Sufyana Musiqi: The almost extinct classical music of Kashmir

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Sūfyāna Mūsīqī or Sūfyāna Kālām, (Sufi music) is the vocal ensemble music of the urban elite of Kashmir, the nothernmost province of India. It functions principally as a religious music, being connected with the rituals of the Sufis (Muslim mystics) and as an elite entertainment music performed in a secular context. Sūfyāna reflects the cultural position of Kashmir as a meeting point between the Persian-dominated culture of Central Asia and India.
It is a type of choral ensemble music which is based on the principal melodic concept of Maqam, plural Maqamat. It is an amalgam of the music of Persia, Central Asia, India and was born due to the intercultural synthesis of the music of already mentioned regions during the 15th century.
Only a few families in Kashmir practiced this musical form. The Maestros inherited from their forefathers, the elite class of masters , the art of Sūfyāna Mūsīqī and devoted their life to the art which unfortunately is dying due to public insensitivity.
The lyric language used is Persian dialect and the instruments source Persia or the Middle East. With the passage of time the legendaries of yester years from the Valley, performed in a society that was responsive, blend the lyrics with local Kashmiri dialect to make it understandable and acceptable to the local population. Kashmir being predominantly Muslim enjoyed the music with spiritualism and Sufism being the heart and soul of Sūfyāna Kālām. In the not so distant past Kashmir liked the style of Sūfyāna music and is considered as the classical music of Kashmir. The music that is basic to Kashmir, the crucible of many forms of arts and crafts witnessing callousness towards the traditional and folk arts, the cultural invasion from north and central India made all the difference and the younger generation who would be the future of this music were attracted to Indian music that offered glamour, cheap love songs and unfulfilled dreams.The easy availability of Western and Bollywood music has greatly contributed to its rapid decline.
Regrettably this glorious tradition of the past is currently on the brink of extinction. A very few families are practicing this profession now. Earlier there were many gharanas (schools) of Sūfyāna Mūsīqī spread across the length and breadth of Kashmir valley. But at present only four gharanas exist. The only surviving Ustads (Master musicians), Mohammad Abdullah Setari, Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, and Mohammad Ismail Bhat are finding it difficult to carry forward the tradition. Many Maqams and Talas have been forgotten. Saaz-e-Kashmir, the only bow instrument is on the path of extinction. In the past, a dance form namely Hafiz Nagma was associated with Sufiana Mausiqi in which a female dancer, “Hāfizā” would represent the meaning of the song through various hand gestures and movements of the body. This dance form is now out of practice.
Since this musical tradition is nearly extinct, recordings are also extremely rare. Here, we post a radio broadcast of a concert which took place in Freiburg ,Germany, in 1984. No song titles are provided.

The musicians are the following:
Ustad Ghulam Muhammad Qalinbaf (Vocal & Setar)
Abdul Rahman Lohn (Vocal & Setar)
Mushtaq Ahmed (Santur)
Muhammad Yaqub (Tabla)

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  • Thanks , Persephone !

    I saw a performance of this style of music , years ago

    in Oregon , with Sufis , who were traveling with a

    belly dancing troupe...

    I do not remember where they were from , but

    the whole night was "otherworldly" , just my

    cup of tea...spiced chai , of course...;)

    • You are welcome brother Shawn. Yes I love my exotic heritage :D

    • I can see and feel why...

      I spent many an hour in the Belly Dance camp when I went

      to Oregon Country Fair each year...

      Belly Dancers at the Oregon Country Fair. - YouTube
    • That is great and I hope you enjoyed it immensely. Mahafsoun is a fave of mine.

    • I saw the videos by them when I was creating a

      music thread on another site...

      I have to admit though...I am a Rachel Brice addict...

      Rachel Brice & Illan Rivière | Thousand Year Forest - YouTube
    • Yes I have heard of Rachel Brice. I really like and enjoy Miriam Peretz because she is not so eclectic and is traditional and shows the real core of Persian culture and folk dance. I myself have some Aryan Persian heritage.

      Miriam Peretz Videos

      Miriam Peretz
    • And from the Portland Oregon area...

      The Caravansary » Portland and All Oregon Sufi Community News and Events
    • That is cool, thanks for sharing.

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