Ishfaq Kawa – an emerging youth Icon and social media sensation – has become a household name in Kashmir for his mesmeric and magical voice. A singer, lyricists, composes, director, Kawa also acts in his songs and stories which are being liked by people of every age group.
Kawa’s songs are based on mysticism, love, betrayal, social issues, culture and religion. So far, he has worked on 25 songs including some Hindi songs.
Hailing from Shadipora area of Sumbal in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, Kawa launched his youtube channel by the name of “Ishfaq Kawa” which has 3.23 lakh subscribers, so far. Besides, his songs are also available on other Youtube channels.
Kawa released his song “Poshmati Janan” in the current year (2021) which has more than 20 lakh views, while his other song “Taqdeeras Tadbeer Banan Cha” has fetched 35 lakh views.
Kawa did his schooling from Government High school Shadipora in Sumbal and completed his intermediate from Government Higher Secondary Sumbal. He pursued his graduation in Hotel Management from college of Hotel Management and Hospitality, Rajbagh, Srinagar.
Kawa has been participating in Naat competitions at school in his childhood where he was always awarded with first prize. “This developed in my inclination towards music,” he said.
“I had been to Hyderabad where I started my first job as a waiter in a famous restaurant Absolute Barbeques. One day I put forth my wish for singing in front of restaurant management and they gave me a chance to sing in front of a gathering of 500 guests present in the restaurant,” Kawa said.
After listening to Kawa’s song, the guests present on the occasion gave him a standing ovation. Afterwards, he sang for consecutive six months in the same restaurant which encouraged him to choose singing as a profession.
“Since then, I did not see back. After coming back to Kashmir, I utilized social media platforms, facebook particularly, to showcase my singing talent and later I launched my youtube channel as well,” he said.
Kawa’s first song was a Kashmiri version of Bollywood song “Chanda Veri” originally sung by Bollywood playback singer Arijit Singh from the movie ‘Ae Dil hai Mushkil’.
This song “Acha neri wen bi, duawan manz yaad thayizi,” (so I am leaving remember me in prayers) went viral and gained much popularity on social media, Kawa said. He added, he also has sung Kashmiri versions of four other Bollywood songs.
He has also given new versions to old Kashmiri songs like “Afsoos Duniya” which was originally sung by famous singer Ghulam Hassan Sofi. He has also done some duet songs.
He said, “I choose this profession because I love Kashmiri language and culture. Being a Kashmiri I have always an urge to do something for the promotion of Kashmiri language and culture as it has been neglected by the youngsters these days.”
Instead, Kawa said, the Kashmiri youth have come under the influence of other cultures particularly western under the garb of modernization. “These are the basic reasons why I chose to sing in Kashmiri. And my intention is to promote Kashmiri language, culture, locally, regionally and even internationally.”
During the initial days, Kawa faced many challenges as he has not received proper training besides having no support from anyone. “If I had to make a video professionally, I would have to arrange money for recording and shooting videos for which I did a job and used that money for this purpose,” he said.
As soon as Kawa started searching for a cinematographer, since he was writing and composing his own songs, he met cinematographer Syed Muzzafar. “Muzzafar did cinematography for my songs, though he himself was a budding cinematographer those days,” he said.
In 2017, Kawa released Kashmiri songs including “Nundi bani”, “Bal yaara ho” and “Zaroori Chumo” on his YouTube channel which fetched more than one crore views, collectively.
Besides Singing in Kashmir, Kawa has also performed live in Hyderabad, Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and Jammu.
Kawa has been inspired by various Kashmiri singers including Vijay Kumar Malla, Hassan Sofi and Waheed Jeelani whose songs Kawa followed since childhood. When it comes to Hindi and Urdu language, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Shafkat Amanat Ali Khan and Arijit Singh are some of his favorite singers.
He is thankful to his parents who never stopped him from singing and gave him freedom to chase his dream. “At times, they financed me as well,” he said.
He also credits his success to the people of Kashmir who always supported and encouraged him.
About his future goals, Kawa said, “My mission is to promote Kashmiri language and culture at international level through my singing. I also wish to work in Bollywood.”
He said, “The Kashmiri youtubers, vlogers, and artists in various fields are working on preservation and promotion of Kashmir culture and tourism at various national and international platforms via social media.”
In his message to the budding artists, Kawa said, “the youth should not be scared of rejections and failures, as rejections and failures are part of entire process of success. Work hard and one day you will definitely reap the crop from whatever field you are working in.”