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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What a Shame

Kashmir loses its cultural heritage to bollywood glitz

Bhand Pather, Wanwun, Nendi Ba’eth are now things of past

Mukhtar Ahmad (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Once a fad thing in the valley, the traditional folk songs have become a thing of the past as the arrival of outside cinematic glitz, Kashmiris shifted their likings to shake a leg to the tunes of latest chartbusters.

Recounts veteran singer Abdul Gaffar Kanihami, “Lol-gevun (love songs) popularized by Habba Khatoon was a rage during our times as youth expressed their love by singing couplets filled with conveyance of love and affection.”

Gaffar laments that the foray of Bollywood and western songs gave local music a run for its money. Gaffar said that with the high quality music beginning to play blaringly loud here, the folk songs received a huge set back as the listeners, particularly youngsters were swooned away by the charm of these songs.

Similarly, he says that ‘Rouf songs’ were very popular on festivals like ‘EID’ and other social functions. These songs were so enchanting that no girl or woman would miss to participate in it.

Renowned critic and poet, Mohammad Yousuf Taing recounted, “Kashmiri folk songs were the heart and soul of our culture. But as the Bollywood songs made their foray into our markets, Kashmiri particularly youth developed a keen interest in them.”

He recalled that when it was informed that the famous “Bhand” is coming to perform somewhere, people would rush to that place in crowds as no one chanced to miss seeing them cracking rib-tickling and belly-bursting jokes and his drum beating and playing of ‘Sarnai’.

“Despite being alive, folk songs and other traditional entertainment programs have hardly any takers today. Even though Kashmiris, particularly, youngsters have off late developed interest for Sufiana songs, but need of the hour is to popularize them in order to bring our folk songs back on their pedestal,” he suggested.

Taing informed that Sufiana music owes its introduction in Kashmir to Iran. This classical music form of Kashmir makes the use of Santoor, Sitar, Kashmiri Saz, Wasool or Tabla. “But over the years, Sufaina music is witnessing decline as despite having some potential singers, government’s lack of patronage to the veteran singers has discouraged both the Kashmiris and the performers of the Sufaina concerts.

Famous writer and poet, Zareef Ahmad Zareef credits both Kashmiri as well as Bollywood songs for the destruction.

“Earlier, Bhand Pather used to draw crowds. Marriages and other important functions were considered incomplete without such events. To blame Bollywood songs completely for distracting Kashmiris from their culture would be a misnomer as Bollywood songs were playing even during those times, when folk songs were the order of the day.

“Besides other distractions, we too have to share the responsibility as being parents we failed to inculcate our children about the significance of our culture. We encouraged them to speak in Urdu, dress up in non-traditional outfits and brought them in close sync with outside musical beats,” he adds.

Zareef informed that the history and tradition of music and dance in Kashmir valley goes back to thousands of years. “We have “Chakri” performed with the help of only Garaha, Sarangi and Rabab. It is one of the most popular forms of the traditional music of Kashmir. We also have “Hafiz Nagma,” which makes use of Santoor and where a female dancer, accompanied by a number of males with instruments used to perform. The dancer, known as Hafiza, moves her feet to the musical notes. But unfortunately, these traditional forms of entertainments were affected badly.

Mohammad Abdullah Tariballi, another veteran singer recollected the memories of rustic songs (Nendi Ba’eth) that village folks used to sing during weeding season. “I still remember that during weeding of paddy fields, men either individually or in groups used to sing in chorus. The effect of the songs was so embalming that hardly anyone noticed the passing of time,” Tariballi recounted, adding that ‘Sont Gevun’ (spring songs) was also a sensation as the coming of spring season was welcomed with it.

He lamented that Kashmiri culture has plummeted almost to its lowest ebb as gone are the days when boys, girls, men and women would assemble in hordes and take part in cultural functions. These were so austere that even a poor man would afford the instruments.

“Our lackadaisical approach and arrival of non-Kashmiri songs took away the sheen of folk songs here. Nowadays, it is rare that you see someone boasting or claiming to know anything about Kashmiri folk songs,” he rued.

Mohammad Yousuf Chaari, while commenting on the soul-soothing effect of Kashmiri folk songs said that Wanwun (wedding songs) were sung to make the marriage ceremony jostling and an irresistible occasion. He said that these wedding songs had a unique distinction as women would wait with baited breath and count the days left for their relatives or neighbors’ marriage ceremony.

“Now we see Bollywood videos and songs bedecking the arrival and departure of the groom,” said Chaari, adding “These marriage songs were a huge hit with both Pandits and Muslims.”

Similarly, he said ‘Band Jashin’ or ‘Bhand Pather’ used to enthrall people as performers would travel to many corners with people coming in hordes to witness the drum beating and the jokes cracked. “I still remember that when it was announced that ‘Bhands’ (performers) have arrived, we would scamper to see them perform,” he recalled.

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