‘My people didn’t recognise my talent’: In conversation with Qaiser Nizami

His possible big break in the global musical award show—where icons and cults annually lock horns over the gold—might be on the cards, but musician Qaiser Nizami is feeling a letdown over the “lukewarm” local response.

He’s voicing blues at a time when a glimmer of Grammy is already making him the talk of the town.

“It’s very unfortunate that despite talent, Kashmir lacks a platform,” the musician says. “You can see how the cultural academies are headed by bureaucrats which should be managed by artists only.”

An artist, he argues, knows how to engage and who to engage, so that the deserving one sets the stage. “I believe poor politics and bureaucracy have ruined this industry.”

Music might be subject elsewhere, but in Kashmir, he says, it’s still limited to marriages and “Chakir”.
In the backdrop of his global limelight, the musician talks about the Kashmiri Music and its myriad maladies.

Never had any Kashmiri achieved this global recognition, how do you feel about it?

I feel good and sad at the same time — because while foreigners recognized my talent, my people didn’t.

Why is it so?

Well, the problem is that we don’t have a platform in Kashmir.

Some days back, the Tourism Department organized a musical concert based on Kashmir Sufism. But instead of local artists, performers from Delhi were called for the event.

Kashmir artists have been lacking the recognition from decades.

Coming back to your global performance with Persian singer Ehsan Matoori, did you observe any similarities between Persian and Kashmiri music?

When Shah-e-Hamdan came to Kashmir, he brought Persian culture along with the religion of peace. I’ve myself observed how Kashmiri culture is mostly influenced by Iran, be it musical instruments or poetic words.

Even the Kashmiri instrument ‘Saaz-e-Kashmir’ is an important instrument in Iran, played there more often than in the valley.

OK, so what’s it that inspires you as a Kashmiri artist?

Seeking spirituality within Sufism is my inspiration. I see Sufism as guidance to art. As I sing, I make sure that my heart beats within.

Since my childhood itself, I’ve been deep into Kashmir music. And the more I grew, the more I learned that

I’m a born artist. It either comes with hereditary or as a natural gift.

My father was a well-known broadcaster and had studied Music as a subject and it was he who taught me the essence of Music at the age of 8.

Tell us more about this Iran and Iran-e-Sageer collaboration which is likely to become your ticket to Grammy?

I was called by University of North Texas as an expert on Kashmir Music and Poetry last year. But due to Covid lockdown, the programme was conducted virtually.

That’s how I saw Iranian composer Ahsan Matoori before we met regularly and became good friends.

One day while sitting in a café in US, he asked me to sing in Kashmir language. I sang Naazninay and he jumped in joy. He decided to mix Iranian and Kashmir poetry as one song and named Iranian singer Ali Raza Korbani for Persian part and I for Kashmir part. I understood that he was very impressed by Kashmiri melody.

But back then, the situation was not good in America. New York City was under high alert but Ehsan ensured

that the song gets recorded as soon as possible.

What’s the whole theme of this song that has nearly been put up in Grammy race?

Well, Nāzninay is a story of love, loss and longing, built and based on the lyrics of two songs: Ibrahim Miskeen’s “Pur Mah” (Full Moon) in Kashmiri, and the late Iranian poet Fereydoon Moshiri’s “Beneshin Mara” (Stay With Me) in Farsi.

While the Persian part talks about love and loss, the Kashmir part answers with longing.

It was part of the project called “Voices and Bridges”—meant to bring different cultures together. But since Nāznīnay is a common word in both Farsi and Kashmiri poetic diction (used to refer to the “beloved”), I was more influenced with Persian culture because I could relate with it very easily.

But had you ever dreamt to have earned this global achievement?

I’ve always set my standards high. Before this I’ve shared a stage with Ghazal maestro, Jagit Singh. I never believed that an artist should sit in a park and sing lifelessly. It’s like worship, a salvation, before you begin and merge into its ether.

And when it’s about Kashmiri Music, it means everything for me. It’s altogether a different pride when you see Kashmir being represented on global stage.

Are there any plans for recording more songs with foreign artists?

If Covid ends, and if offered, I will never say no to such platforms.

Where do you see Kashmir’s Musical Industry going?

It’s very unfortunate that despite Kashmir full of talent, the region lacks a platform. You can see how the cultural academies are headed by bureaucrats which should be managed by artists only.

An artist knows how to engage and who to engage, so that the deserving one sets the stage. I believe poor politics and bureaucracy have ruined this industry.

I feel ashamed when I see how some so-called singers set on the stage with shoes and shout ruthlessly. Music is a subject, but in Kashmir it’s still limited to marriages and Chakir.


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