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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Voices from the Valley

In the state of Jammu & Kashmir where everything else takes place under the shadow of the gun,music plays on

Written by Suanshu Khurana |
September 13, 2013 1:01:44 am

Srinagar looked deserted on September 7. Shops were shuttered and dry chinar leaves swept the city streets. This was not an unusual sight in one of the most militarised zones in the world but this time,seven lakh soldiers,armed with guns,stood guard for a music concert. Organised by the German Embassy,music composer and conductor Zubin Mehta’s concert “Ehsaas-e-Kashmir” soared above the barbed wires that lined the entire city,after the 5 o’clock azaan.

At earshot distance away was a group of young musicians holding a parallel protest concert “Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir”,at Sher-e-Kashmir park. The fare here ranged from angsty hip-hop to fervid poetry,whose lines went Tum patta patta katoge,main tehni tehni niklunga. It was remarkable that “Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir” wasn’t a violent protest. “It was an aesthetic tribute to the resilience of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Khurram Parvez,one of the organisers of the protest concert.

The Valley has had a long tradition of music. Rajtarangini,the first written history of Kashmir,refers to 11th century prince Hasra as an accomplished singer and mentions chakri(a form of Kashmir’s folk music) and nout (a musical instrument). The arrival of Islam enriched Kashmir’s music,as mystics from Arab,Persia and Central Asia brought religious scholarship to the Valley. This influence on music culminated in the Sufiyana Mausiqi — the classical music of Kashmir.

The refrains of Sufiyana music continued for the longest,until indie bands arrived on the scene with their blend of the old and the new. “Music is a part of every household here. The difference is that some people like Kashmiri Sufiyana and some like Bollywood songs,” says Srinagar-based leading singer and music composer Waheed Jeelani.

In 2010,Moiz Miraj,24,got together with three friends to form Dying Breed,considered the first band in the Valley to release an album. Their brand of blues and psychedelic rock shuns the travails of Kashmir. “We live with violence but that does not mean we sing about it. We also live with nature and love,” says Syed Maajid,lead vocalist. The album was recorded at Kashmir Audio Visual Centre. “Our instruments can’t compete with the best in the market but we have put all our money and soul into this album,” says Miraj,who,along with Maajid,drummer Samad Khankashi and bassist Zohaib Kathawri,have saved their pocket money for years to create the album. They blend Western music with couplets of Kashmiri poet Lal Ded and verses of the Sufi saint,Sheikh-ul- Alam.

For many residents of Srinagar,Zabarwan park,an open-air theatre on the Dal lake,is a music destination on summer weekends. This is where local talents such as Abdul Rashid Hafiz hold forth from dusk to late night. “We don’t want to run away from here because its bedlam. Music may not put things on track politically but it will help us live better,” says Maajid.

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