Sufiana Music Will be no More Within Years : Veteran Singers
Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)
They have been enthralling thousands with their soul-soothing voices; have defied odds and braved hardships to pursue with their first love. But lack of patronage by the government is finally telling on one of the richest assets of Kashmiri culture.
“Rather than encouraging and giving us patronage, government is discouraging us. We are battling to feed our families and keep Kashmiri Sufaina music alive and kicking,” lamented renowned singer, Waheed Jeelani.
He added Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir are not helping veteran singers. “Instead of giving us financial help and encouragement, these institutions invite us to perform once in a year to please the government dignitaries,” Jeelani said.
Mohammad Yousuf Chaari, another veteran singer described the condition of veteran singers in such words “The way government treats us makes us feel we don’t belong to Kashmir at all. Under such pathetic scenario, how can I allow my posterity to carry on with my legacy?”
Notably, the veteran singers after rendering their services for years have been knocking at government’s door for addressal of their grievances. “On JKAACL’s recommendation, the Central government in 2009 had decided to financially help penurious Kashmiri veteran singers. After registering for it, we were informed that under a Special Pension Scheme, Rs 4,000 will be paid to each on monthly basis. But till date, not a single penny has reached our pockets,” lamented Abdul Ahad Parray, a Sufiana expert.
He warned that the continuous lack of support from government is detrimental to survival of Kashmiri culture. “Instead of this shabby treatment, government should reach out to all veteran singers and compensate them as per their needs,” he suggested.
Voicing similar concerns, renowned singers Abdul Gaffar Kanihami and Muneer Ahmad Mir predict a bleak future for Sufiana singing in Kashmir. “If government continues to treat us like that, one day in near future, this richest form of Kashmiri culture will be confined to books only.”
The duo added “We defied all odds and have somehow managed to keep a least section of people in touch with our art. But we don’t think the younger generation will show such resilience.”
Demanding introduction of separate “Cultural Policy” for the promotion and patronage of artists especially the Sufiana singers in J&K, the Valley based veteran singers lamented that they are battling it hard to feed their families, and simultaneously sustaining their career.
“One fails to understand the logic behind government’s assertions of being very much concerned meting out a fair treatment in promoting and preserving the cultural diversity of the state, when we find it extremely hard to eke out a sustainable living for our families. By keeping cultural shows confined to government events, government may be appeasing some top notch dignitaries, but what about our career and families as singing is the only source of sustaining for us,” one of the leading singers, Waheed Jeelani told Kashmir Images.
He informed that J&K is the only state without a cultural policy for the artists. “We are facing a step motherly treatment as the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Government of India does not include the singers from J&K for various promotional activities for young and talented singers from all other Indian states. Moreover, the Union Ministry for Culture has totally failed in providing succor to us,” said Jeelani.
He alleged that the state government’s lack of patronage has made the life of veteran Kashmiri singers miserable. “The Sufiana music had taken a severe hit owing to the disturbed condition for the last 20 years here.
As the governments support was the only ray of hope for us, its concerned institutions like the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages (JKCAAL) has failed to live up to our expectations. Despite pooling in all our efforts to revive the old glory of Sufiana Music, We are getting a paltry sum of money that falls short to meet our requirements,” added Jeelani.
Supplementing the grievances of Jeelani, famous singer and General Secretary of “Kashmir Glowkaar Society”, Abdul Gaffar Kanihami was more appreciative of the Sangeet Natak Academy than of the state government’s role in the preservation and promotion of the Sufiana Music here.
“At least the kind of monetary help and support we get from Sangeet Natak Academy is far sustainable than the pittance of annual 5,000 to 10,000 JKAACL pays, only to the registered cultural organizations in the state,” Kanihami informed.
“The state government may be taking young Kashmiri artists to perform on occasions like Independence Day and Republic day, but if one peeps into real situation of the plight of Sufiana singers, then it gets evident that how the state government is befooling the Indian government with the assertions that the artists that have performed here (on Independence and Republic days) are the real ambassadors of our culture and heritage,” Kanihami added.
Recalling the heydays when adoring the Sufiana singers was the order of the day in Kashmir, Kanihami recounted, “Those were our golden days as we used to be paid fairly and the then government ministers were admirers of the Sufiana Music. But today’s government is just playing with our sentiments and the career as lack of support from governments’ side is posing a serious threat for sustenance of our families and career.”
Underscoring the need of introducing the Cultural Policy in J&K, Kanihami asserted that it will usher in a new era in revitalizing the old strength and sway that Sufiana music used to have on the masses here.
“We demand that the cultural policy should be introduced forthwith. In case government fails to come up with such a boon for us, then no Kashmiri singer will allow his posterity to step into their shoes,” warned Kanihami.