When I first heard the name of the rock band Pragaash, or the first ray of sunlight, I smiled to myself and thought how it was such a beautiful coincidence that our names have the same meaning and that we have the same purpose - to express ourselves through music.
It is an apt name. Kashmir and Kashmiris have been going through pain for the last 22 years and all Kashmiris are yearning for the bright ray of sunlight that is Pragaash. Music illuminates the soul and it can happen through the word, voice or through an instrument.
A musician wants an expression to reach out to people and Kashmir has always enabled everybody within and outside that land to make it happen. We had a lot of minstrels and bards who opened their heart and expressed through their souls, the oneness of God and the beauty of nature sustaining that oneness - Laldyad, Nund Rishi, Habba Khatoon, Ahad Zargar, Shamas Fakir, Wahab Khar, Shmas Faqir, Azad, Nadim, Mehjoor, Master Zind Kaul and many others.
Their words and poetry would not have reached the masses if there had been no singers. We were blessed with the enchanting voices of great singers of yore like Zoon Begum, Raj Begum, Naseem Akhtar, Asha Kaul and now we have the soul-filling voices of Kailash Mehra, Waheed Jeelani Jameela Akhtar and others.
These young teen singers who have now decided to call it quits, had launched this band as another step in taking the music of Kashmir forward. That purpose is now scuttled, but the reasons cited seem quite unreasonable, looking at the past glory of music in Kashmir. It's progression in the shape of new faces and new voices should not have been denied the space and place that it needs and deserves. Whatever has happened is sad for music in India.
All musicians at some point in their lives have had criticism come their way; there have been legends that we know of who were rejected, criticised for what they stood for and were not given opportunities, but they stood up for themselves and their art and emerged to be the stars we admire today.
While it is important for Pragaash too to stand up for their cause and continue their musical pursuit - considering the evident national and international support coming their way - one must also keep in mind the dynamics of the ecosystem they live in. The girls had to beat a hasty retreat much to the agony of their artistic souls, appeasing a faction who are supposedly the flag-bearers of the moral code in Kashmir. I share a few similarities with Pragaash and this makes me feel that the members of the band are my soul sisters.
I say this from personal experience - the Kashmir valley is a catalyst for all musical aspirations. Music is omnipresent in Kashmir - you will hear the springs sing, the mighty rivers of the land, the endless mountain ranges, the exotic birds all in a beautiful symphony and the orchestrator is none other than the almighty. This also inspired me to go back to my roots when I was trying to give my music a unique identity and a distinct sound.
The recent happenings are unfortunate and motivated by reasons that are beyond an artiste's comprehension. There is more to this controversy than meets the eye. This is evident from the fact that certain sections of the society have chosen to react to it almost three months after the band gave its last performance.
As night falls and the day comes to an end, I sit back and try hard to absorb all that has been brought upon music in India this week. I go back a few years into my childhood and see the image of the Kashmiri man in a Shikara on the Dal Lake humming the very popular "Chaen taraz byeyi myenyi taraz, ikwat baniye sainyi taraz". This translates into Mile Sur Mera Tumhara Toh Sur Baney Hamara, the song that brought together an entire nation in the early 90s.
Those were the good times; there were no mobile phones, social networking websites. There was only Doordarshan, which everyone watched. They say we are making advances now on a futuristic path, but I am not quite sure if humanity has progressed in the right direction. We seem to have regressed.
Music, Mausiqui, Paschatya Sangeet, Hindustani Sangeet, Carnatic Music, Sufi Qualam- so many names. To me, music was just a medium of self-discovery, of connecting with my inner soul and spreading a larger message of ethos, belief and a profound thought process.
To me, my music was, is and will be the binding thread of humanity that overwhelms man-made demarcations. I am inspired by a genre of music and a generation of artisans whose renditions knew no boundaries. The sound of "Kashmiriyat", to me, defines humanity.
I must say that I have been lucky to have the freedom to take my path and listen to my heart. While I may have been away from Kashmir for the past two decades, I have grown up loving every bit of its culture, language and ethos. My album released two weeks ago - Aabha & Sound of Kashmir and the single Kithe Nain Na Jodin- are inspired from my journey of rediscovery of now forgotten sounds and instruments from that land.
Aabha's Twitter handle is @AabhaHanjura
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this blog are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the blog do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.