Jordi Savall has refused Spain's national music award the prestigious Premio Nacional de Música - which is worth 30,000 euros - because of his objections to the Spanish government's arts policies. Readers will know that I am a huge fan of Jordi Savall, both as a musician and a humanitarian. But his refusal of the Premio Nacional de Música leaves me puzzled as well as pleased. In a few weeks time - as seen above - Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI present a specially commissioned musical tribute to the 14th century traveller and diarist - "voyager of Islam" - Ibn Battuta in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. Jordi's concert is promoted by Abu Dhabi Classics, and his musical depiction of Ibn Battuta's from Morocco (where the traveller was born) to Afghanistan is being given just one gala performance at the Emirates Palace on November 20th. There appears to be an exclusivity agreement with Abu Dhabi Classics as Hespèrion XXI's schedule shows no further performances of the Ibn Battuta project elsewhere. But in 2015 a second concert of specially commissioned music will be given by Jordi Savall in Abu Dhabi depicting Ibn Battuta's further travels from Afghanistan to the Far East.
Readers will know that as well as praising Jordi Savall, I have, on more than one occasion, drawn attention to the unacceptable human rights record of the United Arab Emirates, and the following assessment from Human Rights Watch was quoted here last year:
The human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worsened in 2012 as authorities arbitrarily detained and deported civil society activists, and harassed and intimidated their lawyers. In September, an independent monitor found significant problems in the treatment of migrant workers on the high-profile Saadiyat Island project in Abu Dhabi, identifying the payment of illegal recruitment fees as a key concern.My same post also drew attention to the repressive treatment of gays in the Gulf States, and to the inhuman conditions endured by the foreign underclass workers who built the Emirates Palace where the concert is being given. Prior to the performance on November 20th, Jordi is participating in a conference at Abu Dhabi's Zayed University, from where an American academic who called for greater press freedom and protection for journalists in the Gulf States, was recently dismissed. Jordi Savall is just the latest in a succession of high profile musicians who have been tempted to the United Arab Emirates. However, I am puzzled as to how he finds the Spanish government's money unacceptable, but the Abu Dhabi government's money acceptable.
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