Kashmir: Music, Magic and Memories.

Kashmir: Music, Magic and Memories.

Monday, 27 June 2011, 05:43 Hrs
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Bangalore: Sujit Singh couldn't have wished for a better honeymoon. With night stars twinkling above, serene blue water all around, the romantic aura was heightened by soulful melodies wafting towards his houseboat as it bobbed gently on the Dal Lake. He was one of the lucky few who witnessed Kashmir rekindle its musical past after a gap of 20 years.

Reliving the past tradition, the organizers of the musical show engaged a houseboat towed by motor boats deep into Dal Lake here as a group of local musicians and singers enthralled the select audience late Friday evening.

Scores of locals lined up at the Boulevard Road circling the lake for the event, which saw a partnership between Fankar International, a US-based non-profit organization, and the local sound studio, Soundkraft.

"Kashmir has a tradition of houseboats being engaged by music lovers. Affluent people would engage houseboats for a day or so and would listen to the local singers whom they paid handsome compensations for their performances," a hotelier on the Boulevard Road told IANS.

"As music and arts had few patrons in the past, the Dal Lake excursions, as these were called, encouraged the performers and also gave them a bit of financial support," he said. This lofty tradition almost ended with the outbreak of violence in the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s.

"Artists, singers and musicians withdrew into the safety of their homes because life went out of gear for nearly two decades," he added. The hotelier said he took pictures of the magical night and mailed them to his children in the US.

"I sent a small message with those pictures to my children saying Kashmir's glory had perhaps returned," he said.

Many tourists living in floating palaces (houseboats) on the water got into boats or 'Shikaras' to chase the slow moving houseboat emitting mesmerizing music.

"We were simply amazed to see the spectacle. I have never heard such soothing music and such wonderful voices all my life," said Sujit Singh, who is here on a honeymoon with wife Simran.

Asmat Ashai, the patron of Fankar International, said the aim of her organisation is to keep the Kashmiri music and language alive.

"It is not a matter of nationality. It is a question of identity and for Kashmiris there is no better way to keep their ethnicity and identity alive than its promotion through music. Music is the universal language that knows no borders.

"In the US, it is not only the small Kashmiri community that loves this music but encouragingly, more and more Americans are showing interest," Ashai said.

During the over three-hour performance, the organizers also released an instrumental CD as a tribute to a local santoor player who passed away some time ago.

Keeping the local tradition alive, saffron Kehwa tea from a steaming Kashmiri samovar and the famous Pampore bread called the shermaal were served to the artists and the audience before the performance.

Some well-known local singers like Muneer Mir, Shazia Bashir, Zahin, Irfan and Bilal sang Kashmiri numbers while Ronnie Malley, an American music director and art promoter, played 'Oud' -- a Middle Eastern string instrument.

"It is amazing. The other day I met these people in the Soundkraft studio and their talent impressed me. Although I do not understand the local language, I have no difficulty in understanding the music they play and I appreciate its quality and universal reach," Ronnie told IANS.

Naseer Ahmad, the owner of Soundkraft studio, said his organization has a permanent association with Fankar International to promote Kashmiri music and arts. Also released at the function were CDs of some Kashmiri music maestros like Raj Begum, Naseem Begum and Gulam Hassan Sofi.

"Inshallah, we shall have more of such performances at Dal Lake in the future to rekindle the music and magic of Kashmir. Dal Lake excursions are a part of our heritage and we are simply trying to remind ourselves of our glorious past," said Ahmad, as the houseboat carrying musicians and the 30-odd audience touched the shores of the lake to announce the end of the musical feast.
Source: IANS
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