Kashmir’s New Age Singers Steal The Show

Greater Kashmir’s Senior Editor, Nazir Ganaie, talks to a few of these musical sensations and pens down their journeys of music and innovations.
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Representational Image GK Layout Desk

In the Himalayan region of Kashmir, scores of artists - especially musicians - are struggling to fulfill their dream of music helping meet their ends. However, many of them are trending and are stealing the show by continuing to produce unmatchable compositions.

Every region’s music is inspired by its rich ethnic culture. Similarly, Kashmir region, which shares a strong bond with Central Asia culturally also has a rich musical legacy. From Sufiyana to Chakkar, from light music to the current forms of music, various music genres have given Kashmir a distinct identity locally as well as globally.

“It’s good to have our young generation representing the art scene very well globally,” founder, Fankaar International, Asmat Ashai told Greater Kashmir

Ashai, who is currently stationed in Srinagar, says that her organisation has been organising several gigs and concerts for the local artists locally as well as in different states of the US.

“This not only allows Kashmiri diaspora to remain connected to their roots but also gives a wider platform for the budding artists of our times to take their music global,” she says. “The moment you listen to your music, it just brings mountains and valleys right into your heart.”

She says that Kashmiri women singers also have played a vital role in popularizing Kashmir’s genre of music.

Kashmir’s women singers have pushed the art of singing to new heights and are taking Kashmir’s different genres of music to the global stage. From Raj Begum, the nightingale of yesteryears, to Shazia Bashir, the filmy voice of current times, the women singers have sublimely sung Kashmir’s light music.

Shazia Bashir

Shaiza has created a strong fan base with her dazzling performances. Shazia Bashir, a remote south Kashmir girl—left formal education to be a student of music for the rest of her life. She started singing songs at a young age and her work was appreciated widely in Kashmir. Later, she started her singing career in 2007 with a TV show called Milay Sur of DD Kashir. Shazia was selected in Milay Sur in the first audition and with this opportunity she got very famous and developed more interest in singing. “Being the only female contestant in the TV show, I never expected that I would be the winner of that program which gave me confidence,” she says.

In 2007, Kashir channel of Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar introduced ‘Miley Sur’, a singing competition that eventually became the popular program and the most-watched show in Kashmir- mostly rural areas. The programme gave birth to a handful of young energetic artists, including this south Kashmir’s vocalist, who after a lot of struggle continues to give her power-pact performances in musical concerts in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

Bashir has achieved countless milestones and garnered accolades in her short span of musical career. Hailing from Achabal in south Kashmir’s Anantnag’s district, the ‘Milay Sur’ star has turned into a household name in light music singing across the valley. “I breathe music. Music makes me complete,” says Shazia Bashir, while singing Mastoor Tamlavith Kastoor Lagaw, a popular powerful song composed by noted singer and composer, Munir Ahmad Mir.

After gaining immense popularity in Kashmir as a vocal artist, she said she is out to become a ‘cultural ambassador’ for the State. Her talent has taken her to foreign countries including, United Kingdom, and she has travelled across India states to perform the Kashmiri light music.

“I was in London to participate in a concert. It was simply wonderful. The expatriate community applauded heartily to all my performances,” Shazia recalled.

She enjoys tremendous prowess in light music, ghazal genre, Sufi, hamud and naat.  Shazia, a young singer coming from a militancy infested Achabal area of south Kashmir, is the most sought-after singer of Pandit families living in Jammu camps, when she sings kirtan, Bhajan, Leela for them.

Rani Hazarika

Rani Hazarika, a Mumbai based artist is a powerful performer and a versatile Bollywood playback singer and an instrumentalist. Rani Hazarika, who is married to Kashmiri musician and composer, Jaan Nissar Lone, believes music has come as a ‘blessing’ to her. She says her father Late Rose Hazarika, a notable singer from Assam, was her first teacher and introduced her to music at a very tender age.

Her song, Salam-e-wazwani was an internet sensation. Under her label, AR Music International, she keeps producing several Kashmiri numbers.

 Aabha Hanjura

Aabha Hanjura from Hanjura area of central Kashmir’s district Budgam is a New Delhi based singer and songwriter. She is the founder and dynamic lead singer of the eclectic folk-pop band Sufistication who has broken all the stereotypes and stormed through the charts with her viral track Hukus Bukus which made its way into the famous web series The Family Man and has garnered over 3.7 million views on YouTube.

Sufistication is an eclectic folk pop band that aims to combine a myriad of musical influences, from traditional classical folk sufi qawalli & bhangra music  to contemporary pop & rock music.[1] The band is noted for promoting South East Asias multiculturalism, by paying tribute to age old poetry, stories & heritage.

 Popular for her unique brand of folk fusion music, Aabha Hanjura is hailed as a pioneer in Kashmiri Pop music.The singer songwriter & live performer sings in multiple languages like Hindi,Punjabi, Urdu, Kashmiri & Dogri and is widely acclaimed in the concert circuit for her fun, and floric colourful performances.With her Punjabi Folk pop and Sufi live project ‘Sufistication’,  she has performed at some of the biggest music festivals like JLF,Kutch Folk Festival(LLDC), Bollywood Music Project(Mumbai), IIFA, Coke Studio ,Rekhta & Punjabi music festival,Crossblade.Her viral track Hukus Bukus  made its way into the famous web series Family Man , and also garnered over 6 million views on YouTube. Her unique music can also be heard in Oscar-nominated director Ashwin Kumar’s film ‘No Fathers in Kashmir.’ Aabha is a vivacious, powerhouse, live performer and singer who aims to bridge the gap between traditional and modern-day music. As female artist Aabha has been widely recognised by prestigious awards like the ‘HER’ Music Award by We The Women Asia, Times Power Woman,by Times of India,50 game changer women in Indian Entertainment by Hungama, HER music, by IPRS & DOLBY, amongst many others.

‘New Age Singers’

These new age Kashmiri singers have not only explored their musical journey but they have also written a strong narrative that music and musical stories have their dedicated cliental.

Ali Saifuddin

Ali Saffudin is a singer-songwriter from Srinagar, Kashmir. He hails from Hassanabad area of Downtown, Srinagar. According to Ali, most of his work is inspired by poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mehjoor, among others. Ali became an internet hit popular in Kashmir for releasing songs that keep the language and cultural history of the region alive.  Some of his popular songs include Chol Homa Roshay, Subhik Waav, Zinde Rozni Bapath and others.

Mohammad Muneem Nazir

 Born 1983- raised in Srinagar, Kashmir, Mohammad Muneem Nazir, is a poet singer-songwriter and co-founder of the live act, Alif.  

Alif : writes music & poetry. Poignant to satirical, relevant & bold through its music poetry performance. Winner of IRAA Award for the single ‘’Like a Sufi’’, Mohammad Muneem’s Alif also won the eighth Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival for its Music video ‘Lalnawath’.

Alifs track katyu was featured in Imtiaz Ali’s laila majnu Mohammad Muneem is an adept film-maker and scriptwriter, he conceptualizes and directs Alif’s videos, playing various protagonist characters in the films/videos of Alif. 

Muneem has Written dialogues for a feature film “Torbaaz”, starring Sanjay Dutt. Alif just finished scoring and making songs for a feature film Directed by Shlok Sharma. Written by Shlok Sharma & Shilpa Shrivastava. Produced by Anurag Kashyap & Navin Shetty. 

Alif’s work and Mohammad Muneem shall be seen in Amazon Prime Series - Made in Heaven Season 2. Muneem’s Kashmiri poem “Korkun” has been published by seagull in their anthology book “Reclaiming Plurality Amid Hatred”

At present, Alif is working on the release of their second full length album “Siyah”. The first album “Sufayed” was released in 2017

Yawar Abdal

Yawar Abdal originally hails from Downtown Srinagar. His musical journey began at an early age. He used to write songs and practice all day to the imaginary tunes made in his mind. Inspired by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and music band Junoon, Abdal produced a single “Tamanna” released in the first week of June 2017. This became an instant hit on the internet. The multilingual song, sung in Kashmiri, Urdu and Persian is based on the poetry of three legendary poets: Mehjoor, Mirza Ghalib and Amir Khusrow are keeping him on the loop for listeners.

Ishfaq Kawa

Hailing from north Kashmir’s Bandipora area, Isfaq Kawa, with his humble attitude in personal professional life has come a long way. Kawa is blessed with a sweet, filmy voice and has been performing since childhood. Kawa decided to give singing a try only in 2015 when he received a standing ovation for his singing talent while working as a waiter in Hyderabad.

 Kawa’s friends say that his contribution includes recreating many popular Hindi songs in Kashmiri and recreating folk songs. He is one of the very few aspiring artists from Kashmir who’ve recreated folk songs using new-age methods and contemporary instruments. The young artist has performed in events in various cities, including Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, and Delhi. His songs have millions of views on social media platforms. A few of his famous songs include Asaw Gindaw, Bala Yara Hoo, and Nund Boun. Besides his music, Ishfaq likes to remain updated with the new fashion trends. Earlier, he released his first album in 2017. The album met with a tremendous response and helped him achieve fame as a singer.

  Rahul Wanchoo

A Kashmiri pandit, Rahul Wanchoo is one of the popular singers during the present time. Wanchoo loves to sing Kashmiri classics and Sufi, for which he has earned applause from the music lovers.  Few of his popular tracks include Be Aaro, Yeli Janaan ralem and Zamaan Kutah karaane gardish.


 Kabul Bukhari

Syed Kabul Bukhari is a well-known folk music singer from north Kashmir’s Karna area of Kupwara district. He studied at Srinagar and later shifted to Mumbai for Education in the field of Music. He is credited with creating and popularising the musical tradition of Kashmir around the entire globe. He usually sings accompanied by a native musical instrument resembling tongs like Tumbaknadi and Saz-e-Kashmir. His folk music is representative of the traditional folk heritage of Jammu and Kashmir.  He achieved immense fame on his YouTube Channel. Bukhari was a runner-up for Kashmir’s first-ever singing reality show, Miley Sur, in 2009-10. The show was themed to sing a Kashmiri along with a song from another language on every episode.

  Rasiq Khan

Rasiq Imtiyaz Khan hails from Gopalpora area of central Kashmir’s district Budgam. He is known for adopting ‘Sufi style’ in his music. Khan has a strong fan following among young generations and is producing several numbers with limited resources. Khan, who himself is a sound recordist, understands that Kashmir’s music industry needs an “overhaul”. He says “music to me never came by choice but it by fate when I was just 6 years old and I had heard legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab.”

“I kept hymning it then I got introduced to Ustad Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, a Sufiyan maestro. “All my teachers worked on several aspects of my music.” “We have limited resources around and when you have good friends around, good music is bound to happen.”

Waqar Khan

Waqar Khan was born in Karnah, in north Kashmir’s frontier Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. He is known for setting the stage on fire with his amazing performances. His stage presence has made him one of the most loved singers and performers of Jammu and Kashmir. He majorly sings in various languages like Urdu, Punjabi, Pahadi and Kashmiri. Waqar shot to fame in 2018 with his first hit” Kali Kali zulfoon.” Which garnered near about 4 Million Views on YouTube till now. Khan has recently been awathe rded ‘State Award’ the highest civilian award of the region for his art.

Arslan Nizami

Arslan Nizami hails from Nishat area of Srinagar. He has created his niche in recording Kashmiri songs with some new innovative musical treatment. He is the son of famous singer and composer, Qaisar Nizami. Arslan has an instant hit after his release of ‘Jaan Wandiyo’. His Instagram reels on various Kashmiri songs brought him immense traction—with people and listeners commending his efforts.

Ubaid Taj Beigh

Ubaid Taj Beigh comes from the summer capital, Srinagar. Beigh released his first song ‘Chale Chale’ which became an instant hit. Famous Bollywood actor, Raveena Tondon immediately took to Twitter, saying “loved it.” Baigh’s genre is known as ‘Kashur Reggeaton’. “I try to sing the day-to-day happenings in my songs,” he says.

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