UNESCO has sent a congratulatory letter to Shenzhen for the first 2017 Shenzhen Belt and Road International Music Season that kicked off on Saturday, which brings traditional and classical music from nearly 30 countries and regions that lie along China’s two ancient world trading routes.

On behalf of Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, Francesco Bandarin, who is UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, said in the letter addressed to the Shenzhen International Cultural Exchanges Association that UNESCO commended the association’s initiative to celebrate music and creativity, and that the festival “will be a great success and set a role model in terms of professional achievements, humanistic development and cultural diversity.”

“Under the theme: ‘Connecting China and the Rest of the World and Reaching to the World,’ the Shenzhen Belt and Road International Music Season is an innovative and promising event that aims to promote the exchange of cultures and an understanding of civilizations, as well as to enhance inclusiveness and mutual trust,” the letter read. “I see this as a symbol of dynamism as a proud member of UNESCO’s creative cities network,” he said in the letter.

The event brings audiences on a festive journey that features various styles of music sung by beautiful voices and played on distinctive instruments with an opening ceremony on Saturday night.

More than 700 outstanding artists from 13 troupes from 30 countries and regions attended the event and perform a total of 16 concerts for local residents.

The festival will last for 22 day, until April 15. World-renowned orchestras and troupes, such as Wiener Symphoniker, Indian Bollywood Film Song and Dance Company, Canadian Brass and Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, will perform themed concerts.

An opening concert led by four top conductors from home and abroad took place at Shenzhen Concert Hall in Futian District on Saturday night. Hu Yongyan, Yu Feng, Spanish conductor David Gimenez and Albanian Oleg Arapi conducted the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra (SSO) as well as an orchestra staffed by players from 13 Belt and Road countries.

Award-winning Egyptian pianist Mirette Hanna, suona player Zhang Qianyuan and Indian sitar player Gaurav Mazumdar collaborated. The concert will also feature mezzo-soprano Carla Dirlikov Canales, bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, baritone Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar, soprano Katherine Whyte, and tenors Shi Yijie and Yang Yang.

To encourage concert goers, tickets for the concerts are sold at lower than market prices. The lowest fare for most of the concerts is around 50 to 80 yuan (US$7.3-11.7), and more than 50 percent of the seats for each concert cost less than 180 yuan, except for the concert by the Wiener Symphoniker, which will have a smaller portion of low-priced tickets.