Remembering a Kashmiri legend
Sheikh Abdul Aziz who revived Kashmir's Sufiyana Mosiqui breathed his last this past week.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a legend of Kashmiri music is no more. His dream was to revive Kashmir's unique form of music called Sufiyana Mosiqui. He fought this battle almost all alone and had a great contribution in recording the history of Kashmir's classical music. Sheikh Aziz authored two books - one "Kashur Sargam", a three-volume notation of classical music in Kashmiri and "Ramooz-i-Mousiqui" (Secrets of Music) which deals with different aspects of music in four volumes.
Himself a performing artiste, he served Radio Kashmir, Srinagar, as music composer for nearly 12 years and prior to that he had a long tenure as head of the santoor department in Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL). Despite recognition from Kashmir to University of Maryland in US where he had the honour of being the guest professor of music or the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for "Kashur Sargam", the JKAACL refused to extend him help in publishing the fourth volume of this award-winning book. The Academy even ignored his death and not a single official condoled his death. Even the usual press release from the Chief Minister Office on such occasions was missing. And Ghulam Nabhi Azad is himself the President of the Akademi. Radio Kashmir's establishment too was conspicuous by its absence, though there was a three-line statement circulated through a local news agency stating that a condolence meeting was held in the station.
But for Sheikh Aziz himself, these things would never matter. A celebrity in his field he led an unassuming life. His only concern was that this art should not vanish in the midst of the modern-day music. That is why he would see a ray of hope in Mohammad Yaqoob Saznawaz, the only Kashmiri classical singer.
The ongoing turbulent situation, according to Aziz was one of the reasons for pushing the art into background. "The tradition of verbally passing down ragas from generation to generation also contributed to the disaster besides the ongoing militancy," the 77-year old Aziz told this reporter a few months back. "I am weak now. I can't go looking for more ragas and the situation is not good". According to one of his students, he did a commendable job by travelling to remote villages and towns of Kashmir, meeting old musicians, music lovers to collect sufiana ragas for his ambitious project.
Committed to complete
His death, however, may not stall the project that is incomplete for want of the fourth volume, for, his journalist son, Sheikh Mushtaq, is committed to complete it. "It was his dream and I am going to finalise the project very soon. It is in the last stage and we will try our best to get it published as soon as possible," he said adding, "it will be the best tribute to him".
Sufiyna Mousiqui or the classical Kashmir music has its origin in Kashmiri Sufism, a gentle Muslim way of life preached by sufis in Kashmir. But with violence taking centre-stage, this genre also got a beating. Out of 180 melodies 130 are already lost. But Sheikh Aziz managed to retrieve 42 of these lost strains.
Sufi music and its mystic dance were brought to the idyllic Kashmir valley from Central Asia in the 15th Century. Many musicians still sing Persian poems. Some instruments also face extinction. The dhokra, an antique Kashmiri drum, has been replaced by the Indian tabla instrument. Sheikh Aziz was among a very few players left to string the Saz-e-Kashmir, a violin-like instrument.
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