Art & Culture

From Shirin Saaz to Sholay, rediscovering Kashmiri music and language

Naseer Ganai
Naseer GanaiSep 15, 2015 | 16:47

From Shirin Saaz to Sholay, rediscovering Kashmiri music and language

Last year's floods of Biblical proposition not only destroyed infrastructure in Kashmir but also washed away huge treasure of books on literature and languages.

Rare collection of Rabindranath Tagore's paintings from Women's College Srinagar to around 90 manuscripts dating back to the sixth century from Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Culture and Arts was lost in the floods. The Academy's highly acclaimed bookshop, Kitab Ghar, housing books on Kashmiri literature and language is still closed. The fifth-sixth century Gilgit manuscripts, written on birch bark, were damaged. Educationists say around two crore books were damaged in Srinagar alone.  

The problem is so huge that when the Delhi Public School Srinagar, a few months ago, decided to organise a month-long musical competition with an aim to popularise the Kashmiri music, including Kashmir's own classical musical tradition, commonly referred to as the Sufinyana Mousiqee, the teachers faced serious issues of locating Kashmiri literature as most Kashmiri works have been lost to floods.

In the Cultural Academy and other cultural institutions, they said, no literature was available forcing the teachers to personally visit people at different places to get poems of Kashmiri poets for singing by students. 

Delhi Public School's month-long Kashmiri music contest, which concludes on September 19, saw students from far off schools participating. The event is being mentored by many noted musicians, poets and cultural activities. The show was aimed at introducing the school children to their mother tongue through the medium of music. 

Adbi Markaz Kamraz, an NGO working for the Kashmiri language, held a session in the picturesque Pahalgam valley to deliberate upon the challenges confronting them. There is a lot going on in this front. With a view to promote Kashmiri music, language and literature, Sahitya Akademi has now agreed to open its regional office in collaboration with the cultural academy in Srinagar.  

Students participate in Shirin Saaz Te Awaaz at Delhi Public School, Srinagar.

The DPS school principal Kusam Warikoo argues that there is no shame to speak in Kashmiri and it is her school which would set the trend. "It speaks about our deep inferiority complex when we show contempt towards our mother tongue. I am not a language chauvinist but I believe we should not look down upon our own mother tongue." She argues that people find it hard to digest that in the DPS Srinagar, Kashmiri is not only being spoken but taught too. "That is why whenever we went to far off places of Kashmir to look for boys and girls who could sing Kashmiri Sufiyana or Kashmiri popular numbers, they were surprised that it is DPS which is doing all this", she says.  

The school has named the programme as "Shirin Saaz Te Awaaz". 

The problem is there is an unbridgeable gap between elite schools of Srinagar and other schools spread across Kashmir. There is lack of interest in Kashmiri language in government-run schools and private schools precisely because parents think their wards need those language skills which would make them marketable and Kashmiri is something they can learn at home.  

Minister for culture, Haseeb Drabu, in a recent programme argued that Kashmiri language is alive among intellectual elites and commoners.  "It is the middle class which has put the lingo-cultural identity at stake," he says. As long as society and family, argues Drabu, is not lingo-culturally equipped, language cannot be learnt by introducing it in schools and institutes alone. And the school text books prepared for the Kashmiri language present dismal picture. For example, standard 9 Kashmiri textbook carries a question asking "what is it that a bride takes along when she goes back to her in-laws house" and the answer is "she takes along a rooster". 

In spite of all difficulties, many efforts are going on to promote Kashmiri language. Early this year three prominent Kashmiri singers Mehmeet Syed, Bilal Matta, Irfan Nabi performed Kashmiri folk and Sufiyana in various cities of the United States. They used Kashmiri orchestra, tumbakh, sarangi, rabab and nout (pitcher). After organising successful show of Kashmiri music in the USA, US based Kashmiri organiser of programme Asmat Ashai talks about possible tie ups with Coke Studio India, and Coke Studio Pakistan. She wants that Kashmiri singers and musicians should get training and classes from Iranian and Afghan masters so that it could be taken forward. 

There are also are parallel initiatives happening which are helping the cause of the Kashmiri language. There are many populist things happening which nobody pays attention to. There are Kashmiri dubs of popular movies like Sholay which are a rage among many. There are comedy plays available on CDs and selling like hot cakes. All these are available in a language which is appealing while being funny and straightaway making it to the hearts and minds of people. The language continues to live.

More power to all of them.

Last updated: September 15, 2015 | 17:25
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