US-based Kashmiris bring rock ‘n’ roll to valley

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Srinagar: Brothers Mubashir and Mohsin are Kashmiris born in the West and play Western rock, but their band is named after a landmark wooden bridge in Srinagar. So when they play in the valley, it will be an interpretation of Kashmiri music through a Western perspective.
“We came here to partner with young Kashmiris and to collaborate musically with the local talent. We are also doing musical and film workshops with a local orphanage,” 26-year-old Mohsin told IANS.
Their band, Zero Bridge, set up 10 years back, starts its multiple-concerts in the Kashmir Valley from Sunday.
“Zero Bridge is the name of a wooden bridge in Srinagar city and we have fond memories of the landmark structure when we came here with our parents.”
“We would go to the bridge and hang out with family and friends. The name just sounds cool and that’s why we call the band Zero Bridge,” says Mubashir, 35, explaining the significance of the name.
The brothers are well aware of the tumultuous times that Kashmir has witnessed in the last 20 years, and have also visited Srinagar during some of those times.
Their bandmate Greg Eckelman, 38, joined them eight years back. However, the bass guitar player couldn’t make it this time.
“He could not come here with us this time. I am the lead singer, song writer and the guitar player for the band,” said Mubashir.
Three local artists — Bilal, Irfan, and Zahin — have also joined the band for the concerts here.
Murtaza Masoodi, a friend of Mubashir and Mohsin, is here with the band and passionately watches their performance, even though he doesn’t play himself.
“Most of their shows so far have been held in New York and other cities of the US. They have also performed in Morocco and Malaysia, where they played at the World Islamic Economic Forum,” said Murtaza Masoodi, a Kashmiri who also lives in the US.
“They are not using any electronic music to heighten the effect in Kashmir. And yet, the synthesis of the local and the Western instruments produces a magical effect,” said Murtaza.
“Irfan, Bilal and Zahin sing traditional Kashmiri songs, while Mubashir and Mohsin incorporate western influences. In the same way, Mohsin and Mubashir play rock music, and Irfan and party incorporate traditional Kashmiri influences,” said Murtaza.
During their rehearsals here, the band uses Kashmiri musical instruments like the rabab, harmonium, tabla and the matka with Western guitar and Spanish drum known as Cajone.
“Our goal is to expand people’s perspectives both in the US and Kashmir on the voices and the talents and the potential that exists here. It is no politics, it is plain music,” Mohsin said.
“And through the universal language of music, people can understand Kashmir and Kashmiris better. That is why we call the forthcoming concert as a cultural exchange,” Mohsin explained.
Also performing with the band will be Ronnie Malley, an American music teacher and producer, who met the duo here recently.
The 33-year-old has already produced an album on Kashmiri folk music called ‘Soz-uk-Safar’ (the journey of music) which gives a Western interpretation to Kashmiri music.
“I play ‘Oud’, a Turkish-Arabic string instrument akin to the guitar,” Malley, whose parents are from Palestine, told IANS.
The band would also hold music, film, and story writing workshops during their two-month stay here that will see multiple concerts.
“All this is part of an initiative I started in Morocco as a Fulbright scholar in 2009 and now me and Mubashir are doing it here,” said Mohsin.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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