Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Kashmiri Pandits and Music

by Onkar Aima

[Onkar Aima, himself an active innovator in performing arts, whose contribution to Kashmiri Drama and Music is remarkable, has put on focus Kashmiri Pandits' contribution to the Kashmiri Music and has traced the deep roots of Kashmiri Music to 'Samveda' and to the historical records of Kalhan's Rajtarangini. Aima is from the Film Industry and is presently a governing body member of the Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Bombay - Editor.]

It is the need of the time to remind ourselves that Kashmir has a very rich cultural heritage and Kashmiri Pandits have contributed a lot in sustaining it, reviving it and developing it. Kashmir has been a grand arena of arts. There have been poets, dancers, writers, dramatists and musicians, who have attained glory in the literary and art world.

In music world, Kashmiri Pandits, from time to time, have contributed a lot to bring music of Kashmir to a more advanced and organised state. Their achievements have been remarkable and to talk about these achievements of past, gives a sense of pride and pleasure - rejuvenates the spirit.

Kashmiri Music has the distinction and fascinating pattern of its ragas. There is hardly any solo music, it being chiefly sung in chorus. Kashmiri music as we hear it today, is the result of curious mixture of many an influence, under different eras. Yet "Kashmiri WANWUN" (Wanwun hur), which appears to be an adaptation of 'ALAP' - 'Vedic chants of Samveda - has not been altered in the least. Likewise "CHHAKRI" seems to have ancient origin. As per Kalhan's Rajtarangini, it can be traced down to 12th Century A.D.

In ancient Kashmir, like other arts, music thrived under the patronage of kings. In Kalhana' s Rajtarangini - chronicle of kings of Kashmir - the first reference is about King Jalanka. He was a great lover of music. He maintained musicians. Mamma, blind musician, was employed to play music at the time of tantric worship. Next references to music are found in the time of King Lalitaditya. Alberuni mentions that great musical festival was held on second of Chet to celebrate the victory of King Lalitaditya over the Tibetans.

Rajtarangini supplies several clues to the development of music of Kashmir. In fact no student of music and dance can ignore the commentaries on Bharata's "Natya Shastra and original works of Udbhatt, Lollapata and Sankuka. Large number of young musicians have been benefited from the guidance of Bharata.

In 'History of Kashmir' by P.N.K. Bamzai, we read that King Kalasa, created taste for light Kashmiri music. His son Harsa, maintained large establishment of musicians and was himself a singer. He taught music to his courtier "Kanaka" - uncle of Kalhana, the historian. Bhimanayoka was a great musician of this time.

The instruments during this time were mostly flute, drum, lute, conch and cymbals. There is also mention of hudukka - sort of bagpipe. It is also mentioned in History of Kashmir by Bamzai that Bhiksacara, who occupied the throne for few months, indulged in playing music on earthen pots and on brass vessels.

During medieval Kashmir 1339 to 1819 A.D. - Muslim era - Zain-ul-abidin, Sultan Shah and Hassan Shah were great lovers of music. According to Srivara, author of Zaina Rajatarangini, musical festivals used to be held in Kashmir. It is during this time that Raja of Gwalior sent all standard books on Indian music, which influenced Kashmiri music. Srivara was also a reputed musician and rose to be the head of music department in King Hassan Shah's reign and did lot of service to Kashmiri music. King Hassan Shah also introduced Rabab - Persian musical instrument - to Kashmiri music. Even during this Muslim era, there were eminent and talented musicians like Sooni Bhat, Shridhar Bhat, Ajodya Bhat and Kshakara who developed Kashmiri music. It is because of their efforts that Kashmiri music shows stray resemblance to Indian and Persian music.

It was after the downfall of Chak dynasty that the music of Kashmir reeeived a setback. Kashmir after this started loosing art and cultural heritage. But music was kept alive by the genius and interest of individuals. It withstood storm, tyranny and barbarity.

Arnimal, in her own way, kept the music of Kashmir alive. It is said that Zutshi of Safa Kadal used to have regular musical "Mahfils" in his house. He, it is said, sold his large lengthwise-house by Taks (lengthwise) to continue with his musical "Mahfils" to keep the music of Kashmir alive.

Regarding recent past the names of musicians which come to mind and which I can recollect starts with Ved Lal Vakil, a great lover of music, who helped sustaining Kashmiri music. Amongst others, he taught and trained his two daughters and a son. His two daughters, Rageshwari and Jaijayvanti have made their own mark in the field of music. In early forties, a group of musicians, headed by Prem Nath Chatu, included Sarvanand, R.K. Channa, Wanchu and Mohanlal Aima. They toured villages and sang in towns and would have long musical sittings. Prem Nath Chatu later joined Radio Kashmir.

The contribution of Shamboo Nath Sopori and late Mohanlal Aima to music of Kashmir is quite enormous. The former ran a very successful academy. He taught and produced noted musicians. The latter revolutionized the Kashmiri folk music and gave it a fantastic texture and world appeal. His LP - Kashmiri rhythms and melodies - are still available abroad. He gave music to Pamposh - a short film about Kashmir and first Kashmiri film - MAINZIRAAT-which won President's Silver medal. Pandit Jagan Nath Sheopuri also holds a special place in present day musicians. He is doing a lot of service to Kashmiri music. He is doing special work on Sofiana music. 30 Bolas of Sofiana music have been transferred to notation and a book "Sofiana Kalam Kay Sargam" has been written under his guidence. One cannot overlook the contribution of Sat Lal Saytari, Ramkishen Chakkri, and Gopinath Bhat (Bacha), in their own style. In later age, Gopinath would only sing the Sufi poets.

Because of Radio Kashmir, lot of musicians came into the forefront. Nirmala Chutu was one amongst them, who sang for "Mainziraat". Onkar Raina along with well qualified musician Usha Bhagati are doing service to Kashmiri music. Amongst the latest musicians Bhajan Sopori holds a respectable position. He is a noted composer and is giving new dimensions to Kashmiri music. Along with him Kakaji Safaya, who was running an Academy in Srinagar till he was there, and Krishen Langoo are doing a lot to develop the music of Kashmir. All the three have taught a large number of persons. Bhajan Sopori and Krishen Langoo are recent trend setters of Kashmiri music and have successfully composed music for many T.V. Serials.

Today, when Kashmiri Pandits are in a helpless state, living under torn and tattered tents, in rickety camps, in shabby rooms and in vacated stables, mostly in and around Jammu, in Delhi and in other parts of the country, the recent lot of musicians are still active and their spirits have not darnpened. Rajendra Kachru, Arti Tikku, Kailash Mehra, Rita Koul, Neerja Pandit and Prerna Jailkhani are doing notable work and are keeping the music of Kashmir alive. Yet there are many more. It is difficult to keep track of all new musicians yet one cannot forget the names of Basanti Raina, Kiran Koul, Asha Koul, Lovely Chandra, Sunaina Koul, Dhananjay Koul, Neena Kapoor, Mamta Raina, Amarnath, Sushma Kala, Neena Sapru, Veena Koul Jalali, Shuhul Koul and others. Wherever they are, they are sustaining and serving the music of Kashmir in one form or the other. While they are serving music, they, in turn are being served by music. Music gives them strength and will to face the recent calamity, in calm. These dedicated musicians are giving meaning to life. Through music they are keeping the spirits of Biradari and spirits of those who had to run away from their land, high. They are imparting strength to them to put determined rebuff to the life and to the present circumstances in a heroic manner.

According to BHARATA - the author of 'Natya Shastra' - the aim of music is to express feeling and thought. The present lot of musicians express the feelings and thoughts of hometorn people in an innovative fashion, where words might differ, the pattern may not be the same, the composition might vary but the sound-the meaning-the design is the same-Live for Maej KASHEER and burning urge to go back to their homes with dignity and grace. They provide food for our spirit - elevate us - transport us to the world of tomorrow as the great poet Nadim has said:

"Me Chham aash pagahuch
Pagaah sholi duniyaah"
(I hope for tomorrow
When the world will be beautiful).
That is Music - food for spirit - transport to a beautiful world.


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