Bollywood music has long monopolised the music scene in India, but at the fringes of the wide spectrum that is Hindi music, exist independent musicians and bands any Indian would be proud have grabbed a hold of the limelight. When you think of Kashmir, what comes to mind isn’t the vast culture and art that thrives in the Valley, but the brutal and heartbreaking history. As an ode to their homeland, which is still suffering, still in turmoil, we want to celebrate some of the best Kashmiri musicians. Take a look.
1. Aabha Hanjura
Aabha Hanjura is Kashmiri folk vocalist who has entrapped audiences from all over the country with her almost otherworldly aura and passionate vocals. She gained recognition when she was selected as a finalist on the second season of Indian Idol. She represents the very ethos of Kashmiri folk music, which is just as ethereal and unabashed as she is.
2. Winit Tikoo
Winit Tikoo is a Mumbai-based Kashmiri singer/songwriter. You may know him from his incredible performance on the third season of MTV’s Coke Studio or, if you’re an ardent fan, from his appearance with the other members of his then-band Anhad on Channel V’s Launchpad a couple of years ago. Tikoo has a powerful presence on both stage and screen and his Eddie Vedder-like vocals never seize to grab — and keep — your attention.
Parvaaz is a genre-defying band from Bangalore. They make songs in both Urdu and Kashmiri, translating emotions in both languages in an almost lackadaisical manner. Parvaaz has, since their conception, avoided typecasting and made their own idiosyncratic little space in the Indian music scene. Their music is a blend of rock with abstract folk influences — sometimes sounding like an ode to Led Zeppelin, which is one of the big influences of the band, and sometimes like an homage to their homeland.
Alif describes its music as “poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri.” This is pretty spot on, as the band’s sound is quite nuanced. With influences from blues and soft rock to Kashmiri folk, each song is a unique blend of Kashmiri and Western genres, merging together to create an unusual and cohesive sound. They’ve just released a new album; you can check out some of their music below.
5. MC Kash
Roushan Illahi, known better as MC Kash, a name he derived from his home province, is a hip-hop artist from Kashmir. Due to his penchant for making bold political statements about Kashmir in his songs, Illahi has been reprimanded by the police on more than one occasion. But this has never deterred the passionate musician, he says, “English is a universal language. Kashmiris know how they have suffered. So if I went on to rap about it in Kashmiri, that would be useless.”