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“THE TRADITION OF FOLK MUSIC OF KASHMIR”
BY: Mr. Iqbal Hussain Mir

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According to the legends, the valley of Kashmir was originally a deep vast lake. The oldest record of this legend is “NilmatPurana” which has been quoted by “PanditKalhan” (Great Poet and Historian who live in 12th century A.D.). ‘PanditKalhan’ mentioned in his “Rajtarangni” that at the beginning of ‘Kalpa’ (Cycle of creation of the universe) in about 8000 BC, the valley was a lake, hundreds of feet deep called "Satisar". This land in the womb of the Himalaya was filled with water and formed the lake of ‘Sati’. According to the legends, Kashmir takes its name from a sage “Kashyap” who lived on the bank of a mountain lake called “Sati” (Satisar). He drained this lake and the reclaimed land was called “Kashyap-pur or Kashyap-mar” and later Kashmir. It seems that the name ‘Kashmir’ comes from two Sanskrit words “Ka”means ‘water’ and “Shamir” means ‘dry up’.

Folk Music
Folk music is a vital element of any living culture and is considered to be an unrecorded tradition of the society which maintains an informal social force regulating the present of the society's social systems. Folk music, as one of the important aspects of folklore, also shows a man's relation with nature and human behaviour of different stages of life. Thus, folk music not only helps in understanding the socio-cultural and religious life of the community, but also human psychology and the adjustment of an individual to his culturally constituted world. In fact, folk music unfolds various socio-cultural complexities of society. Folk songs the bulk of folk literature and like poetry in written literature occupy a place of pride in oral literature. Folk song in South Asian music is known as “lok-Geet”. It could be sung with three or four notes. Every community, ancient or modern, has its own precious treasure of songs although the content of songs and the style of singing differ from community to community, place to place and period to period. Folk music is not bound by anyhard and fast rule. It is just like a free bird flying in the open sky, joyfully and freely with light weight.

Folk songs of the state present considerable variety in theme, content and form. They can be broadly classified into opera and dance songs, pastoral lore’s, romantic ballads, play songs and semi-mystic songs. There are other songs which are sung during particular seasons or in connection with certain occupations. Likeboatmen’s, labourers, harvesters, embroiders, paper Mache makers, milkman’s, saffron reapers, shepherds, village girls fetching water, grinding grains, skating, transplanting and wedding, sing their different melodious songs in chores.

Kashmiri music is so full of melody and rhythm that it distinguishes itself from the music of any other state. The delicacy, grace and charm of Kashmiri music are ultimate. There is no function or celebration which is performed without music. Not only on happy occasions but also in time of sorrow, the involvement of music is a must. Like “Vaan” a folk form of Kashmir that is sung when someone dies in Kashmiri Pandits and as environment of sadness prevails all over. Folk music of Kashmiris soft, sober and scintillating in character, pleasant and pensive in nature.

In the present study, the traditional music of Kashmirhas been divided into the following categories.

1. Folk Songs: Vanvun, Chhakir, Ladishah, Lalnaun, NaindaBaeth, NeeriBaeth,(Pastoral Song) Dastaanand Saffron Baeth.

2. Folk Instruments: Rabab, Kashmiri-Sarang, Dhukar, Tumbaknari, Noet, Nagadaand Dhol.

3. Folk Dances: Rauf, Hakit, BachhiNagma, BhandPaether, Dhambalyand WuegiNacchun.

1. Folk Songs

(a) “Vanvun” is a prayer in the form of folk music. It commences with a prayer to God.‘Vanvun’ plays a leading role in maintaining the continuity of our culture. This form of music is sung on marriage ceremonies and usually sung by women. Every marriage possesses several ceremonies like Mahandi, Nikkah,Barat etc. and these ceremonies have their own related songs. Vanvun folk form is the foremost among other folk forms of music, the credit goes to women, who have developed and promoted this folk form and not let it die out. (b) “Chhakri” is one of the famous folk forms of Kashmir. It has been traced from earlier time about 12th century. ‘Chhakri’ is sung collectively in a group, which is sung by professionals. A very important feature of “Chhakari” is that the singers themselves play the instruments. The style of singing is such that the first line of the song is sung by the leading singer. The same line is repeated by other members of the group. The speed of the song gets very fast in the lastand when Chhakari gets in its full swing, people from around get up and start dancing.

(c) “Ladi Shah”originated from “Ladi” and “Shah”. ‘Ladi’ means a row or a line and ‘Shah’have been added with the passage of time and with the coming of Muslim rulers.

“LadiShah” is a satirical song, which reflects the society's condition. It is a type of song, which makes people laugh, but at the same time, it is a satire on the existing government. The singers wander from village to village. They generally go to other villages at the time of harvesting to earn their livelihood. Their manner is very humorous and entertaining. (d) “Lalnavun”, in Hindi, it is called "Lori”, in English it is called Lullaby and in Kashmiri it is called “Lalnavun”. Lalnavun is based on ‘VatsalayaRas’. It reflects motherly love, which is pure. It depicts the unbroken bond between the mother and the child. The mother prays for the long life of the child and make the child sleep.

(e) “NaindaBeath”,Songs Sung by farmersare known as “NaindaBeath” or “NaindaGyvun”, while working in Paddy fields, singing makes their hard task an easy one and makes work more enjoyable and interesting. NaindaGyvun is a traditional agricultural song of merry making field suitable for agriculture is calledNainda,Gyvun or Beathstands for song, together forms NaindaBeathor NaindaGyvun.

(f) “Pastoral Song”(NeeriBaeth), song is a related to shepherd's daughter, it depicts her beauty, devotional emotions and feelings with a charming power. Emotional intensity of pastoral songs, the fervour of love, attraction of beauty, simplicity of language, sweetness, shade of affinity, freshness of the particular tidiness of Kashmiri taste and temper are apparently evident. Pastoral songs are sung in the form of dialogues.

(g) “Dastaan”is the artistic fusion of folk tales and folk songs. In this form, the professional story-teller has a talent of narrating the story in a prose suspension and gives it a poetic twist. An earthen instrumentknown as 'Tumbakhnai' makes it more enchanting and melodious. Various classical stories have been intermingled in the shape of suitable songs.

Some famous Kashmiri “Dastaans” are Aknandun, Heemal-Nagraj,Kral-Kur,Ajabmalik-Noshlab etc. In earlier time, during the long cold nights when people of Kashmirdid not have any means of entertainment, people liked to listen to such romantic Dastaans to come out from glowering mood and to refresh their minds.

(h) “Saffron Song”, Saffron requires a peculiar climate for its growth. ‘Pampur’ is rich in natural scenery. The soil of ‘Pampur’ is particularly suitable for the cultivation of saffron. It is a delightful sight to watch the picking of saffron flowers at the harvesting time. Be it day time or the moonlit night, the village folk come out in flocks to pick the blossoms to the tune of their favourite songs.

2. Folk Instruments According to the ‘Pandithkalhan’, the folk musical instruments like earthen pots, brass vessels etc. were used by Kashmiri people from very early time. In Kashmir in 4th century A.D. tile found during excavation from ‘Harwan’, shows the impression of a female musician playing a drum and the other person is shown playing a ‘veena’ in an artistic pastime.

According to ‘B.C. Deva’, ‘the string instruments, Rabab and Sarangi, came to Kashmir with the influence of Muslims. The whole sub-continent was affected by the culture of the new rulers. Rabab travelled with the bards and minstrels of Afghanistan and joined the folk group instruments in Kashmir.’ (a) “Rabab” has its origin from medieval times. Some Scholars believed that it came to Kashmir from ‘Middle East’ while others have opinion that it came to Kashmir from ‘Central Asia’. There is a controversy about its origin. It is played with “Num” (Mizrab)and is made up of Mulberry wood. At one end of the body it is covered with skin of sheep or goat and the other part of its round, both ends join at the neck becoming curved and narrow. Its body is hollow from inside. The four guts of different thickness are used in it as string, in place of metal strings. It is accompanied withChhakri, BacchaNagma etc. it has a colossal resemblance with “Sarod”.

(b) “Kashmiri Sarangi” is made up of Mulberry or teak wood. The ‘Sarangi’ of Kashmir is not usually accompanied with every folk form of Kashmir. It is only played withChhakri, Rouf and sometimes with ‘Hafiz Nagma’ also. The body of ‘Sarangi’ is hollow from inside and covered with hide from lower side. The upper part is used for finger board. The strings used in it are made up of steel and guts. It is played with bow of hard round stick that is fixed at both sides with hair of horse-tail. (c) “Tumbaknari” is a percussion instrument. It is made of clay with treated hide parched on the top. It is reminiscent of “Tumbak” of Iran. ‘Tumbaknari’ is a jar-shaped pitcher whose upper end is parched while the other end is open. The difference between the two sides is in its size and structure. ‘Tumbaknari’ is struck by finger tips to produce desired harmonious rhythm. It is played by keeping horizontally in Lap. (d) “Dhukar” is a percussion instrument. The singers of “Ladishah” remain in groups and carry an instrument with them, which is called “Dhukar”. Dhukar is an iron rod of about 75cm length. A number of metal rings are put on to this bar, which are shaken to the rhythm of the song. (e) “Noet or Ghada” is usually used for carrying water in rural areas but it is also used for musical purpose in Kashmiri folk music like Chhakari, BacchNagma etc. It is also used as percussion instrument and made up of baked clay. (f) “Nagada” is an instrument resembling with “Dhol”. It has many names in Indian language like,Nakkara, Nagada, Nagara, etc. The ‘Nagada’ is the bowled drums made of Iron, brass or copper. The Nagada are in a pair, one is called "Dugga" (male) and the other "Madhan" (female). The diameter of the Nagada at the opening end is about 50 cm. and its depth is about 35 to 40 cm. Over the mouth of the bowl it is stretched by the hide of cow. The leather thongs are looped through its edges, then passed over the outer body of the bowl so as to form a criss-cross pattern and finally secured into the ring attached at the bottom to tighten them up. The ‘Nagada’ is beaten with two wooden sticks having small rounded tops. Nagada is beaten on all ceremonial and festival occasions. (g) “Dhol” has its own history in the musical instruments of the Subcontinent. ‘Dhol’ is mainly traced in the villages in everywhere over the whole length and breadth. In Kashmir it is mostly played with the folk dance of ‘Band pather’. 3. Folk Dances (a) “Rouf” is a very interesting and emotional type of folk dance. It is directly related with spring. At the outset of spring, Kashmiris entertain themselves by dancing and singing. This practice was prevalent since ancient times. In “Rouf”, beautiful ladies form two or four groups each group consisting of three or four girls. They face each other. Each girl puts her arms on the arms of the other girl. All the girls jointly bring their feet forward and then backward. This is how the dance proceeds. Roufis usually held at “Eid” festivals and at the time of marriage ceremonies. (b) “Hakat” is a simple and short dance of young girls. “Hakat” is one of the simple forms of dances in which some couplets are spoken out and some are not. During this dance, the feeling of spring is expressed through the movement of footwork. The dancers form their couples and partners hold each other by extended arms. Many interlocking patterns are formed in this dance. The interlocking pattern of both the arms is quite similar to the "Kikli" dance of Punjab. (c) “BachhiNagma”,the general meaning of the "BachhiNagma" is adolescent melodious voice. "Bachhi” originated from Sanskrit and “Nagma” from Arabic. The dress of the dancer is round and very loose and long down to the feet,to the waist it is tight. 'Ghunghroo's are tied to the lower side of the legs. This dress matches with the dress of "Kathak” dancers. The group consists of six or seven members, one a leading singer and others the players of Rabab, Sarangi and percussion instrument likeTunbaknari, Ghadaetc. It is a male attempt to present a female art. (d) “Bhandpather”is the combination of two Sanskrit words Bhand and pather, Bhand means actor and pather means play. Bhands are properly trained by the head of their group and in this way they carry this art from one generation to another in a systematic manner. In earlier times Bhands moved from house to house to collect grains and other requirements, after entertaining dwellers in harvesting season. They perform and play music on the instruments likeSurnai,(Shahnai)Dhol and Nagada to entertain people in open fields. (e) “Dhambali” means leaping and Jumping. It is usually popular and practiced by so called backward classes. This form of Dhambaliis danced by one or more dancers. It is like a “TandavNriti” (the Sub-continental Dance form) accompanied byNagadaand Surnai. (f) “WuegiNacchun”,this kind of dance is popular in the marriages of Kashmiri Pandits.Womenmake a circle around the bridal Rangoliafter the bride has to leave with his bridegroom. It signifies or depicts love of bride's relatives. Conclusion:Kashmir is a bouquet of landscapes, meadows, lakes and snowy mountains, rivers and rivulets, with the fragrance of rich culture crowned by the melody of folk music. It boasts of many forms of folk music and mesmerizing musical instruments with the diversity of which is second to none. **Research Scholar,Department of Music, Punjabi University, Patiala,Punjab, India. Bibliography English Books 1. Dhar, Dr. Sunita, The Tradational Music of Kashmir in Relation to Indian classical Music, Kanishka Publication, New Delhi, 2003. 2. Dhar, S.N, Jammu and Kashmir Folklore, Marwan Publication, Noida, 1986. 3. 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