How listening to Udta Punjab songs on Kashmir's roads set me free
The magic woven by Amit Trivedi is best experienced if you are driving on Kashmir roads.
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There is a dark, unspoken anger inside all us. Some do well to tame it. In others, it lurks too close to the fragile surface.
Scratch it, and it bursts.
Thank you, Amit Trivedi, for your music in Udta Punjab. It allowed me to vent all my anger, angst and aches, that I had bottled up over the years. For letting myself go.
Let me be clear, I don't do drugs. I neither chew nor smoke tobacco. Heck, I don't even drink alcohol.
But when I heard "Chitta Ve" from Udta Punjab, I felt something unlock within me. I could feel the music entering me. It hit a crescendo in my head. I became one with the trance techno beat, experiencing a high I have never felt before.
And the release? It was cathartic.
"Chitta Ve" is in the tradition of "Dum Maaro Dum". You maaro "dum" with the song every single time you hear it. Even if you've never done dum in your life.
I'm a Kashmiri. Over the last few weeks, I have discovered that the magic woven by Amit Trivedi is best experienced if you are driving on the beautiful roads of Kashmir.A still from Udta Punjab's "Ikk Kudi".
Even though I don't understand Punjabi, having lived in Jammu for a few years has helped.
As Shahid Mallya, Babu Haabi and Bhanu Pratap belt out the crazy "Chitta Ve", you know you don't have to get a synthetic high to get the chant rocking inside your head. Shellee gets the lyrics just right, and Amit tots up the X-factor with his dark and trippy music.
I play the track on a loop, loud, as I negotiate the curves on the magnificent Mughal Road.
The caravan track once used by emperors Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan to go to Lahore, is now a wide and smooth stretch. At a maximum height of 3,500m over the Pir Panjal range, it is a thrill to drive on.
When I reach Bafliaz, I decide to stop driving for a while, and stretch myself. Looking at the vast expanse of the Valley before me, I ruminate on the history of Bafliaz.
It's named after Alexander the Great's horse, Bucephalus. Legend has it that the equine collapsed and died here, and was buried in the Valley. Over the centuries, Bafliaz has come to signify the distorted Bucephalus.
I play the next track, "Ud-Daa Punjab". I'm somewhat startled by the lyrics.
"Ander da kutta ajj kadiye ha!/ Agg duniya petrol chal suttiye ha!"
(Let's get the dog within us out today/ The world is fire, let's throw petrol on it.)
I can't help but burst out laughing. The Dogri dialect that I became familiar with in Jammu, and its relationship with Punjabi, allowed me to understand its coarse rap. And, it's strangely addictive. The loud and edgy rap unspools me over the trance terrain.
"Ud-Daa Punjab" is gripping. Vishal Dadlani and Amit sing it in a menacingly crude way. The blackness it offers has its own flavour.
"Rifle dikha ke mushayre lutiye/ Upar se ajj kudd ke ajj tutiye ha!"
(We are gonna show our rifle power and steal the show/ Let's jump from the top and break today).
The rap is almost irreverent. It's also cheeky and saucy. Playing "Ud Daa Punjab" on loop, I drive back on to Mughal Road.
If you love a song, you have to get it roaring and pulsating within you, before you let go of it.
There have been times when the romance of Mughal Road has enchanted me. Fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of a majestic waterfall on the way, emperor Jehangir had it named, "Noori Chhamb" after his queen Noor Jahan.
Sometimes while driving down Mughal Road, I think of how this dirt track began a dynasty's love affair with the Kashmir Valley.
I see Chingus written along the highway. Legend has it that this is where emperor Jehangir's intestines had to be buried after he died on the way. In Persian, "chingus" translates to "entrails" or "intestines".
The mountains are keepers of such amazing stories.
Where am I going to drive next? Srinagar to Sonamarg. Kishtwar to Koker Nag via Sinthan Pass, Aru. Betaab Valley. Manasbal. Arhabal. Srinagar to Ladakh. In and out of Kashmir, I have a dozen options. And, more.
I play the gloomy, grim "Dar Daa Daa Dassey". The music is heavy, raw and grungy. The song starts on a dark note. It becomes melancholic as the rap wears on.
And then, as I head back home, I settle for "Ikk kudi, jida naa mohabbat/ Ghum hai…" (A pretty girl, whose name is mohabbat, has gone missing…)
We all could do with a bit of love in our lives. If music be the food of soul, play on.
I feel free.