Art

Race or revival: How remixes are tuning contemporary Kashmir music

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A Sufi musician of Kashmir. [FPK Photo/Muzammil Bashir.]

Recent musical releases are mostly old tunes set in new vocals, but is the mimic culture justifying Kashmir’s celebrated music legacy?

A young boy’s ballad has become a sentimental voice of the valley making masses drool over it. The remix version of Shameema Dev’s iconic song—Bedard Daadi Chaani—is getting conspicuous online traction and creating countless kosher Instagram reels.

But beyond the lyrical outpouring, the type of music Kashmir produces and consumes these days has become a moot point.

Following suit, a fresh and feted voice of ‘Lalwen-che-maaji-thaveth’ fame, Ishfaq Kawa reproduced the iconic song of the “healing touch” days. The new version prompted many to dismiss it as a pale prototype of the popular tune.

With old wine being sold in new bottles now, Kashmir’s folksinger turned YouTube sensation—Noor Mohammad—came out with his Coke Studio-type musical collaboration.

The new-fangled Nazneen composed by two Bollywood brothers has already created mixed reviews. For cynics, it’s an “average anthem”, but the proponents praise it a “refreshing remix”.

“All these remixes make a sad case for Kashmir’s music legacy,” believes Zameer Khan, a musician of 90’s era. “The motive seems to revive some of these iconic songs of yore, but the method shows a lack of creative deftness. After all, amateur voice can’t be expected to do justice with a celebrated composition.”

Apart from ‘reviving’ the old playlist, some of these new musicians are also producing their own compositions. “But then,” Khan says, “we’re unable to produce new-age niche music. Most of these compositions are mere inspirations and lack originality.” 

The contemporary Kashmir music, says Peerzada Ilyas, is going the literature way in the valley.

“More than a creative call, it’s a blind pursuit and a desperate shot to fame,” says Ilyas, a music aficionado. “It’s quite obvious that our music is going the literature way. We tend to celebrate raw voices like the teen writers of the valley. A creative pursuit demands proper grooming and mentoring before coming of age. It’s not happening. It’s like our youngsters want some swift success at the cost of art.”

But many of these young musicians don’t subscribe to the old-school art-philosophy. In the times of views and likes, they keep on producing their brainchild to stay in race. “World has moved on and today most of us age ahead of our times due to technological penetration in our lives,” says Afzal Ali, a young musician. “Talent is beyond age and experience now. It’s about a connect with masses.”

Social media is only helping in that connection by bridging the gap between artist and audience. Kashmir is now witnessing myriad musical releases on this public platform these days.

“Since you’ve a free and empowering platform now,” says Qayoom Ahmad, an old musician, “you can dump anything there in the name of creativity.”

Since creativity is bound to attract criticism, Mehmeet Syed says, artists should always concentrate on good music. 

“And for that,” the noted female voice of the valley says, “we should follow script and sensibility.”

Artist, she says, must maintain the originality of the script. “I’ve seen young generation interpreting music as per their choice. They can’t change the lyrics. It’s not a good sign. Remixes shouldn’t distort Classics. We need to be sensible towards art.”

Seconding Mehmeet, Waheed Jeelani says that creative changes and experiments are welcome but distortion of the original music should be avoided. 

“New instruments and modification shouldn’t spoil an original song,” Jeelani, Kashmir’s feted musician, says. “A remix should be soothing to ears in the correct form.”

The new-age musicians should concentrate on their own compositions rather than copying Classics, the singer says. “The effort should be to enrich the music treasure of the valley through some original music.” 

But while veterans are calling for some creative checks and balances, the freshers are terming the remixes as the means of reviving the old and forgotten melodies.

“I agree that artists should produce new compositions,” says musician Mir Iqbal, “but we’ve to also appreciate how they’re reviving the old songs with these remixes.” 

In fact, says Ishfaq Kawa, new-generation artists are only reintroducing Classics in the valley. 

“There’s a time for everything including music,” Kawa says. “But then, artists revive old music for new generation with their creative touches and treatment.” 

As Kashmir is now drooling over remixes, Kawa terms it a good sign for the local music industry. “No doubt we’re using remixes, but music industry is growing and many youngsters are coming forward and trying new things. And most of these artists don’t need any launch pads. They can modernize old melodies and share them online with their audience.”

The contemporary music, says musician Asif Faiz, is only serving the taste of the society.

“We mostly produce music that appeals masses,” Faiz says. “It makes sense too. Since our Kashmiri poetry is very rich and appealing, even outsiders want to remix it with modern touches. We’re only making it popular. Today, Kashmiri youth prefers Kashmiri over Hindi or Punjabi songs. And that’s a big achievement and proud moment for all of us.”

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