The Folk Music of Kashmir
The valley of Kashmir which is surrounded by the snow-clad Himalayas is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It is a vast expanse of flat country with rich alluvial soil, lofty and glacial mountains, crystal streams, lofty crags, torrents, broad lakes, shady Chinar groves and pine forests. Kashmir’s picturesque beauty has been immortalized in paintings, songs and poetry. The culture of Kashmir is distinct and diverse, encompassing the various habits and lifestyles of the people inhabiting in it’s region. During their long periods of independence, isolation and solidarity, the people of Kashmir developed a unique culture making everlasting contributions to learning and literature. For a long time, Kashmir was a separate kingdom, and the history of Kashmir is a chronicle of Kings and courts. The history and tradition of folk music and dance in Kashmir valley goes back to thousands of years.
The Kashmir Valley, which separates the Himalayan and Pir Panjal mountain ranges, is a meeting point between northwestern India, eastern Pakistan, and Central Asia. The grandeur of this environment manifests itself in Kashmiri folk music—as the liner notes describe, “Heard across the lakes and waters at night as it echoes over surrounding mountains, it has a haunting, romantic appeal.” Folk Music of Kashmir presents Kashmiri singing and traditional instruments such as the santur, the bamboo flute, the tabla, and the mutkah, a percussive clay pot renowned for its resonance
The well-traveled producer David Lewiston divides this collection equally between so-called classical and folk musicians, and the competition for choosing the best performance is thick and fast. A better idea would be to give up any such goal and simply enjoy the slowly unfolding musical drama, which begins wonderfully with the ensemble of Ghulam Muhammed Butt. This band features the snarling sound of the surnai, a type of oboe, out in front of kettle and barrel drums playing an intoxicating rhythm. It is music played to introduce a folk opera, and it is a pity that it fades out after only a few minutes. Obviously, however, there are more places to go on this Kashmir excursion. There is a solo on the rabab, a relative of the sarod that has six gut strings and 17 sympathetic strings, as well as ensemble use of the santur, harmonium, and sarang. The latter is similar to other Asian bowed instruments, and is well served by the high recording quality. The rabab solo “Sailgah” boasts a compelling resonance that captures the instrument’s imaginative combination of gut and steel strings, giving the player the ability to almost play a duet with himself. Even the chaos of a large-scale celebration such as a wedding doesn’t seem to have thrown the needles off too much, as “Music at a Kashmiri Wedding” establishes a great sense of time and space, including some impassioned whistling before building into sections of drumming that might cause jealous percussionists to submit to a knuckle-crusher. “Lahra” features unison ensemble playing that would drop jaws at Julliard, providing they aren’t wired shut. The example of the “maqam,” a classical system of modal music, is stunning but too abbreviated. There is a second volume in Lewiston’s Kashmir set, the performers and types of material overlapping to a great extent.
~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi
People of Kashmir
(Selective Fotographic artworks courtesy of searchkashmir webcast)