Unchained melody

The adage ‘music can build bridges’ has been proven by singers from two Indian regions of Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir.

While Marathi songs are sung by Kashmiri singer Shamima Akhtar, her counterpart Pranjali Newaskar has lent her voice to the popular Kashmiri prayer and lyrics written by Ghulam Ahmed ‘Mahjoor’, the famous Kashmiri poet (11 Aug 1887 – 9 April 1952).

Newaskar has sung the famous Kashmiri prayer ‘Sahibo’ penned by Mehjoor, which is sung daily by Kashmiri children in school. Another famous song by the poet ‘Haa Gulo’, which is apparently a romantic, longing song but has hidden spiritual meaning.

However, she has also sung a Kashmiri version of the famous Marathi song ‘Pasaydan’ written by the 13th century Marathi poet Sant Dnyaneshwar, which is a prayer seeking peace and harmony for the entire humanity.

In an interview with Shirish Shinde, Pranjali Newaskar spoke about her experience of singing Kashmiri songs. “I liked this concept of singers from two different states singing songs such as Shamima Akhtar in Marathi and I would sing in Kashmiri. This is a good medium to bring people from two different States together. It will contribute to national integration,” said Newaskar.

How did she learn Kashmiri? “First of all, I listened to the songs repeatedly and wrote them down in Devnagari. Then I recorded the songs in my voice and sent them to native Kashmiris in Pune to suggest corrections such as proper pronunciations. Later, I started learning the basics of the language. I understood the lyrics, words and their meanings, which not only helped me in singing but also to express the feelings and emotions behind them. It is a tough language to learn,” said the Marathi singer.

What impressions she had about Kashmir and Kashmiris during the project? “I really knew nothing about Kashmiris, their nature, etc. But when I started singing Kashmiri songs and learning about their culture, it was a nice experience. The first Kashmiri I came in contact with singer Shamima ji. Her songs are loved by lakhs of people around the world. However, she always helped me while singing Kashmiri songs. She made me feel at home while singing. What I liked about her most is that she always thought that it was her own work,” said Newaskar.

Did she relive or her songs helped spread the sentiment of ‘unity in diversity’? “We say ‘All Indians are one people’ but while doing this project, I truly experienced this sentiment,” she said.

Does she have plans to sing more Kashmiri songs? “Yes,” said the singer, and added: “My first song ‘Sahibo’ written by Mehjoor ji was a hit as all schoolchildren sing this prayer in school. It is very famous among the Kashmiris. Hence, we decided to make a series of Mehjoor ji’s songs. We are working on the same.”

Who taught her singing? “My guru in classical music is Makarand Hingane. My family also has a classical singing background. My grandmother had a beautiful voice. My father likes singing while my elder sister used to learn classical music during our childhood. I started learning singing when I was eight years old,” said Newaskar. Who is her favourite singer or music composer? “Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosale and Shreya Ghoshal are my favourites,” she said