Every culture has its unique and peculiar style of life and the evolution which is reflected by various visible expressions including music, dance and other forms of art. Likewise, Kashmir too owes a bit of its identity to the various forms of music that survived through centuries and continue do so under the shadow of global entertainment influences beamed through hundreds of television and radio channels.
Formats including Kashmiri ‘Tchaker-te- Rouf’, ‘Wanwun’, ‘NindButh’, ‘Lala Pad’, ‘Ladi Shah’ and Sufyana might not be quite visible these days but such formats exist and are well intact in the deeper fabric of our society.
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 and 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 different musical instruments used to permeate, the atmosphere used to get suffused by sacred lyrics of revered Sufis. 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. 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. About 77 percent Kashmiris love to listen to Kashmiri music. ‘Ghazal’, ‘Chaker te Rouf, Wanwon. 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 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 Sopori etc. have changed the mood of tourists . 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 playing various musical instruments.
In ‘Rajtarangni’ Kalhana records an incident of Lalitaditya that once on his way to hunting, he saw two young girls singing. Enchanted by their melodious voice, he stopped his horse and inquired about the young girls who informed him about their profession and 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 and Rat in Mala have been famous singers of their times. Budshah too promoted this art and introduced several new instruments whom he had adopted from central Asia.
The art blossomed during the period 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’. 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. 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 is a sign of growth.