Mission Kashmir

Jhankaar, a group from a small town in Kashmir, combines folk and sufi music with contemporary elements

Mumbai | Updated: February 26, 2014 1:28 pm
Shafi Sopori (centre) with his band members Shafi Sopori (centre) with his band members

Did you know that in the midst of the late 17th and early 18th century, many places in Kashmir were renamed? For instance, Varhamullah became Baramulla, Padampore was changed to Pampore and Suyapur became Sopore or Sopori. Though Sopori, a small place in Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir, is popularly known as “apple town”, it is slowly getting recognised for another speciality. Jhankaar is a group of musicians from this area, who sing age-old Kashmiri and sufi songs accompanied by instruments that are popular in the region such as tumbaknaari, rabab, gada and santoor. “Years ago, when people used to work in the farms or jungles in the Kashmir region, someone would just start humming random tunes, combining various words; others would start repeating the words. Another creative person in the group, would add a new stanza. Like this, along with the work, the tunes would get improvised and a song would be born without much efforts. With time, various creative minds gave a new face to those very songs with new rhythms and lyrics, and the folk songs gained popularity; our music group performs such songs,” says Mohammad Shafi Sopori, a musician from Kashmir, who founded Jhankaar. The group was in Pune to attend and perform at the three-day 8th Kashmir Festival called Heritage of Kashmir. Organised by Sarhad, Pune, and Arihant Education Foundation, the festival was held from February 1 to 3.
Taking us back to the days, which introduced him to folk music of Kashmir, the 35-year-old Sopori says, “Mausiki (music) interested me from the time I was about eight or nine. Since our small town didn’t offer many avenues, I took training under Professor Das Mahammad Khan and Ghulam Rasul, in Srinagar. This was also the time I got inclined towards Sufi music. Our performance also includes songs by famous Sufi poets such as Mehzoor Sahab and Ghulam Rasool Mee.” In his town where he was born and brought up, Sopori found like-minded people and formed the group Jhankaar about 12-years-ago. While others in the group play various music instruments, he is the lead singer.
Some of the songs that the group presents are Bumroo bumroo, Rind posh maal and Roz roz boz mein zaar madno, among others. “Bumroo bumroo and Rind posh maal are old folk songs of Kashmir but gained popularity throughout the nation when they were used in the film Mission Kashmir (2000),” says Sopori, adding that prior to presenting any folk song, he gives a brief background of the song to the audience. “Rind posh maal is generally sung by Kashmiris, especially women, to welcome spring,” he elaborates. In the past, the group has performed in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
But it isn’t that the Jhankar musicians have confined themselves to sufi and Kashmiri folk songs. In order to reach out to a wider audience, the group has not just fused other elements in their performances but also embraced modern instruments such as the guitar and keyboards. “For example, I added a few Punjabi lines to the song Roz roz in our presentation some years ago. Similarly, I have added Marathi lyrics to Yaad kar vad, a Kashmiri song, for our Pune show. Popular songs such as Dama dam mast kalandar is a regular feature in our song-list,” explains Sopori, adding that fusion is good for folk music as it gives it a new face, reach and platform.

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