It was unusual for teenage women in Ganastan village in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district to see a woman their age enjoying the sitar on tv again in 2011. It was additionally the primary time 13-year-old Irfana Yousuf had carried out for an viewers, particularly for the general public broadcaster Doordarshan.
Mesmerized by her efficiency, women within the village started approaching Irfana to learn to play the standard musical instrument. For Irfana herself, the journey started by watching her father Mohammad Yousuf, a classical musician, spend his evenings training devices just like the sitar, santoor, and Saaz-e-Kashmir.
Irfana’s eagerness to study sufiyana music led Mohammad Yousuf to place her below the tutelage of a grasp sufiyana musician Ustad Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh.
Enjoying the classical devices, Irfana mentioned, made her really feel a calmness that she hadn’t skilled earlier than. She quickly mastered 4 classical devices — sitar, santoor, saaz-e-Kashmir, and tabla — and determined to additional impart the artwork to the ladies in her village.
With time, Irfana was joined by 4 different women from the village, sharing a ardour for sufiyana music, to kind what is maybe Kashmir’s first all-female sufiyana musical ensemble, lengthy dominated by males owing to its spiritual overtones. They’ve been dubbed the “Sufi Women” of Kashmir.
“We determined to give attention to Sufiana music as a result of these days each musician is inclined towards up to date music,” mentioned Irfana, now 22-years-old. “Individuals have forgotten about it. We determined to create a band and revive the dying music.”
The younger ladies sing the poetry of the revered Kashmiri Sufi saint Sheikh-ul-Alam, Lal Ded, Haba Khatoon, Ghulam Hassan Gamgeen amongst others and have progressively begun to study and carry out in Persian language, which has a particular place within the sufiyana custom.
Through the years, nonetheless, a small part of the diminishing Sufi musicians of Kashmir has continued to sing in Persian. “Initially, we couldn’t perceive the which means of the lyrics however that modified as our instructor makes us perceive the which means,” mentioned Irfana.
Quickly after graduating from Excessive College, Irfana and one other member of the ensemble, Gulshan Lateef, joined the Division of Music and Advantageous Arts’ Sufiyana Santoor part on the Kashmir College in 2019. They’re the one two college students within the division.
Quickly after that they had joined the division, they discovered “musical devices had been lined with layers of mud however there are not any college students to play them besides each of us”, mentioned Lateef, who performs the Saaz-e-Kashmir, a localised model of the violin.
Every single day the 2 spend the day on the division, returning to Lateef’s residence in Srinagar after class work to follow once more. “We discovered rather a lot together with the historical past of devices, its elements and correct utilization,” Lateef mentioned.
In her small under-constructed home within the picturesque village surrounded with huge stretches of mustard fields and multi-coloured newly constructed homes, Lateef’s small mud-walled room is full of musical devices, awards and pictures, telling the story of their journey to date.
The all-female ensemble has carried out for the general public broadcaster, and in addition at occasions held in Srinagar metropolis, notably these of the Cultural Academy. They’ve gained a number of competitions in Kashmir and have represented Kashmir in music competitions held outdoors.
For a very long time, the ladies solely had the devices owned by Irfana’s father for practise. After accumulating and incomes by programmes, the group has lastly managed to purchase particular person devices for all the ladies within the group. “Santoor prices round 30000 rupees. Saaz-e-kashmir prices round 15000 rupees, Sitar and Tabla price round 10000 rupees,” she mentioned.
All the ladies have chosen the devices of their selection that they play throughout their performances as a gaggle. Nonetheless, Irfana has been collectively assigned the position of the lead vocalist and the Santoor participant by the opposite women. “She is essentially the most senior amongst us, she deserves to guide all of us,” mentioned Lateef, including that Santoor is the important thing instrument of a Sufiana mausiqi.
For the group, performing Sufiana mausiqi, music, is a method of feeling calm and forgetting concerning the world. “One forgets about the whole lot else. It contains praising the faith and our Prophet as nicely,” she mentioned.
For Lateef, the band has been a method of breaking free from the boundaries created for ladies over the generations. The group has acquired a variety of criticism from folks however they consider that they’ve been profitable in altering mindsets “even when just a bit”.
“Some folks saved saying that we’re women and we must always not do one thing like this. We should always keep at house and do the house chores. They consider that that is what ladies are meant for,” mentioned Lateef.
The fixed stress of house chores, training in addition to music turns into overburdening generally, mentioned Lateef however the considered their journey retains them going. “A lady has to do the whole lot,” she mentioned.
Of single scale and muqams
Earlier than acting on stage, the group spends days practising collectively as all the ladies study to play their instrument on a single scale by following the santoor. “However as soon as you retain practising, you study. It additionally is dependent upon the matra – beat. The simplest composition of a tune has eight matra. Then the matra may even go as much as sixteen or thirty-two,” Lateef mentioned.
The preparation for efficiency begins by deciding the sur – sounds during which particular surs from the seven fundamental surs — Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni — are chosen. “That is the half the place one struggles after that it turns into simpler,” she mentioned.
The musicians create mathematical graphs of the songs and later, a sur metre is used to test the dimensions for every sur.
Not like Indian classical music, Sufiana Mausiqi has muqams — the gathering of surs during which we can’t add totally different surs — as an alternative of ragas. The Sufiana Mausiqi consists of twelve muqams, mentioned Lateef. “All these muqams have branches referred to as goshe, shobe, parde,” she added.
All of the muqams have their particular timings and might solely be carried out throughout these timings, she mentioned. “For instance, muqam-e-qoohi can solely be carried out throughout the first a part of the evening. There are comparable muqams for morning, afternoon, night etcetera,” mentioned Lateef.
An important devices in Sufiana Mausiqi are thought of Santoor, Saaz-e-Kashmir and Tabla. Nonetheless, classical music can’t be carried out with out a Santoor, mentioned Lateef.
“Essentially the most tough instrument is Saaz-e-Kashmir. Sitar has a relevance with guitar. We’ve got been seeing Tabla all our lives. Santoor can also be used rather a lot. However Saaz-e-Kashmir is totally totally different and distinctive,” she mentioned.
A Santoor consists of hundred streams or wires mounted on bridges. Every bridge has 4 streams. “If one of many streams will get imbalanced, it gained’t give the correct sound. There may be small tools referred to as ‘abrakh’ by which we repair the streams,” she mentioned.
In the meantime, Tabla is an innovation of Dholak – a two-headed hand-drum. The Tabla has been divided into two elements – proper and left. “The elements are referred to as syahi, maidaan, chanti and kinaar are the place we faucet whereas enjoying,” she mentioned.
Lateef believes that Kashmiri classical music is an unlimited topic and can’t be discovered utterly at such a younger age. “We don’t consider studying fashionable devices. We wish to study this correctly, we haven’t even began but,” she mentioned.
Hoping to start out their very own academy for folks of all age teams, the ‘Sufi Women’ consider that they’ve been profitable in reviving the Sufiana Mausiqi to a big extent. “Individuals round us wish to take heed to it once more. Meaning one thing,” mentioned Lateef.
For a gaggle that has not been named until now, the ladies have lastly determined to name it “Yemberzal”. “It’s the flower that blooms in spring, marking the start. Extra yemberzals [budding artists] will mark new beginnings to maintain the music alive after us as nicely,” she mentioned.