Haunting Notes

  • Sofi Ahsan
  • Publish Date: Feb 8 2017 8:59PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Feb 8 2017 8:59PM
Haunting Notes

Resistance music, ever more popular now thanks to social media, is giving voice to Kashmir’s anguish and preserving a memory of loss

 

 

On January 16, three militants were killed in an overnight gunfight with government forces in south Kashmir’s Awoora village. Three days later, a series of songs sung by anonymous women and dedicated to the slain rebels, all from Bijbehara, began circulating on social media. A week thereafter, two other songs dedicated to people blinded by pellets during last year’s unrest were released on YouTube. The lyrics of all these songs dealt with the pain of memory, questioned power and mourned what was lost – eyes and rebels.

The three songs narrating the last moments of Aadil Ahmad Reshi, Abid Ahmad Sheikh and Masood Ahmad Shah, saluting their bravery and their cause, and cursing the informers who betrayed them to the government forces were recorded somewhere in south Kashmir. Apparently sung by a family member of one of the slain militants, these songs soon found their way to online social networks, turning the memory of the rebels into collective remembrance.

Teer kaem lae’yi masoom paanas,

Kameou janaanas mukhbiri kaer

Doh raat yaar ous pheran baalan,

mulaqat karan ous yaran seeth.

Ghari yelli draakho maaji ma pheorui?

 

(Who shot arrows into your innocent body?

Who betrayed my beloved?

Day and night, he roamed the hills,

meeting friends.

Didn’t your mother miss you when you left home?)

 

The videos of this and the other songs were created and uploaded to YouTube by a 22-year-old from Bijbehara. He says he received the songs from a friend on WhatsApp but does not know their actual source. The music videos followed the same pattern of circulation as the recorded messages from militant leaders that have appeared in recent times.

“I made collage videos using photographs of militants and put the songs in the background. My friend had received it in some WhatsApp group. I don’t know who has sung them,” he says, requesting anonymity for fear of being arrested for spreading pro-militant videos. “Many youth have these songs on their mobile phones. I just put them online.”

The culture of protest songs, or resistance music as it is called, has become widely popular in Kashmir since the 2010 Azadi agitation, not least among the youth. Roushan Illahi aka MC Kash shot to worldwide fame with songs like “I PROTEST” during the 2010 unrest. In 2016, though, there were no studios to record and no mobile internet to spread the music owning to the five-month-long lockdown.

Imran Latief, 36, who has sung many Kashmiri and Urdu songs, says the suffocation of the curfew and shutdown made him write about the condition of the youth blinded by pellets. When the situation improved, Imran turned the lines into lyrics and on January 25, he released a video song asking the authorities to “return to me my eyesight”.

“My view is that if you have power to snatch something, it should be such that you should snatch it only when you have the power to return it,” Imran says. “Every artist wants to express but then there was no recording facility available then. I thought it is obligatory to become their (victims’) voice. Music is a way of communication and I think it’s one of the most powerful tools to spread a message.”

But it is not just powerful words – “Teri dunya ujali hai, meri dunya andheri kyun (Your world is bright, why is mine dark?) – that gives Imran’s song the punch. A monochromatic video portraying the lives of children whose vision has been affected by pellets complements the questions that Imran asks in his lyrics. The video, containing representations and placards with names of some of the victims, was shot by Raconteur, a group of students from the Media Education Research Centre of Kashmir University who recently also produced a documentary on the protests.

“We wanted to showcase the hardships faced by the victims and how their lives have become dependent on others. We want people to know about their condition,” says Muneem Farooq, who directed the video with his friend Sheikh Adnan. “We have used time lapse in the video to convey that a victim’s life has slowed down while the world is running fast.”

If Imran and Ranconteur are trying to spread a message through their video, 23-year-old Emcee Ame had a personal reason to sing about the loss of eyes. Last year, Ame’s friend Nazzar Ul Islam was hit by pellets in both his eyes, damaging his vision. Ame says 2016 changed his political understanding and turned him into a conscious rapper.

“It changed me totally,” he says of last year’s unrest. “I was never a political rapper. I never thought of rapping against the authorities. But 2016 changed Aamir Ame into a political rapper. I used to write about peace and love, now I rap about vengeance,” he says.

On the day India was celebrating its 68th republic day, a rap song in Kashmiri and English sung by Ame and his friends was released on the internet. Ame, a student of MBA at Kashmir University who has been rapping since 2009, says it was his first political song. “I used to be a hardcore supporter of the Indian cricket team but now I seek justice through my song. The song is dedicated to those who have suffered the atrocities,” he says.

It’s perhaps tragically appropriate that Ame’s song, which has already got nearly 10,000 views on YouTube alone, is tilted “Dead Eyes”.