The Kashmir valley popularly known as ‘Paradise on Earth’ has a very rich cultural heritage and 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. Kashmiris have traditionally been great lovers of music. As the Kashmiri language does not have a script of its own, the culture and tradition of its music has been passed from generation to generation. Till date, no function or celebrations in Kashmir are considered complete without music. The social, cultural, economic and artistic life of the people of Kashmir has inspired many writers and researchers to choose varied subjects reflecting the cultural legacy of this pious land. There are archeological evidences, which point to the existence of singing and dancing in Kashmir. Some sculptures and even tiles excavated during Harwan excavations bear the pictures of dancing and singing Kashmiris including those of women dancing to the rhythmic beats of drums.
In the turbulent 1990s, the traditional Kashmiri music suffered a sharp decline owing to increasing acceptance of hardline Islamism which condemned music. This despite the fact that Kashmir has a rich historic traditions in the fields of music, dance, art, movie, theatre and painting.
The Music of Kashmir valley reflects a rich musical heritage and cultural legacy. Two different regions of Jammu and Kashmir, consists upper Jammu Division and Kashmir Valley. Music of Kashmir Valley is similar to Central Asian music. Chakri is one of the most popular types of traditional music played in Kashmir. Chakri is a responsorial song form with instrumental parts, and is played with the harmonium, rubab, sarangi, nout, geger, tumbaknar and chimta. It is performed in folk and religious spheres, both, by the Muslim and Hindu Kashmiris. Ladishah is one of the most important parts of the Kashmiri music tradition. Ladishah is a sarcastic form of singing. The songs are sung resonating to the social and political conditions in vogue and are utterly humorous. Generally during the harvesting period these Ladishah singers move from one village to another entertaining the villagers as they move on. Music has always been part of Kashmir’s cultural heritage – the region’s rich musical legacy includes folk ballads, Sufiyanah and devotional songs. In the turbulent 1990s, the traditional Kashmiri music suffered a sharp decline owing to increasing acceptance of hardline Islamism which condemned music. This despite the fact that Kashmir has a rich historic traditions in the fields of music, dance, art, movie, theatre and painting. The traditional Kashmiri ‘Sufi Kalam’, ‘rouf’ dance, vocal and instrumental music got a big impetus in the four decades following 1947. However, from 1990s onwards all of this came to an abrupt halt due to the terrorist diktats which added to the Kashmiri Muslim society getting into a regressive and inward looking shell.
While Kashmir has been a Muslim majority society for a long time, it was never an orthodox and conservative Muslim society. Songs, music and dance have been integral to the culture of Kashmiri Muslim society. Be it festivals, marriage or religious ceremonies, music is an inseparable part of Kashmiri cultural heritage. But since the rise of religious orthodoxy, these have come under increased scrutiny and criticism by religiously radical elements, who have declared music, songs, dance and almost every cultural activity “Un-Islamic”.
The culture of music started picking up again after 2005 in the Valley. While composing music was still seen as an act of rebellion, the infusion of Sufi elements and lyrics that chronicled stories of Kashmiri struggles lent music a new energy and identity that at once made it attractive to the youth. Bands started going underground sometime in 2012-13, both, due to lack of commercial opportunities and fear of getting targeted by the terrorists. Limited prospects of earning mainstream recognition and family pressures compelled even highly talented musicians to seek the stability of a government job, relegating music to a mere pastime. Another problem is paucity of funds. Independent artists need live events to find their moment of fame. But with almost all music concerts and competitions requiring a substantive amount of funding, most event managers found it hard to organize such events. This left the musicians with no reliable platforms. However, even though they don’t enjoy parental support or relatives making snide remarks about them, many of these musicians are determined to pursue music as a profession.
There exists a growing generation of young artists from the Valley who want to avoid the trappings of mainstream music. They don’t aspire for record deals or glossy, overproduced videos. They are happy being independent, underground artists producing songs that are intensely personal and consists of lyrics that articulate the feeling of living in ‘paradise on earth’. Now, Kashmir needs more such independent artists who can pitch in to revive the music. All Kashmiris have to support organising a music events which will aid in generating income and employment. Kashmiri sponsors need to come forward and take the initiative in sponsoring music festivals and events – because if we don’t then soon a day may come wherein there would be no trace of Kashmiri Music.