Kashmir’s musical heritage is very rich, and is unique in its own way. There are many different forms within Kashmiri music, Chakri, Ladisha, Rouf, Sufiaana etc. There have been great poets, saints and bards, who have contributed immensely to Kashmiri music with their poetries like Rasul Mir, MahmoodGami, Mehjoor, Habba Khatoon to name a few. Most folk compositions reflect the mountain sound, you can feel it when you hear them.
“I remember being fascinated with authentic Kashmiri instruments since I was a child. That is why you can hear the influence strongly in my music” said Aabha Hanjura.
Aabha is an award winning singer, live performer, composer & songwriter who seeks her inspiration from the deeply embedded Sufi influence in the valleys of Kashmir. A disciple of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Aabha took to music at a very young age. Her curiosity and enthusiasm towards music led Panditji to allow her to attend classes meant for her seniors. She learnt the ragas and sargam from him and later on undertook formal training with, one of the best vocal coaches in the country, Neecia Majjoly for western pop music. An admirer of Jagjit Singh, Aabha has also been inspired by the works of legends like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farida Khanum, Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Hassan, Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin. She is a huge Frank Sinatra and AR Rahman fan and tries to incorporate their musical elements in her songs. Her style and narrative being inspired by some of the legendary dervishes and sufi saints across the plains of northern undivided India.
Aabha describes her music as ‘electic folk pop’. Folk music has a huge bearing on her music and the influences are not very hard to find.
“I have always been in love with the melodies of the lore. Folk has always excited me, as a musician, because it has that quality of being timeless. It is the music of the people and will always be” said Aabha.
Her rustic raw voice, signing style and vocal texture blend beautifully with folk music. She uses a lot of Kashmiri folk saaz like the rabab, santoor, tumbak nari and matkah in her sound. Aabha’s debut album, The Sound of Kashmir, is an eclectic mix of Kashmiri folk instruments as the backdrop of a very contemporary sound.
The Kashmiri folk music landscape has witnessed a turnover in recent times. The youth have experimented with the local music fusing it with more contemporary sounds from the west.
“The soundscape has changed, every new artist contributes to the sound in their own unique way. I feel you cannot and should not compare the yesteryear’s classics and today’s music. Every form of music has its own unique independent identity, space and audience” opines Aabha.
Aabha is the founder and the frontwoman of India’s popular Sufi, Folk rock ensemble, ‘Sufistication’. The band experiments with various contemporary elements and instruments and has found a unique way to blend those in the traditional, original elements of ancient Sufi Folk and ethnicity. Her pet project, Aabha Hanjura feat The Kashmiri folk ensemble, features Kashmir folk artistes. It is a collective of musicians who play native ethnic instruments like the rabab, sarangi, tumbak, nari, santoor alongside a live band.
Along with Kashmiri, Aabha also sings in Punjabi, Dogri,Hindi, Urdu and English. She also writes a lot of poetry in Urdu, Hindi and English. Kashmiri and Dogri are not that widely spoken or followed like other popular languages. Music transcends boundaries and vocal barriers which Aabha has explored through her music.
“I belong to Kashmir, it is my natural instinct to make a lot of people hear our beautiful language. I think that a lot of people just underestimate the audience’s intelligence or their ability to make the decision for themselves” said Aabha.
Whichever the language, the important aspect is to do justice to the song and its melody. If it needs to be sung in a certain language for it to reflect its true emotion then it should be sung in that language.
“As an independent artiste, I create a song to first satisfy myself and then the audience. When you create commercial music, the approach is reversed and it is okay, for that kind of music” opines Aabha.
Aabha’s love and passion for the music of her land, Kashmir,led her to innovate further on her sound as well as her live projects, she performs at premier folk festivals around the country. A regular on the live performance circuit, Aabha fondly recollects her first experience of performing live in her home state.
“When I first started doing Kashmiri music, my dream was to perform on the banks of the Dal lake and it actually happened at the SKICC” recalls Aabha, adding,
“It was the most magical night for the band, it was a beautiful concert it was exactly the kind of show that I had always imagined to perform in Kashmir.”
Aabha will be headlining the famed Jammu Mohatsav this February along with her band ‘Sufistication’. The band would be performing folk pop music and some of their originals in Dogri,Punjabi and Kashmiri
The Indian Idol contestant believes that ‘she did not choose music but music chose her. Aabha wanted to be an independent artiste, as it was always her true calling and though the journey is tough, it is more gratifying and a satisfying one.
“I think I am on the path that I should have always been on and am grateful that I got steered in that direction for whatever reason that I did – Serendepity at its best” smiled Aabha.