Sunday, February 03, 2013

Rock the party

Buoyed by the huge publicity generated by the all-girl Kashmiri rock band, thanks largely to some anonymous online trolls, several grandmothers have gotten together in down-town Srinagar and adjoining areas to form a rock band of their own. The elderly women are going to showcase their special talent, doing Sufi versions of chakir, wanwun and other musical genres, to re-tell old wives tales and lovelorn songs of Yusuf-Zulaikha. It will be a modern and progressive band, mind you, with Sare' Apa as the lead guitarist, Zoon boeb at bass guitar. Hajra, who sells fish on Amda Kadal as drummer and Nabla at the keyboard. Progressive rock, Zaed bal style.

The grannies struck upon the idea to get into rock and roll because Hajra heard some ‘modern’ folk talk about the outrage caused by online threats to Kashmir’s ‘first’ all-girl band. How dare someone object to our modern sensibilities? Sare' Apa remembered that we used to have someone called Lal Ded who sang in the 14th century and then another songster Habba Khatoon, who penned exuberant lyrics in the 16th century. How come a few high school girls singing became an exposition to call us illiberal? The grand mufti, a government flunky, represents his posh cottage, and not the attitudes and beliefs of Kashmir.

While the old dyeds’ from down-town get their lyrics sorted out and a full fan page to them, with likes and comments to the boot, here is a little ode to the twisted logic: Expression indeed is sacred and music perhaps is the outburst of soul but this entire hullabaloo in our little vale about a high school rock band and dudes throwing fashionable jargon like misogyny around -- amounts to zilch. It somehow looks odd when you talk about freedom of expression for the rock band and deny the same expression to people who want to take a simple procession on Ashura every year. What is so sacred about bass guitars and so vile about allowing a students union in the Kashmir University?

From the way TV anchors are mentally masturbating the nation and by extension some Kashmiri homes (with access to cable TV) it looks like hippie counterculture has spread out from San Francisco into the bylanes of Shahri-Khas and is here to stay. Sure English-knowing Facebookers are offended, TV anchors are terribly upset, Twitter crowd is frothing at their mouths while the honorable CM is equally piqued. Pity no one was outraged when Ghulam Hassan Sofi, a musical icon of ours, died a few years back in abject poverty. Chana'e bar tal ravam racha'e aawaaz vach'e nou.

Jeans patloon, paanch-cappuccino-lavo-jaldi and torrent-downloaded music sure makes you a Koshur-angrez but what would perhaps help is an understanding of your own cultural ethos. Even a teeny weeny bit! Remember much before bored brats from Srinagar and elsewhere would make a quick dash to Gulmarg to celebrate New Year over Ho Hey by The Lumineers, we had a rich tradition of female singers like Naseem Akhtar, Raj Begum, Shameema Dev, Kailash Mehra, Jahan Ara Janbaz and Zoon Begum in Kashmir. Yes we squandered that tradition only to appear more phony and fake!

Sure the spirituality of Mehjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, Wahab Khar, Rasool Mir and Rajab Hamid is uncool. Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones is cool. Ranbir Kapoor eating wazwan is uber-cool. Psychedelic and riff laden heavy rock is modern. All-girls bands are wow and ‘absolutely rocking’ if you throw in the word Sufi. So what we need is more and more Kashmiris -- boys, girls and grandmothers -- crooning the Five Finger Death Punch and Linkin Park's Burn It Down, preferably by the Zabarwan. And if you can't text message your friends to come for the concert because such communication is banned, try Facebook pages. Outrage is á la mode!

PS: All suggestions for naming the bujji-band from down-town are welcome!

© Sameer
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