They haven’t met him for years, but an emotional family of Altaf Mir is glued to their mobile phone screens listening to his song ‘Ha Gulo‘ that became a rage last week.
Mr Mir, from south Kashmir’s Anantnag is the first Kashmiri singer to feature in Pakistan’s Coke Studio. It has been a fascinating journey for him from the holding a gun to singing songs.
Known for his soothing voice back home in Anantnag, He was a regular singer at weddings. In 1990, 22-year-old Mir crossed over to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir for arms training just when terrorism erupted in the valley.
He returned home after five years only to find that ‘ikhwanis‘ or the counter-insurgents had taken the center-stage and was successful in their operations. He went back to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir and settled there permanently.
He later formed a band, ‘Qasamir’, that composes and plays songs on love and beauty. While, Mr Mir sings, Ghulam Mohammad Dar plays ‘sarangi‘, Saif ud din Shah plays Kashmiri musical instrument ‘tumbaknari‘ and ‘manzoor’, and Ahmad Khan plays pitcher or ‘nout‘ in Kashmiri.
“It is a big delight for us, all our family members are happy for him singing in the Coke studio. Many big singers have performed in the Coke studio like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan,” said Javed Mir, Brother of Altaf Mir.
The Coke Studio song is a modern rendition of traditional Kashmiri song about love and separation written by famous Kashmiri poet Mahjoor. But credit for bringing the valley’s music to a global audience is of US-based Kashmiri Asmat Ashai. She convinced Coke Studio in Pakistan for years to make a Kashmiri album.
The plan initially was to have a joint musical venture between artists from both sides of Kashmir, but that didn’t materialise due to deteriorating India-Pakistan relations. But with Asmat’s inputs the Coke Studio went ahead and recorded the song by Mr Mir just, which became an instant hit with 4.5 lakh views on YouTube in a week.
“We like to reduce Kashmir to a conflict, we forget that there is a life here, there is culture, there is music, there is poetry, there is literature, we have really not been able to take that out,” said Asmat.
The internet rage over ‘Ha Gulo‘ is giving hope that more classical Kashmiri songs can be revived without robbing them of their essence and put them up on a global platform for an audience world over.