The legend will live through his songs
Remembering Vijay Malla
MAJID MAQBOOL AND MUHAMMAD TAHIR LOOK BACK AT THE LEGACY AND THE TRAIL OF MEMORIES THE GREAT SINGER HAS LEFT BEHIND HIM.
Renowned Kashmiri singer Vijay Kumar Malla, who passed away on May 9 after suffering from a heart attack at his residence in Jammu, was a household name in the valley. In his signature voice he had perfected the art of soulful singing. Even after migrating to Jammu in the early 90s, Malla remained closely connected to his roots in the valley. Migration did not affect his affection for Kashmir or Kashmiris. He frequently visited the valley, and over the years continued to inspire and encourage a new breed of young Kashmiri singers. The songs he soulfully sang leave behind an immortal legacy.
Inclined towards classical music from an early age, Malla rigorously trained himself at Prem Sangeet Niketan in Habba Kadal. He learnt the nuances of classical music from stalwarts like Ustad Jagan Nath Sopori, Kishenji, Bajan Sopori, Nasrullah Khan, Muhammad Ashraf and B.K Shair.
Youngest among three brothers and a sister, Vijay was born on February 7, 1956 at Habbakadal. He graduated from S.P College Srinagar. In the summer of 1982 he got appointed in Song and Drama Division in Jammu. When turmoil started in the valley, he left his Chandpora residence in Habbakadal and migrated to Jammu, where he lived till his death. In between, he also lived in Mumbai for three years in the eighties, working with many leading singers of Indian film industry.
In his short but illustrious career Malla sang over 200 Kashmiri songs, and came to be popularly known as ‘Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali of Kashmir’. Malla sung popular and iconic Kashmiri songs like “Zindah Rozanh Baapat Chhi Mraan Lukh…,” which in particular summed up the tragedy of Kashmir.
The sudden death of Vijay Malla has left behind a trail of memories. His admirers, both in and outside the valley, are shocked at the untimely departure of a soulful voice. The Kashmiri musicians and singers who knew him closely are unanimous in saying that he touched their lives in many ways, and left a deep imprint. The vacuum created in the absence of his soulful voice, they say, is difficult to fill.
Recalling his association with Vijay Malla, Muhammad Shafi Malik, a light music singer, says once he accompanied legendary Kashmiri singer Ghulam Hasan Sofi to Uttar Pradesh, where they were invited by a private music producer. While staying in Jammu, Sofi took him to Vijay Mala’s office in Janipore. But he was in the hospital as his wife was in labor. “On hearing that Sofi sahab has come to visit him in his office, he left the hospital at once and made it a point to meet Sofi Sahab first,” recalls Shafi. “Then he requested Sofi Sahab to sing a song or two for him.”
Sharing another anecdote, Malik says once Ashraf Sahab, the legendary Kashmiri composer, had composed some tunes for Malla. But he did not like them. So after having tea, he composed a different tune and showed it to the singer. On hearing the new tune, Malik recalls, Malla enthusiastically said, ‘That is what I was looking for!” Malla always emphasized on the quality of singing.
Remembering his intimate association with the singer, renowned music director Kishen Langoo says in a broken voice: “he was the Gash Taruk (the bright star), whom we have lost forever.” Another prominent Kashmiri singer Waheed Jeelani recalls how after listening to his singing for the first time Vijay Malla kissed his hands and forehead in appreciation. “He would always appreciate young artists,” says Jeelani.
“As an artist I have been listening to his music since I began my career,” says Deepali Watal, another young Kashmiri singer. “And when I started my career he became my inspiration”. She recounted how once when she went to meet him at his rented residence in Jammu and sang one of his songs before him. “I didn’t know that the song I was singing was also sung by him,” she says. “As I was singing he took to the tabla and began playing it on his bed.”
Deepali rues the fact that State Government did not even confer Vijay Malla with any state award during his lifetime. “Awards were given to many people of less stature than him,” she laments. “He had grown depressed and confined himself in his room in Jammu because he felt that his own people had forgotten him”.
Kashmiri singer Qazi Rafi remembers the day many years ago when he met Vijay Malla for the first time at Radio Jammu. “I was singing my song and he was waiting outside the studio,” he recalls. “He appreciated my singing and gave me some tips as well.” Qazi says there was no politics in his art. “He was a pure artist, who was only confined to his art”.
Malla was also known for his efforts to revive the culture of Kashmiri Ghazals. “No one could render a Kashmiri song in ghazal form like Vijay Malla did,” says Kashmiri singer Ajaz Rah. “His was a gifted voice.”
Kifayat Faheem, one of the best contemporary classical singers of Kashmir, recalls meeting Vijay Malla for the first time in 2005. “He asked me to sing something which I did,” he says. While he was singing, Vijay Malla could figure out a problem of sinusitis in him, which had once affected him as well. “He gave me his wife’s phone number and told me to consult her on how to cure this problem as she had helped him to overcome the problem,” says Kifayat. Unfortunately, he says, people forget such great artists and their families soon after their death.
At his erstwhile residence in Chandpora, Habbakadal, where Vijay Malla grew up, his neighbors and childhood friends fondly recall his passion for music from an early age. Lovingly called Vij bhai by his neighbors and friends, he had an infectious enthusiasm for music. He would even sing while travelling in a bus. He could extract music out of a wooden plank or a window.
When his neighborhood in Habbakadal came to know about his sudden death, a deluge of memories of his life spent there rushed back. Like a melodious musical note, he touched the hearts of everyone he came across. Muhammad Rafiq Bhat, 38, the immediate neighbor and childhood friend of Vijay Malla, was in Islamabad when he heard the news of his sudden demise. “I rang up his phone; it was picked up by his daughter in Jammu who was crying. I could not gather myself to say anything and I simply hung up the phone,” Rafiq says in a room next to the old house of Malla. In their old city neighborhood the houses are adorned with exquisitely designed wooden windows. The houses are intimately stacked against each other. He says Malla was the best neighbor anyone would ever wish for.
Rafiq fondly remembers Malla’s passion for music right from his childhood days in his neighborhood. “We would always find him tapping the wooden windows of his house and he would always be seen practicing singing,” he recalls. “In his room on the third floor he would do riyas on his harmonium all day,” he says. “He used to gather his neighborhood friends and sing before them.”
Rafiq’s old mother says Malla was a Milan Saar person. His cheerful persona endeared him to everyone in his neighborhood. “He would come to our house and ask what have we prepared for meals today,” she says. “Whenever he would go to bathroom, he used to take his transistor along,” she recalls his love for music with a smile. “He was like my own awlaad (son); one hardly finds such people these days,” she laments.
“Whenever we would see him on T.V or hear his voice on radio, we would leave everything aside and listen to him first,” says another neighbor, whose entire family could not have dinner after they heard about his death. “We will miss our Vije,” he says.
The 55-year old singer is survived by his wife Renu Malla, 23-year-old son, and a 17-year old daughter.
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Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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