Mainstreaming folk music in Kashmir: Radio Mirchi starts Corridor 983 series 

Srinagar: Amid uncertainty and hopelessness for Kashmiri artists, Radio Mirchi (RM) 98.3 FM’s Corridor 983 series is a silver lining for the artists thinking about switching to other professions. The series aims at promoting the music of home-grown talent here.

Four months after RM 98.3 FM launched its station in Jammu and Kashmir, the team through social media and recommendations has started to work on locating the undiscovered and unsung talent from Kashmir. For the series, the local musicians were approached, curated and recorded in RM’s corridor, in a multi-camera setup. The episodes will be run weekly for a month.

“With permission from our Delhi office, we have started the series specific to and in Kashmir. We worked for it on our off days. We want the art to be good. There are many artists in Kashmir but they don’t know how to market their art. This series will be a launching pad for the artists of Kashmir people don’t know about,” says Anees Zargar, Programmer at RM.

The first episode of the series is a song featuring a band named “Azaad Parinday” comprising the trio Iqbal Shah and brothers Numan and Furqan Baba. Other artists whose programmes would be run in the series are Nargis Khatoon, Ambreen Hakani, Harkishan Singh Sanam and Umar Majeed.

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Iqbal, 30, is a Sarangi player following the tracks of his father Nazir Ahmad Shah, also a Sarangi player, a resident of Anchidora Anantnag.

“I would attend Sufi Mehfils. My father would also make Sarangi. I loved the sound of it and requested him to teach me once. He agreed after 3 long years. He taught me basics for 5 to 10 minutes and that’s what I am holding onto for more than 10 years now,” says Iqbal with a Sarangi made and gifted to him by his father. Iqbal says he would love dancing and once went to teach at Froebel Public School in Anantnag. The school was run by Numan and Furqan’s father who became Iqbal’s friend. He would often visit his home and see Numan playing music.”

Numan, in his 20’s, is pursuing Bachelor’s in Music from Kashmir University. He plays Sitar and Rabab. “My father had gifted me a keyboard in my childhood. I fell in love with it. I would learn from my school teacher and in my late teens, I accessed video lessons posted online,” he says.

Following his footsteps, Furqan, 17, a 12 standard student began playing music out of curiosity. “I would play side drums in Froebel Public School. It helps me to express myself. I also play Kashmiri traditional music on Not (pot),” says Furqan.

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While the trio is all praises for local Kashmiri artists especially Ali Saifuddin who they say “taught them a lot”, they have faced rejection for playing Fusion Music.

“We play the fusion of Kashmiri and western music. The western part sometimes turns people off but its nothing to hate. Music is music. It’s one language, no matter how you play it,” says Iqbal.

They are of the belief that with the fusion of traditional Kashmiri music with Western music, more young Kashmiri are keen to hear the poetry of Kashmiris.

The trio was excited to work with RM and feels like “this is the beginning”. However, they also say the profession is not fetching them enough money to sustain themselves or buy equipment.

“Iqbal somehow made a mike from a telephone receiver. This is how we do Jugaad. We don’t have enough money. So, sometimes, we think about switching,” says Numan.

Adding to Numan’s views, Iqbal says, “When you don’t even have 10 paise in your pocket, that is a reality check. I have a shop where I sell electronics. For 3 months, I did not work there but I might have to just sell electronics if this profession does not fetch me enough to sustain.”

Medical Dukaan Gasi Ne Pyun Travun (We should not be left to open a medical shop),” adds Furqan.

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