Music in Kashmir
The tale of turmoil being told here originated in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It may be mentioned right here that the Kashmir valley is predominantly Muslim in faith whereas the Jammu region is dominated by Hindus. The Islam followed in the valley is a liberal one and may be seen under the influence of Sufi faith wherein music, including song and dance, has all along been predominant. In any case, music was never a taboo unlike what it was in Aurangzeb’s court in Mughal Delhi. The Sufi cult may share the credit of bringing in Islam into Kashmir valley and making it a religion of common man.
There have been a number of prominent Muslim ladies in Srinagar who composed poems, songs and sang them before mixed audiences too. There were over half a dozen Kashmiri women well versed in composing and singing songs before a large audience. Some of the prominent names handed down from generation to generation are: Lala Ded, Zoona Begum, Kailash Mehra and so on. Never was an eyebrow of a cleric raised against it nor was a fatwa or a religious decree ever issued, banning it. Things went ahead in a normal manner and music remained music all over the valley.
Let’s play pop
Music of any kind or any school was welcome to a group of Kashmiri Muslim girls and the rich musical history encouraged them beyond belief. They were bouncing like a ball when they took their teenage friends into confidence and made their plan public. Pragaash (first light) is the name of the rock band that they organized and put band instruments together. Their performances were appreciated by men and women. They made up their minds to participate in a competition of musical bands in the valley during one of the festivals.
Noma Nazir, vocalist guitarist, Farah Deeba, drummer and Aneeka Khalid, guitarist formed the band. They were all High School students, were soaring high like a blithe spirit when recognition came to them from the Kashmiri youth. The band was indeed not an anglicized one but had Kashmiri folk songs in their repertoire. Kashmiriyat was their backbone and that is why they were deeply disappointed when the Grand Mufti of Kashmir issued a fatwa, calling the musical outfit and their game plan of staging concerts as anti-Islam. The three girls, founding members of the only girls’ rock band in the Valley felt devastated. Their grand plans were torn into smithereens by an edict of the Grand Mufti.
Are the music loving youngsters scared of the grand Mufti’s edict? No, certainly not. Of course, there are reportedly forty music bands in the valley. They vouch for their normal practice on Sundays and Fridays without an element of fear. Both the boys and girls are confident that they would brave this storm and come out with flying colours. Indeed it is true that the girls’ band of rock music is non-functional temporarily after the issuance of the religious edict against them.
The bold girls should treat such passing phases as temporary phenomena and hope the dark clouds will be blown over with the advent of friendly clouds. The days of obscurantists are over. The days of modern youth are here. The Youth want change in every aspect of life in Kashmir and they say with youthful confidence:
We shall strive for a change and it will indeed be a change for the
Better, come rain, come shine
Change will come.