How Kashmiri folk artists were insulted much before Zubin Mehta concert
By DANISH ZARGAR
SRINAGAR: Kashmiri folk artists were ‘disrespected’ by the government much before they were insultingly kept out of the dinner that the Chief Minister hosted for music maestro Zubin Mehta and the western musicians on September 7.
In the run-up to the controversial concert by Mehta, the state authorities facilitating the show, which was organised by the German embassy, had asked a few local folk musicians to prepare ‘staff notations’ of Kashmiri songs. The songs were to be performed by the western musicians alongside the western classical music at the concert.
However, the local artists’ work was later trashed “without any reason.”
“Director Tourism contacted us ahead of the show, asking us to prepare ‘staff notations’ of a few Kashmiri songs. We selected three famous songs (Ha aeshq-e-chooro.., Cholhema roshe roshe…, and Bumbroo bumbroo…) and spent some 10 days preparing their ‘staff notations’,” Raja Bilal, a Kashmiri singer-cum-composer who, along with his mentor Kishan Langoo, had prepared the ‘staff notations’, told Kashmir Reader on Friday.
“Then we submitted the ‘staff notations’ to the Director Tourism who immediately faxed it to the German embassy (in New Delhi). But later we were surprised to see another artist (Abhay Sopori) performing at the concert with a different composition. On enquiry, we were told that our work (‘staff notations’) had been rejected. We were not given any reasons for the rejection,” Bilal said.
Bilal and Langoo were initially asked to be ready to go to New Delhi for helping out the western musicians in learning the ‘staff notations’.
“The Director Tourism told us that the western musicians may not be able to read the ‘staff notation’ of Kashmiri songs, and that if we were prepared to go to Delhi to help them (western musicians) learn the same. We agreed to go. In fact, we were preparing to go,” Langoo, who works as Grade-I music composer in Radio Kashmir Srinagar, said. “As artists we love to serve the society. But there seemed politics behind this (rejection of their work).”
Around 15 ‘not-so-famous’ folk artists performed with Mehta-led 80-member Bavarian State Orchestra at the Shalimar garden during the concert on September 7. The Kashmiri section of the concert was handled by Abhay, son of famous Santoor player Bhajan Sopori.
The local artists performed with musical instruments like Rabab, Sarang, Matka, Tumbakh and Santoor. For almost a week ahead of the concert, they had been trained at the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages here, in playing the chosen composition without looking at the ‘staff notations’, which they cannot read.
Later on the D-Day, all 15 had to taste ‘insult’ as they were not invited to the dinner, which CM Omar Abdullah had hosted to honour the western musicians after their successful performance. Omar then, following the media reports about the insulting treatment meted out to the local artists, decided to host a tea party at his Gupkar residence for the 15 artists.
Abhay, however, claims his “fame” may have enticed the German embassy to choose him for the show.
“German embassy contacted me to work on this project. We have been doing these ensembles successfully for a long time. So, they may have learned about our fame or someone may have suggested my name to them,” he told Kashmir Reader.