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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



- Shubhada Dharwadkar
Suburban Echo, 4-10 January 1987

While the cold wind continues to blow from the distant Himalayas two youngVijay Malla musicians from Kashmir were in the suburbs recently, to warm the hearts of sub-urbanites. Anil Kaul, a tabla player and Vijay Malla, a ghazal singer gave a number of renditions at private and intimate gatherings.

Meeting them at their host Mr. Jamwal Shah's place in Santacruz West, I was caught off guard to see a young pair, for both are in their late twenties, which is not a great age for musicians. What struck me most was their courteousness and maturity. Both are residents of Srinagar and were in the city for nearly a month. They were here at the invitation of "Ornate Holiday Club."

In the last couple of days before their departure, Anil and Vijay gave a private performance to members of the "Ornate Club" - a crowd, which, in their words, "was the cream of those who appreciate ghazals." Speaking to ECHO a day before they presented this programme, both said they were slightly worried as to whether ghazal lovers in Bombay would appreciate them. "Initially, one is always a bit hesitant because one does not know the kind of audience that will be present. It is only after we have rendered a couple of numbers that artistes can gauge the kind of music that the audience will enjoy. Once you have caught the pulse of the audience, the self-confidence comes back," said Anil.

Vijay and Anil have both put in nearly two decades of learning classical music. They have been accompanying each other for close to 15 years and on the personal side, they are childhood chums. Both do not hail from musical families. Vijay's mother had a sweet voice in her youth and perhaps has passed this talent to her son. Today, he is a well-known radio artiste in Srinagar. Anil's father is a stage artiste. Even as a child Anil would play the tabla on anything he could lay his hands on - tables, stools, boxes and even dinner plates. He remembers that as a child he would play on the dinner plate while his mother prepared hot chappatis. But ghazal singing and playing the tabla are not popular forms of music in Kashmir. Besides, musicians and singers are looked down upon by the people. Hence, when they both started to learn music, it was dismissed as a childish fancy which they would soon outgrow.

But fancy it was not and once the family members realized this, they went all out to encourage their talented sons. When they started performing professionally, Anil and Vijay were given a cool reception by the public. But today, they have carved a niche for themselves in their state.

Anil and Vijay are not just singers but are working elsewhere too to earn their daily bread. Anil teaches classical music at the Institute of Music, Srinagar. This has been his Alma Mater, too. Vijay, on the other hand, is working for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Yet, they managed to do their daily "riyaaz" for 4-5 hours at a stretch. For this they have to be up at 5 in the morning. "But once we are in the field giving performances after performances, we have little time left for our practice. Then the recitals become our means of practice," said Vijay.

Just being good in their respective fields is not enough. Both have to be in complete harmony with each other so that their renditions become a whole and not a cacophany of tabla and vocals. What do they feel about the music scene of today, I wanted to know. "On the whole, the music scene appears good but one thing that we have found distasteful about many musicians is that they are addicted to either alcohol or drugs. They feel that it will improve their concentration and help them give a better performance. But nothing can be worse. I have started smoking because it is one of the reasons that gives voice depth and bass. I don't justify it, but the fact remains," said Vijay.

Bringing our chat to a close, I wanted to know what else goes on to give a musician his finesse? Pat came the reply from Anil: "Dedication, hardwork, and last but not the least, guidance from a good 'guru'. My gurus are Kishanlal Verma and Bipinchand Malviya. Vijay is learning under the tutelage of Ustad Rahat Ali Khan and Bhajanlal. With their blessings only can a musician forge ahead."

 Vijay Malla at a concert
Vijay Malla at a concert


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Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

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