga Khan Museum hosted a special event last month to celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity through the power of music.
Diwan Saz is a classical music group from Israel with multicultural, interfaith members. Their goal is to promote peace and unity, and above all, illustrate a side of Israel that they say has not always been reported. So they’re on a world tour to promote that climate of tolerance.
“We connected by the music,” said Tzipporah El-Rei, one of the star vocalists in the group. She said the group consists of members that are Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Bedouin — who all play various instruments such as the Saz (the instrument their group is named after) and who all have impeccable, high-note-reaching, vocal talent. They play music that they say is inspired by ancient Sufism and folk songs from Jerusalem.
“The message was being conveyed through the art,” said Amirali Alibhai, the head of performing arts at the Aga Khan Museum, which is located on Wynford Drive. He said he was proud to host the event and added that it shows the strength of diversity — while acknowledging that some people might find it surprising that a centre for Islamic culture would host an Israeli musical troupe.
Eric Stein, director of Ashkenaz Festival — a festival of Yiddish and Jewish culture and the organization that helped put the event together — said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s the perfect venue…. The medium is the message. This venue was as much as communicating what the concert was about as the group itself.” He said the museum and Ashkenaz sought to break down barriers from all religious perspectives, and therefore collaborating was in everyone’s best interests.
“The museum is not just for Muslims,” Alibhai said. He said it offers learning opportunities for everybody in all cultures, races, and religions.