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Gulzar Ganai is looking for a niche to set up Sufiyana music school in Kashmir

Aasha Khosa/New Delhi

Kashmiri Sufi and Folk singer Gulzar Ahmed Gania is seeking a plot of land from the Jammu and Kashmir government for his proposed Sufi Music school, where the maestro wants to impart his knowledge to the young boys and girls of Kashmir.

Speaking with Awaz-the Voice, Ganaie said he was keen to pass on this unique art form to the next generation of Kashmiris, free of cost. “I had opened a school in a rented place in Sonwar (Srinagar locality) but the rent there was unaffordable. I had to close it down,” he told Awaz-the voice on the phone from Srinagar.

The legendary singer who sings Bhajans and naat-e-sharif with equal ease and devotion is a household name among Kashmiris all over the world and his live concerts of Sufi Music are rage.

“I have been showered with blessings of success and fame by society and must give it back,” Ganaie said. He said that he has learned the Sufiyana and folk music from Gurus including teachers in his school in the village Mirgund, Baramulla, north Kashmir.

“I owe it to them and must pass on the legacy to the next generation and I want to leave my memories with the youth.”

Ganai said that though he had verbally discussed his demand for a plot of land for his proposed school with senior officers and they did not show interest, he would soon meet the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha with his demand.

Ganai, a popular and leading musician who has also sung the Kashmiri version of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Bhajan Vaishnav Jan tou..says, a Guru is important for an artist and it’s his time to pay tributes to his Gurus by becoming one to those who can ill-afford to learn the Sufi music.

Ganai has become a bridge between Kashmir’s Hindus and Muslims who got split due to the exodus of the former from the Valley some 30 years ago due to the fear of death after some targeted killings of prominent members of the community, by terrorists.

Ganai says he has been performing at all Sufi dargahs often invited by the Kashmiri Pandits weddings outside Kashmir for Sufi music concerts. His coming concerts are in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Daman, and Diu.

“It is amazing to see that when I share love through my music; I also get the same in return,” he said.

On Kashmiri Sufiyana music, Ganaie says, “This is divine music. You sing with your soul and it’s for the soul.”

He said Kashmir’s Sufi bards set up the tradition of Sufiyaana music. “The Sufiuyana parampara has given rise to many Sufi ulemas making Kashmir an abode of Rishis and Munis.”

“I am carrying on that tradition that was set up by Lala Arifa, whom, we also call Lal Daed and Sheikh Noorudin Noorani, Alamdar-e-Kashmir. We, Sufi musicians, sing their songs in praise of the divinity. This tradition has given us legends like Shamas Fakir..”

Like many artists, Gulzar Ahmed Ganai also faced extreme religious intolerance and radicalism in the initial years of his career which coincided with the rise in the insurgency.

“It was a very, very difficult phase,” he says. Some people came and asked him to desist from the un-Islamic ways of pursuing music.


Sufi singer Gulzar Ganai

“Luckily for me, this group had some members who were willing to listen to my logic,” he says with a chuckle.

Ganaie quoted the Quran and Hadith to explain to them that he could not even think of doing anything against the teachings of the Prophet of Islam. He told them an anecdote from Prophet Mohammad’s life to make his point.

The story is: One day when the Prophet was taking a rest, his wife Ayesha was sitting with their two daughters. The girls were singing and practicing some tunes when their maternal grandfather came. He objected to the girls’ getting into a “vulgar act.”

“At this, Hazrat Ayesha asked her daughters to leave the room and the Prophet woke up and told him ‘Let them be. This, to me, means that the prophet of Islam didn’t disapprove of music as a form of art” Ganaie told them.

He said a devout Muslim will never dare to go against the Prophet’s teaching. He too had struggled to explore the truth behind this popular notion peddled by the radical people that Music is banned in Islam.

While carrying on the message of Kashmiri Sufis to the world, Ganaie says all the folk culture of India is fascinating. “I listen to Urdu, Punjabi, late Kishore Kumarji Mohammad Rafi sahib to get inspired. All our states have different folk and it’s very rich.”

On a philosophical note, Ganaie says the terracotta drum and tumbaknari used in the Sufiyana music are made of the soil of Kashmir by the hands of Kumhars who are Pasmanda. Wherever we fly we carry the matka in our lap. It’s us and we will one day go in the same soil of which it’s made.”

Ganaie with his team of musicians has travelled across the world. “I work hard on preparing one song in the local language and also give the translation of the songs that we perform to the organizers to run it on the screens.”

He says though the key instruments used in Sufiyana Music like Rabab have come from Afghanistan and Sarangi from Iran, these have been incorporated into the folk and Sufiyana Music of Kashmir.

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I see a change in Kashmir and more importantly, it’s heartening to see the young and dynamic district commissioners (DC) working for peace and progress.

“All of us on the mission – of spreading peace. The DCs do it by pushing development and I through my music.”

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