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Kashmir music industry has great future: Aabha Hanjura
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Kashmir music industry has great future: Aabha Hanjura

Post by on Saturday, October 9, 2021

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Aabha Hanjura, a popular Sufi folk artiste, is an energetic live performer, singer, and songwriter who has won hearts at several successful concerts across India since 2005. She is a dynamic lead singer of the eclectic folk-pop band Sufistication. Her viral track ‘Hukus Bukus’ found its way into the famous OTT web series “The Family Man” which has gained over 5 million views on YouTube.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir’s Misabah Bhat, Aabha Hanjura talks about her interest in music, her band and much more. 
How did you become interested in music? Did you receive any training for singing?
My mother had noticed my voice when I was humming in my sleep. She is a trained musician and she used to learn from Sopori sahab (Shambhunath Sopori) in Kashmir. She noticed that I have a good voice and at some point, she wanted to train me herself. She used to make me learn a lot of Lata Mangeshkar songs, which I think should be the base for everybody because the music in old movies comes from a tradition of classical music and it has many flavours to it.
If we listen to Lata ji, Asha ji and the composers of that time like OP Nayyar and others, they have created a rich bank. Even today, we see people going back to that music. I learned a lot of intricacies from my mother. When my mom realized that I had discipline for it she put me for formal training.
I was trained in Hindustani classical music when I was 9 years old. I used to live in Jammu at that time. I did that for about a couple of years. Then I lost interest in learning because my Guruji passed away. I was not being serious about my training.
Later, I started doing music professionally, I started doing Western pop vocals training from Neecia Majolly, who is one of India’s most renowned vocal coaches. I learned under her for a couple of years. At that time the purpose of training was to hone my skills further. Then the requirements became more specific like recording, stage and maintaining vocal health. I am a mixture of not over-trained and not under-trained musician and I like it that way.
Who was your guru?
My guruji was Pandit Sharma popularly known as Bauji in Jammu by his students , and in Bangalore it was Neecia Majolly.
The response to your Kashmiri song “Hukus Bukus” has been overwhelming, how does that make you feel and tell us more about that song?
It makes me feel extremely grateful and I feel happier about the fact that our language is being listened to internationally. Music is the most brilliant format through which cultures can be demonstrated to other people. The fact that the song is loved by not just Kashmiris, is something that makes me feel extremely happy. Of course, Kashmiris loved it but my goal as an artist has always been to find a new audience for this music. 
I have performed across the country and have people of different regions, languages miming to the lyrics of Hukus Bukus, even though Kashmiri is a very difficult language. That is the power of the song, music. Seeing non-Kashmiri audiences at my gigs is interesting to me and it makes me happy to see music breaking the barriers of language.
It makes me feel proud when people listen to Kashmiri music. Also, this song was featured in the popular OTT web series “The Family Man”.
Tell us about your band “Sufistication”.
Sufistication is like a confluence of cultures and languages. It takes inspiration from Sufism; I really lean towards a lot of Sufi artists that I have heard from the time I was a kid. I have always loved the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen. 
A lot of the Sufistication music is essentially bordering Eclectic Folk Pop. We play a lot of original music, which is in different languages like Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi etc. We also play a lot of Punjabi Folk. 
The idea of Sufistication is basically to marry of a lot of genres and make pop music with the influence of Sufi music. It takes influence from Sufi music, it is very free, extremely fun, extremely deep, and spiritual at times. 
For me, as an artist, I love exploring all those realms and all those genres in my music. It doesn’t stick to one genre, it is more of a feel, more of an idea. For me, doing a show with Sufistication has always been to get people on their feet, have a great time and have a party. I want them to leave my show feeling happy, forgetting their worries for that time.
What songs have you sung till now?
Khoobsurat is my latest single. Other than that, some songs are Hukus Bukus, Nundbane, Roshwalla Myayeini Dilbaro, Khanmaej koor, Madan O Pard Royes Tal, Duma Dum Mast Qalandar and much more. 
Who has been your role model?
I take inspiration from a lot of artists. I listen to a bunch of music from different musicians. I follow the world music scene very closely. I am very tuned in to South-Asian culture and the whole music scene in India and Pakistan and other places wherever the Indian diaspora essentially is. There is a lot of exciting music happening from South-Asian artists even in Canada and the USA.
I feel there is a whole vibe to the South-Asian pop sound which is extremely exciting for me as an artist which is NEW-AGE, which is what I am trying to build on. I listen to new and old artists; from Nora Jones to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. My listening universe is very wide; I can’t say, one role model.
But one artist whose music I have loved, revered and grown-up to most is Jagjit Singh. He did something great with the Ghazal genre, he took from small mehfils to an international stage.
As an artist, to open a whole new audience to a genre is a big achievement, I try to do that with Folk. The folk songs of Kashmir are restricted to a small audience, and some may think it is not cool to listen to this type of music. There are a lot of young people who are now interested in Kashmiri music. I can see now there is a lot of upcoming talent in Kashmir and the budding singers are doing great work.
When I started music, nobody was doing this, contemporizing the Kashmiri sound of Rababs and Santoor. Before Hukus Bukus song, I was making a lot of music and I was always working with folk artists from Kashmir. That is something that I have always done because I believe that these are the guys who have carried forward this tradition for so many years and they are the ones who should get the limelight, they are the ones who should play on my records, they are the ones who I should perform live with. They are a part of my live act as well which is “Aabha Hanjura featuring the Kashmiri folk ensemble”.
Before the pandemic hit, we played on prestigious stages, we were on an India tour as well. I have formed a musical bond with these artists and their families and that makes me very happy. I see a great future for the Kashmiri music industry. I pray and hope that more artists, especially women artists from Kashmir flourish.
What are your upcoming projects and releases?
I have written some new music and been working on a folk-pop EP which is coming up, I sing in multiple languages, Kashmiri being the primary one, I also sing in Punjabi, Urdu and Dogri. I have also been working on some singles and collaborations with different musicians which are very exciting and which we started working on during the pandemic and will also be out soon in the next couple of months.

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