Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sufiana Taste

Iqbal pitches for the local folk music

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 49, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

The Magic Called Sufiana

Despite the resonance of Bollywood and Hollywood songs in the valley, Kashmiri songs are gaining currency as they can be heard playing blaringly loud at shops, vehicles, and on mobile phones etc. And what is interesting to bask is that after showing reluctance, the youngsters are not only shaking a leg to local tunes, but to a great deal, have begun to understand the significance of Sufi songs as well.

If music dealers are to go by, then Kashmiri songs have off-late struck a great chord with musical taste of a huge chunk of youngsters besides being all time favorite of elders here. What can be termed a proverbial “icing on the cake” is that apart from creating ripples here, Kashmiri songs are becoming very popular outside the state too. The growing popularity has also provided employment to those, associated with the music industry besides providing much needed platform for many upcoming talented singers, who have introduced new musical trends, instruments and variety of tunes to the local songs. Their tireless efforts along with teachings of veteran singers has not only overshadowed Bollywood and western songs, but to a great extent, has revived the “lost touch” of Kashmiri songs.

It is true, that for a certain period of time, Kashmiri singers had to face hard times as popularity of Kashmiri songs was on the verge of reaching its ebb. But strenuous and indefatigable endeavors of young and traditional singers revived the fame and pristine glory of local songs here. There was a time, when music through concerts and ‘Mehfili-sama’ was a huge hit with the Kashmiri’s as the strumming’s emanating from different musical instruments used to directly permeate though their bodies and the atmosphere used to get suffused by sacred lyrics of revered Sufis.Such was the soul-soothing effect of the Sufi songs that it always left an indelible impact on listeners. But, with the passage of time as Bollywood and western songs forayed into Kashmir, Sufiana concerts received a serious blow as listeners; particularly youngsters switched their choice to latest entries which directly posed a serious threat to the Kashmiri culture as Sufiana music is considered as one of the most important components of Kashmiri culture. But, with the passage of time, Kashmiri’s begun to shun the Bollywood and western songs as erotic content, made it extremely difficult for family viewing and owing to ‘non-sensical’ lyrics, listeners turned to soul-enthralling experience of local songs. As a result, a ray of hope appeared bright as youngsters not only began to enjoy traditional songs, but slowly but surely began to understand significance of Kashmiri culture Encouragingly, if newspaper reports are to be believed, about 77 percent Kashmiri’s love listening to Kashmiri music. ‘Ghazal’, ‘Chaker te Rouf, Wanwon and Sufi lyrics has become a rage. Notably, foreigners have been inviting the local musicians to the hotels and house boats to perform the live musical concerts as there has been a growing demand for Kashmiri music at the tourist destinations. Sufiana Kalaam is primarily vocal, choral music. It is performed by an ensemble of four to seven musicians and all musicians sing in unison except the main singer (leader of the ensemble) who sings the main lines of the song.

The poetry associated with Sufiana kalaam is in two languages, Persian and Kashmiri. The favourite poems are those of the great Sufi mystics of Persia and Kashmir such as Hafiz, Jallauddin Rumi, Jami, OmarKhayam,AmirKhusro,RasulMir,NeameSeab, Wahab Khar, Shamas Fair, Rahim Sahib Soporietc.Kashmiri music has got its long interesting history, its first evidence is found in the archaeological findings of Harwan, which dates back to first century AD. It was perhaps during the period of Kushans that music was introduced here, because we got the first evidences of musical instruments and dancing poses in a series of tiles. On face one of the tiles, a group of musicians can be noticed play¬ing various musical instruments.

Although the tabla is quite visible on it but Vena and some other instrument are a bit obscurely stamped. Another tile depicts a dancer wearing big earnings and holding a piece of a Kashmiri shawl in her hands. The dancer is viewed holding her right leg up and gyrating towards left. The male dancer, whom we call ‘Bachikut’ a prominent part of Kashmiri musical concert, particularly at marriage ceremonies looks a accurate imitation of this figure. The motif has been placed in low relief on the tile in a rectangular frame. Another tile shows a dancer beating a drum, which is placed to the front of the figure with the right hand holding some sort of a stick.

The musician looks using both hands in playing of the drum. Such motifs on these tiles have added new information to the historians of music and take the music back to the Kushan period. Kalhana, while tracing the antiquity of music, writes that musical parties were earlier held at religions places; during the period of Raja Jaluk about one hundred dancers were attached to Jasti Ishwar temple to entertain huge crowds. In ‘Rajtarangni’ Kalhana records an incident of Lalitaditya that once on his way to hunt¬ing, he saw two young girls singing. Enchanted by their melodious voice, he stopped his horse and inquired about the purpose of their singing, the young girls told him that they belong to a group of professional singers and had came there to practice their art. It is said that the art of music got promoted in the ‘Darbar’ of Rajas and Maharajas. The Raja used to hold meeting of musicians, where different artists demonstrating their art. ‘Deepa Mela, Rat in Mala, ane JNurp Mala have been famous singers of their times. Budshah too pro¬moted this art and introduced sev¬eral new instruments whom he had adopted from central Asia.

The art blossomed during the pe¬riod of Chaks, Sultan Hussian Shah and Yousuf Shah, who used to hold the musical weeks in their respective Darbars. As Yousuf Shah Chak himself was a poet of repute, he invited singers in his ‘Darbar’ and encouraged them by granting financial assistance’s. This period is marked by various types of music, which from cities and towns flourished to the villages. It was the period of Habba Khatoon, who besides being a poetess also used to sing her songs in a sweet voice. The art introduced few new types and instruments. The music came to be known in different forms, like classical Sufiana and folk music.

Although it was sufiana music which dominated classical ages, but with the introduction of few new trends folk got wide representation. The ‘Chakri, Ruff, Wanwun, Nind Buth, Lala Pad and Ladi Shah’ got promoted under the roof of folk music. It also provided room to the light Sufiana songs. Today we have number of albums available in Kashmir folk while the classical has turned extremely rare. But, it has to be admitted that Kashmiri songs and music is gaining momentum as day by day, it is attracting more listeners, which makes us to bask in this glory that our local songs are poised to shake many more legs and sooth listeners souls.

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