Kashmiri folk melodies are an important addition to the rich culture of the place. The folk genre reflects people’s liveliness and loneliness. Due to Western influences its popularity faded but over the years efforts have been made by contemporary artists to revive the genre with a rock twist.
Folk rock evolves when the harmonies of traditional folk blend with the energy of rock music.
The words of legendary poets like Habba Khatoon and Mehjoor were presented before the younger generation. The artists brought freshness back into the lyrics with a tinge of rock beats.
Various musicians say that with rock music instruments one can add energy and rhythm to the song.
Singer and songwriter from Srinagar, Ali Saffudin’s music is a mix of folk, blues rock and Kashmiri Sufiana. Using Kashmiri and Urdu lyrics, he is among the artists who unearthed the traditional treasure of music. He recreated songs written by Habba Khatoon, Mahmoud Gani and several legendary poets to the rhythms of his guitar.
Karvo maz jigras, the lyrics of the song written by Mahmoud Gani, speaks of the morbidity of human life. Ali featured the song over his guitar beats during his Dal 2021 session. Additionally, he did a collaborative song, Aye Subhik Waav with folk singer Noor Mohammad.
Lately, he recreated the composition of Ghulam Ahmad Sofi’s Sufiana band which is said to have been composed by Ghulam Mohammad Dar, the Maestro Sarang of Sufi.
The instrumental track involves the use of folk and rock musical instruments, Ali wants to redefine instrumental music that most people are unaware of.
He said, “Instrumental music involves the use of rabab, nou and Kashmiri Sarang, we introduced the sounds of guitar and drums. Instruments like the rabab and sarang are soothing to the ears and have a spiritual connection. “There’s a divine connection to it and I soaked that thing in my guitar and brought back something from the past.”
Be it a melody or a groove, the admirers of music in Kashmir are immense. Since the days of radio, people have actively perceived music not only for entertainment purposes but to gain a spiritual connection. Kashmir melodies are not only confined to the region, some musicians and bands have taken it elsewhere as well.
Shah Basit Fazili, musician said that many folk and folk songs are about to spread, and the current generation has lost touch with it. The way of its revival was to add what young people like, mixing it with rock music.
Blood Rocks Band, Dying Breed, Parvaaz, Saim Bhat, Ali Saffudin, Saif Nazir, Faizan Showkat etc. were the first to give a blues touch to Sufi poetry. Saim Bhat, who made his Bollywood debut, did a rock version of Afsoos Duniya and Zamanai Pok Ni Humdum. Ali Saffudin made a rock version of Beshit Beshit Baero. The Parvaaz band made a rock version of Roz Roz.
“In the past, these songs were sung in every home. The verses were sung on a blues tempo. Artists did covers of Kashmiri Sufiana kalam. These cultural anthems have been represented internationally by these artists,” he said.
Basit, who owns a music studio by the name of Qalaam Musical Studio, said that with the emergence of musical groups, a band war took place in 2011 where different musical groups participated in order to raise people’s awareness of what is rock music.
“The artists have been on the scene for many years and their experience has played a big role in reviving Kashmiri music,” he said.
He added that despite the lack of infrastructure, artists have been able to make a name for themselves in the music industry. “Initially, due to a lack of studios, the artists recorded at home. They had to learn other skills needed to produce music, but with no options available, they did a good job,” he said.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Iqbal Shah found solace in Sarang and delight in poetry.
Originally from Anantnag, Iqbal was interested in folk music more than in his engineering studies, which he then abandoned halfway for the love of his musical instrument.
The area where he lives has always resounded with sufiana gatherings and spiritual music. He grew up watching his father perform Sarang in these gatherings and decided to carry on the legacy.
Iqbal has performed at various gatherings in and outside Kashmir, mesmerizing audiences with the soothing chords of Sarang. He has also collaborated with various Kashmiri artists to produce the hybrid musical style.
“My father learned from the maestros who played in the locality and I was inspired by him. He gave me a lesson and the knowledge that I acquired at that time, I still use it,” he said. -he declares.
Many local young people were inspired by him and joined him, which later took the form of a folk music group. “My family was initially worried about my career choice that I couldn’t make enough money, but seeing me perform with artists made them believe I could make a name for myself in the music industry. music,” he said.
For him, Kashmiri Sarang makes a soothing appeal. Kashmiri Sarang is a musical instrument made from mulberry or teak wood. Its size is smaller than that of Sarangi which is used to play Indian classical music.
For some time, he has been teaching a good number of students and hopes for the revival of the instrument.
“There is no good or bad in music. Music across the world has an essence and it speaks to the people, culture and tradition of a place. The same goes for our Kashmir folk music. The legendary artists of the past, despite having fewer resources to write the lyrics, created this treasure chest that we’re not supposed to avoid,” he said.
The attempt to revive the folk instrument did not end there. He has collaborated with other artists to create fusion folk songs so that people in his locality can listen and experience the same feeling they feel when performing a contemporary artist.
“The current generation is more inclined towards western music. We thought of using Western rhythms in order to bring back the culture of folk music. Adopting other music is not wrong. We should also learn other music while keeping our roots intact,” he said.
He believes there has been a revolution in the Kashmiri music industry since the fusion genre emerged. “It attracts young people. Today, folk songs have reached millions of views in one day which were once forgotten. I also brought innovation in my style of play so that it meets the needs of young people and my art has a new face,” he added.
His group has worked with artists like Ali Safuddin, Muneen and held events in several states including Mumbai and Delhi.
“I also like the jazz, trans, hip hop genre. If we stay only in folk, we won’t be able to explore other music. We have to keep up to date,” he said.
Owais, another member of the group, plays the traditional instrument nut- a large clay pot. He said the group had the chance to perform at events as well as with other artists, but the way to show their talent was still limited.
“The Internet is the only place to showcase our talent. The lack of concerts and gigs set the artist back. Folk artists who make theme songs or folk versions of viral songs get a lot of people’s attention. The internet has brought a revolution in the music industry,” he said.
He added that the music industry continues to evolve with every trend and artists try to make efforts to keep up with the trends while maintaining the roots.
“Now young people feel connected to the rich musical tradition. Hoping that we can survive and carry on the rich cultural heritage,” he said.