Rock Music Finds a Following in Jammu and Kashmir

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By: Harris Zargar
While English rock band Led Zepplin’s illustrious 1975 track “Kashmir” might not have been inspired by the land, their music seems to have enthused a lot of youngsters from the valley.
Known for its sufi and traditional music culture, emerging artists from Jammu and Kashmir mostly college going students are displaying interest in rock music.
“Poetic Justice” is one such band that has come up in this league of growing rock culture.
Formed in 2004-05 by three friends – Mir Ubaid, Anees Amin and Azhar Hafiz, the band has been composing songs in English, Urdu and in Kashmiri. It has since grown with new members coming in.
“Our music is our expression, our voice, we speak through our songs,” says Ubaid, 23, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist.
“The reason rock inspired us was because we realised bands like Scorpions, Guns N Roses, Dream Theatre, were usually very vocal about the universal brotherhood, politics and peace; a message which we also wanted to spread” says Ubaid.
The band’s bass guitarist Anees, 23, believes music for them is the manifestation of the anger, emotions and feeling, they have exprienced during their lives. “Music is our statement,” he says.
“Music requires passion. . . We believe that after silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,” say members.
Fehad Hafiz, 18, lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the band ‘Infest’ says, “We are very inspired by rock bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin. . . The kind of music they played was phenomenal. I want to express my feeling the way these bands did. . .”
Fehad says he is unhappy that there is no institution or professional from whom he can learn the guitar.
“I learnt to play the guitar watching videos on Youtube and taught to my friends too. Not many people acknowledged or appreciated our music initially after we went public. But that has not stopped or demotivated us. We still are keen on playing. . .”, he says.
Due to unavailability of recording studios, most groups record their songs on simple digital recorders and upload them on the networking sites like ‘Youtube’ or on music sharing sites like the ‘Reverbenation.’
Another group which calls itself ‘Dying Breed’ consider their brand of music as ‘the blues’ or ‘psychedelic rock’.
Members believe in experimentation, which may or may not fall into any specific genre.
Experts point to numerous factors for the recent surge of the music bands.
Prof Dabla, a senior professor and former head of department at the department of sociology, University of Kashmir says, “This generation of Kashmiri youth has been able to relate to this genre of music, since rock music has been associated with political activism as well as changes in social attitudes.”
“These children of conflict are giving vent to their anger and dissent by emulating the same,” says Dabla.
Rock music, typically comprising electric guitars, drums and synthesizers has itself evolved over the years with different cultures blended the genre into their own styles. Historically it has served as a vehicle for cultural and social movements in the west.
Bands like Blood Rockz, Sign-the Signature of music etc have been popular among youth in the area.
Sajad Hamdani’s single track “Rood” based on turmoil in Kashmir and a blend of Kashmiri lyrics and rock is quite popular among the youngsters.
So also ‘HIGHWAY-61’, a Pune-based rock band whose lead vocalist Mohammad Muneem is Kashmiri born and bred has quite a following.
The inception of western music is not confined to rock music alone.
‘MC KASH’, a rapper who calls himself a rebel and revolutionary whose original name is Roushan Illahi, 21, became a celebrity like figure during the 2010 summer unrest with his song “I Protest.”
Young Kashmiri artists in the genre include Haze Kay, AJ Young, Renegade, Kingg U T B, Emm Bee among others.
The early artists in the valley were the ‘immersions’ which consisted of locally famous artists Sayim Bhat and Irfan-Bilal. Irfan and Bilal still play together, usually Kashmiri pop songs and have earned a good popularity with their songs in the valley.
Traditionally the music of Kashmir (Sufiana Kalam) has a wide range of musical influence; be it the composition or the performance.
However, the paramount and evident influence has been that of the central Asia, for it proximity and historical connections with the region and thus has been the music of choice for Kashmiri Sufi mystics.

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