Our New Cultural Ambassadors

Having watched some of these artistslive and many of them on the small screen, it will require a connoisseur of music to evaluate them critically. Nonetheless, I see most of them as ambassadors of our Kashmir’s culture for outside.
Our New Cultural Ambassadors
Representational pic

Like many others in my tribe; opinion writers and columnists, guided by screaming headlines I am also oblivious to the world of our youth. That there is a strong undercurrent in a whole generation of our youth to use music,  arts, literature, theatre and modern mediums like Instagram and YouTube for telling their stories, and articulating their pain and agony. I understood it first time some six years back. Nevertheless, it was just a couple of months back, I realised the power and reach of the mediums chosen bya lot of youth for expressing themselves and articulating their stories when I watched some songs in mother tongue on the YouTube- watched and liked by millionsof youth, something unimaginable in the past.

Our land has had a strong tradition of street plays. And artist acting in these plays expressed their angst and anguish against the ruler and his bad governance and by lampooning their courtiers and courtesans they made their audience laugh and purge their feelings. 

The street theatre died after 1947,  nonetheless in the fifties and early sixties, the troubadours, with an iron rod and rings went from door to door, or a street singers with his tin cone sang songs in the lanes and by-lanes giving expression to the concerns of people about social issues.The also sang about disgusting politics of carrot and sticks- with thugs and hoodlums ruling the roost. The state came up with the mega shows of folk music and dances to counter these feeble voluntary voices of troubadours and street singers. Some of the pictures of those times show none less than Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, participated in these shows.  In one of the photographs that had some time back gone viral on social media Jawaharlal Nehru is seen amidst Kashmir, with Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbalal, playing on Santoor. Nonetheless, the 1964 Holy Relic Movement took a toll of a whole decade of stick and carrot politics and along with died using musical festival and cultural carnivals for dissuading the people from the politics that not only has embroiled the state but the entire region. 

Many decades after, in September 2007 once again a mega musical event- Zubin Mehta's musical concert was organised in Srinagar. In the world of music Zubin Mehta, an Indian conductor of Western and Eastern classical music is a big name having the largest fan club. The timing, the events during the preceding months, suggested that the concert was arranged for sending a political message across the world about Kashmir- that everything was hunky-dory in the troubled state.Telecast from all the international television channels across the globe the musical event brought Kashmir into international focus for the day. Many channels also carried reports about the ground situation and public perceptions about it, if it had strengthened the state narrative or not, is not subject of this column.

Nevertheless, for me, it had opened portals to the world of younger generations of Kashmir, beyond the newspaper headlines. The event had inspired a parallelconcert "Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir" (the reality of Kashmiron the same day- for the huge participation of youth, it was an occasion of the third generation of Kashmir. This unique combination of folk, music, dramas and poetry spoke about the alternative mediums the new generations have chosen course telling the stories of their land. The performance by two school going rappers Saif and Fahid from the old city telling their story through their rapid word, rhythm and action that even a thousand words cannot narrate, is still etched on my memory. 

Since 2010, song 'I Protest" by young rapper Roushan Illahi, of MC Kash, for its popularity and winning millions of fans in the world, some youth have taken to music. Some of them are three –in- one; songwriters, composers and singers. The song 'I protest', seen as a paradigm shift in 'the youth resistance' had featured on some international television channels. Interestingly it has been removed from the YouTube, and the message reads:  "The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences."  Nevertheless, the MC Kash, was a trendsetter, since then the new music of Kashmir has graduated from one level to another, it is not only music, songs and compositions that keep the young and glued to the small screens but some of them excel in cinematography. These songs filmed against the scenicbeauty of the land and eerie shots can win lots of lovers for Kashmiri music. Most of the youth, who have taken to music are professionals with good academic background and curriculum vitae. Some of them are a brilliant student, expressing love for their land through good poetry and soul-stirring music. Instead of remaining stuck up in the folk tunes and traditional instruments this new generation of musicians and singers have selected fusion- a mix of Kashmiri, oriental and English as their medium. Through innovations, some of them have breathed new life in the traditional forms and made the traditional Koshur music favouritein the young generation. Some time back, a British-Kashmir sharing his experience rightly observed that the fusion was the best genre to take Kashmir songs and music- of course, the message to the international audience.

During the past eight years, hundreds of songs sung by these young singers been, put to music have beenuploaded on the YouTube and other channels. Some of them, who performed abroad at public places like Hyde Park in London to international gatherings, not only enthralled the audience but very subtly narrated the story of their land.  Having watched some of these artistslive and many of them on the small screen, it will require a connoisseur of music to evaluate them critically. Nonetheless, I see most of them as ambassadors of our Kashmir's culture for outside.  

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