Alif – a Kashmiri and Urdu music, poetry and performance band premiered a Kashmiri single ‘Ride Home’ on December 2. While the song will make you teary, the artists performing say there are underlying takeaways about the condition of artists in the valley and a message for Kashmiris to uplift each other.
Mohammad Muneer Nazir, a Kashmir based musician, poet, singer and songwriter, and member of music group based in Pune called Alif has gained popularity in and outside Kashmir over the years.
But many local artists with no knowledge about the technicalities remain unknown, with their art unexplored. One such artist Noor Mohammad from Handwara town in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir has been featured in the video.
The video starts with young man (Muneem), driving a car and an elderly man (Noor) standing on the road, waiting for a lift.
The man asking for the lift is Noor Mohammad, an artist from the valley who sings in Sufi Mehfils, weddings or performs on streets. With no Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube account, he remains unknown to the world.
“Where are you headed to Jinab,” asks Muneem to which the Noor holding a Rabab, a lute-like musical instrument originating from central Afghanistan says, “Home”.
“Let’s see where we reach,” says Muneem while Noor sits in his car.
Before the song starts, while the two converse, the frame points to two different generations of artists from the valley with more or less similar issues, with artistic fraternity lying in slumber.
They agree to the fact that earning a livelihood is very difficult for artists in the valley.
Muneem says he had seen Noor performing near a parking lot in a video on Youtube, around 6 years ago.
Later, he says, he had seen him in a live wedding video. “It was so sad. The artist of this calibre had no recognition,” says Muneem adding that he met Noor last year, only to discover that he was ‘too good, too raw and too naïve’, like many other unsung artists from the vale.
“He is so simple. Artists like him also get scared to talk. They think anything they say can get in their way of getting some work and this is all they know. They cannot take risks,” he says adding, “They (local old school artists) know nothing about copyrights, publishing rights or royalty which is something that can help artists to live off their art throughout their lives.”
“They sometimes get paid Rs. 5,000 or Rs 30,000 but their art is worth much more than that,” says Muneem.
With Muneem’s efforts and contacts, Noor had gotten to perform in Jodhpur in front of thousands of people.
“Among them, only two or three would understand Kashmiri but they all took the emotions well. Noor Sahab also got to perform with an international brand Balcony TV,” recalls Muneem who says that he is ‘half Noor Sahab’s age and experience’.
“Some people who curate music festivals asked me to recommend, and Noor Mohammad came to my mind. I knew how to get him on a bigger platform. And Alhamdulillah, I was able to do that. This also serves the bigger cause to revive Kashmiri art. By seeing us in one frame, people from both our generations will get curious and check our work,” says Muneem who pushes for “documentation of togetherness and artwork.”
While talking to Free Press Kashmir, Noor says he is a father of 5 sons and a daughter, and lives in a rented apartment, in Qamarwari, Srinagar.
Noor, who has an experience of performing Kashmiri songs for around 35 years, had realised that he wanted to pursue music while he was in his 3rd standard.
It motivated him to purchase a Kashmiri Naut, a percussion instrument. Mohammad Yusuf Shah, a local musician had noticed him. Impressed, he ended up training him.
“In one of the Sufi Mehfils of a Fakeer named Khan Pir Baba, Fakeer Samad had noticed him and asked him to sing. Noor had said that he cannot sing, and Samad Sahab had told him that he just needed to breathe and the rest shall happen,” says Muneem while sharing Noor’s story.
People call him to perform in Sufi Mehfils or at weddings, where he goes with his team of 5.
While he says people appreciate the art, Muneem says, “People disrespect the art. They keep walking or eating around while he performs. Listeners are important for an artist and when they don’t listen to you carefully, the art starts breathing its last.”
Regarding the video, Noor says, “it was a great experience working with Alif. At all these platforms in Jodhpur or with Alif, we were appreciated. All have seen the video and are really happy to see me there.”
Noor also says that the Kashmir conflict has made art to suffer. “Earlier when the situation was not so volatile in Kashmir, people would call us frequently. Now it has affected our art.”
Noor’s message to Kashmiris is: “Keep the art, new or old, alive in this land of Sufis.”
It had taken the team around 3 months to make the audio. The video has been shot on Ganderbal Highway. Grateful for the menial earnings, he says, “ThankGod, we get our Haakh Bat-e (daily meals)”.
“So many artists have been lost in time,” says Noor who in the video sings a song about mother with its poetry written by Anjan Kashmiri and Mohammad Muneem. Muneem has written poetry verses ‘Lakcharuk Matsarr Myon…’, and has also incorporated Kashmiri folklore ‘Bishti Bishti Byaro’ in the song.
On their way, they give lifts to other people heading North, asking for a lift and headed ‘Home’.
In the end, Muneem sings, “Mat Gase Zaaye” (Don’t get wasted). According to him, the song is not only about mother in general but also about Kashmir as a mother to all its people.
“It is about who you consider as your mother. It can be your mother or your nation: Kashmir. A mother often tells us that she is worried about us and doesn’t want us to get wasted. We are all emotional about Kashmir. Don’t waste yourself. If you have a skill, use it, help others. That is why I sing Mat Gase Zaaye,” says Muneem who at the end of the video can be seen seeing himself on the road holding a banner “LIFT to KASHMIR.”
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