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Updated: September 5, 2013 09:23 IST

Music can’t be held hostage to politics, say Kashmir art promoters

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
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Zubin Mehta
Zubin Mehta

Kashmir’s top notch music composers and singers have lent their unqualified support to western classical music maestro Zubin Mehta’s concert Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, which is being organised by the German embassy at Shalimar Bagh on September 7.

In sharp contrast to hostile reactions in the Valley’s separatist camp, some of the most credible and representative voices in art and culture told The Hindu on Thursday that no kind of politics should hold the music hostage — more so in an embattled conflict zone.

While the organisers have been in liaison with Rehman Rahi, Bhajan Sopori and Masood Hussain — top ranking icons in poetry, music composition and fine arts respectively — most of the Valley’s promoters of art, including popular musicians and singers, are enthusiastically waiting for a ticket. The logo is a Masood Hussain creation.

“Holding the Bavarian State Orchestra show at Shalimar Bagh is a fantastic idea. It would be wonderful to watch Zubin Mehta, the heart-throb of millions across the globe, performing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Bruckner’s Eight Symphony, in the foothills of the picturesque Zabarvan overlooking the famous Dal Lake. Every Kashmiri will feel honoured when the show runs live on radio and TV channels across the globe,” said Farooq Nazki, a living encyclopaedia of art and literature.

Mr. Nazki’s memories are fresh from the exuberant musical shows held at Badamwari and Shalimar Bagh — Nishat Bagh since 1945. A Carl Duisberg fellow from Germany in radio and television broadcasting, Mr. Nazki is credited with having created hundreds of artists in All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan before his retirement in 1998. “Most of the icons from Digambar Paluskar to Ravi Shankar, Malika Pukhraj to Kishori Amonkar, Bismillah Khan to Zakir Khan have performed in Kashmir. Even before 1947,” he said.

Ghulam Mohammad Saznawaz, arguably the topmost icon of Sufiana music, said: “We welcome all the artists from India and abroad. I myself performed at Geneva, Zurich and other European cities 30 years back. But I would appreciate it only if the concert is strictly classical.” A Padma Shree and recipient of Sangeet Natak Academy awards, Mr. Saznawaz lives and teaches Sufiana at Safakadal, in the heart of downtown Srinagar.

Grandson of the legendary master Ghulam Mohammad Kaleenbaf, Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh figures among the AIR’s three top-grade composers in Kashmir, along with Mr. Saznawaz. Mr. Sheikh has the distinction of being the first maestro who trained someone outside the gharana.

“We welcome this classical orchestra from the depth of our heart,” said Mr. Sheikh, who has trained over 50 students, including 15 girls, in Sufiana — the first time in over 100 years.

Iconic Sufi poet Ahad Zargar’s son Khursheed Zargar, the patron of Ahad Zargar Memorial Research Foundation, echoed Mr. Saznawaz and Mr. Sheikh, but complained that the State and the Central governments had done “nothing to promote Kashmiri singers and musicians.”

“Our legendary female Chhakri singer Zoon Begum died as she didn’t have a Rs. 50 medicine[sic]. Others are living in total helplessness. We welcome this concert with the hope that it would shake the conscience of our cruel rulers and open their eyes,” he said.

Krishen Langoo, a top conductor who retired as J&K head of Song and Drama Division, and has been associated with the music section of Radio Kashmir since 1967, hailed Mr. Mehta as a “wizard of strings.”

“We are eagerly waiting for his show,” he said.

The most popular of the Kashmiri singers, Jehanara Janbaz, Gulzar Ahmad Ganai, Raashid Jehangir, Kifayat Faheem and Shahi Mumtaz, maintained invariably that Ehsaas-e-Kashmir would open “many new windows of opportunity and promotion” for Kashmir’s music and fine arts.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Zubin Mehta as an "Indian-American." He is, in fact, an Indian citizen.

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