Folk rock evolves when the harmonies of traditional folk match with the energy of rock music.
The lyrics of the legendary poets like Habba Khatoon and Mehjoor were presented before the younger generation. The artists brought back the freshness in the lyrics with the tinge of rock beats.
Various musicians say that with rock musical instruments, one can add energy and rhythm to the song.
A singer and a songwriter from Srinagar, Ali Saffudin’s music is a blend of folk, rock blues and Kashmiri Sufiana. Making use of Kashmiri and Urdu lyrics, he is one of the artists who have unearthen the traditional treasure of music. He has recreated songs written by Habba Khatoon, Mahmoud Gani and several legendary poets on the beats of his guitar.
Karvo maz jigras, the lyrics of the song written by Mahmoud Gani, talks about the morbidity of human life. Ali presented the song on the beats of his guitar in his Dal session 2021. Also, he has made a collaborative song, Aye Subhik Waav with folk singer Noor Mohammad.
Lately, he recreated the composition of the Sufiana group of Ghulam Ahmad Sofi which is believed to be composed by Ghulam Mohammad Dar, the Sarang maestro of Sufi.
The instrumental track involves the use of folk and rock music instruments, Ali wants to redefine the instrumental music which most of the people are not aware of.
He said, “Instrumental music involves use of rabab, nout and Kashmiri Sarang, we introduced the sounds of guitar, and drums. The instruments like rabab and Sarang are soothing to ears and have a spiritual connection. “There is a divine connection with it and I have imbibed that thing in my guitar and brought something back from the past.”
Be it a melody or groove, the admirers of music in Kashmir are huge. From the days of radio, people have been actively perceiving music not only for entertainmentpurposesbut to gain spiritual connection. The melodies of Kashmir are not only confined to the region, certain musicians and bands have taken it to other places as well.
Shah Basit Fazili, a musician said that many of the folklore and folk songs were on the verge of extension and the present generation had lost connection with it. The way of its revival was to add what youth like, by mixing them with rock music.
Blood Rocks Band, Dying Breed, Parvaaz, Saim Bhat, Ali Saffudin, Saif Nazir, Faizan Showkat etc. were the first ones who gave a blues twist to Sufi poetry. Saim Bhat, who made a debut in Bollywood did a rock version of Afsoos Duniya and Zamanai Pok Ni Humdum. Ali Saffudin did a rock version of Beshit Beshit Baero. Parvaaz band did a rock version of Roz Roz.
“In the past, these songs were sung in every household. The verses were sung on blues tempo. The artists made covers of Kashmiri Sufiana kalam. These cultural anthems were represented on the international level by these artists,” he said.
Basit who owns a music studio by the name Qalaam Musical Studio said with the emergence of musical bands, a band war was held in 2011 where different musical bands participated in order to make people aware about what rock music is.
“The artists have been in the scene for many years and their experience has played a big role in reviving Kashmiri music,” he said.
He further said that despite the lack of infrastructure, the artists were able to make a mark in the music industry. “Initially, due to the lack of studios, the artists used to record at home. They had to learn other skills which are required for the production of music but with no options available, they did a good job,” he said.
Following the footsteps of his father, Iqbal Shah found solace in Sarang and pleasure in poetries.
Hailing from Anantnag, Iqbal was interested in folk music more than his engineering studies which he later on left midway for the love of his musical instrument.
The area where he lives has always been reverberating with sufiana gatherings and spiritual music. He grew up while watching his father playing Sarang in those gatherings and decided to carry forward the legacy.
Iqbal has been playing at various gatherings in and outside Kashmir, mesmerizing the audience with the soothing chords of Sarang. He has also collaborated with various artists of Kashmir for producing the hybrid musical style.
“My father has learnt from the maestros who used to play in the locality and I was inspired by him. He gave me a lesson and the knowledge I acquired that time, I am still using that,” he said.
Many youths of the locality got inspired by him and joined him which later on sprouted in the form of a folk musical band. “My family was initially concerned about my career choice that I won’t be able to make enough money but watching me performing with artists made them to believe that I can make my name in the music industry,” he said.
For him, Kashmiri Sarang makes a soothing appeal. Kashmiri Sarang is a musical instrument made from mulberry or teakwood. Its size is smaller as compared to the Sarangi which is used to play Indian classical music.
For some time, he has been teaching a good number of students and hopes about the revival of the instrument.
“There is no good or bad in music. Music across the world has an essence and it talks about the people, culture and tradition of a place. Same goes for our Kashmiri folk music. The legendary artists in the past despite having less resources used to write the lyrics and created this treasure box which we are not supposed to shun,” he said.
The attempt to revive the folk instrument didn’t end here. He collaborated with other artists to make folk fusion songs so that the people out of his locality can listen and have the same feeling as they get from the performance of a contemporary artists.
“Present generation is more inclined towards the western music. We thought of using western beats so that we can bring back the folk music culture. Taking up other music is not wrong. We should learn other music too while keeping our roots intact,” he said.
He believes that there has been a revolution in the musical industry of Kashmir since the fusion genre has come up. “It attracts youth. Today the folk songs hit millions of views in a day which were once forgotten. I have also brought an innovation in my playing style so that it matches with the needs of youth and my art gets a new face,” he added.
His band has worked with artists like Ali Safuddin, Muneen and has done events in a number of states including Mumbai and Delhi.
“I like jazz, trans, hip hop genre too. If we stay with folk only, we won’t be able to explore other music. We have to keep ourselves updated,” he said.
Owais, another band member, plays the traditional instrument nout - a big pot made of clay. He said that the band gets chances to perform in events as well as with other artists but the medium of showcasing their talent is still limited.
“Internet is the only place to showcase our talent. The lack of concerts and gigs are pushing the artist backwards. Folk artists who do themed songs or folk versions of viral songs garner huge attention from the people. The Internet has brought a revolution in the music industry,” he said.
He further said that the music industry keeps on changing with every trend and the artists are trying to make efforts to keep up with the trends while holding on to the roots.
"Now the youth feels connected to the rich musical tradition. Hoping that we can survive and carry forward the rich cultural legacy," he said.