When we think of Kashmir, the first vision in our mind is of snow-capped mountains. Kashmir is surrounded by Central Asia, Eastern Asia and Southern Asia due to which there’s a unique blend of heavy influences that come along with it. The valley has a rich tradition of music and the Kashmiri music reflects a rich musical heritage and cultural legacy of Kashmir.
One of the greatest treasures of Kashmiri music has been its classical music which is called Sufiyana Mausiqi. It is a choral, spiritual style of music in which a group of musicians sing and play various instruments simultaneously. The songs are a mixture of Persian and Kashmiri Sufi poems, the hymns of Sufi mystics. A product of cultural intermingling, this form of music is believed to have come to Kashmir from Persia (Iran) around 500 years ago. Despite this influence, the Kashmiri Sufiyana Mausiqi is unique and not found anywhere else.
The aspects of Kashmiri Music
The widespread interest in Sufiyana Mausiqi is dying out due to many reasons. There is no proper training being given to the pupils. Also, youngsters are not that fluent in Kashmiri, let alone Persian. People tend to prefer light music more because Sufiyana Mausiqi is quite hard to learn and understand. It has many maqams and taalas. The obvious availability of western and Bollywood music has also contributed to its dissolution. Bollywood, on the other hand, has got major influences from Kashmir in its music. The music of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider is mostly based on Kashmiri folk arrangements. Even Amit Trivedi blended Kashmiri music wonderfully in Fitoor. While the once-celebrated music of Kashmir is vanishing from the region, Bollywood and other major industries have been spinning money using their folk melodies and instruments.
Being far from the ordinary, Aabha Hanjura formed her Sufi-folk band Sufistication in 2012 and her first solo video album, Aabha and The Sound of Kashmir showcased some of the authentic Kashmiri instruments. Music Plus spoke to her to grasp the notion of sounds of Kashmir. “Kashmiri music has been kept alive by several artists over the last many years, of the yesteryears, and the local artists as well. Music is an inherent part of our culture. Kashmiri music has many different forms such as Sufiana, Chakri, Ladishah, Lol Gyawun, and Bhand Jashan” tells Aabha.
At the same time, Pragnya Wakhlu, who released her sophomore album Kahwa Speaks independently with Songdew, highlighted the traditional Wanwun (one of the most traditional music forms of Kashmir) and original compositions in it. While introducing the hidden facets of Kashmiri music Pragyna shared, Wanwun is a form of Kashmiri traditional music which is sung at weddings typically by groups of women.
“Kashmiri music has roots in Sufi traditions so you would often hear the rabab and saaz in a song, reminding you of the valley. A lot of Kashmiri songs are based on poems by poets like Deena Nath Nadim, Rasul Mir, Lal Ded and Habakhatoon. The music earlier would be accompanied by more traditional instruments whereas people are now experimenting with instruments and trying to blend contemporary with folk. It’s heartening to see a lot of youngsters in Kashmir trying out different things musically. There are rappers like MC Kash rapping about real incidents in Kashmir, singers like Ali Saifuddin that sing the blues and then Mehmet Syed and Bilal who are travelling the world singing Kashmiri folk songs. Initially one would be able to buy a lot of Kashmiri music by CD’s and cassettes in Kashmir, but now with the advent of the internet and social media, a lot of artists are able to reach out globally to audiences quicker through the internet.” declares Pragnya.
There’s always a hope of dying traditions reviving if people like Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh are there. Being a top grade Sufiana artist who works in Radio Kashmir, opened his own music institute in 1996 to provide free training to all those who shared his passion for music. The students of that institute have participated in various shows of All India Radio, Doordarshan, Sangeet Natak Academy, Cultural Academy etc, some others have gone on to become empanelled artists in the Kashmir station of AIR. People like Sheikh who instil hope to the younger generation to save one’s culture are the saviours of Kashmiri music.