|Zubin Mehta with local artiste Abhay Sopori at the
concert in Srinagar on Saturday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Sept. 7: Zubin Mehta may have angered many pro-aazaadi activists by holding a concert here but they might well thank him for their discovery of a new instrument to carry on their “struggle” — music.
For years, Kashmir’s agitating youth have banked on stones, shutdowns and guns. Today, hundreds of them flirted with music at a parallel concert held as a counter to Zubin’s Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (Feel of Kashmir).
Peddling music to an aazaadi gathering is no mean challenge, even if most Kashmiris do love to listen to music at their homes, marriages and social gatherings. Hard-line separatists consider music a vice.
But not one voice of protest rose from among the hard-line and moderate separatists who attended the Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir) concert as rappers, other singers and Kashmiri folk artistes performed on stage.
|Zubin Mehta at his concert Ehsaas-e-Kashmir at Shalimar Bagh on Saturday. (Reuters)
The rival concert may have been on Zubin’s mind as he began his performance before a select audience, mostly made up of influential men and women from outside the Valley, at a heavily fortified Shalimar Bagh.
“I have waited and dreamt of this moment for a long time. There are those we have hurt inadvertently. I promise, next time we shall do this with everyone in a stadium where everyone can come, so it won’t be a select few,” the 77-year-old maestro said in an apparent reference to local people.
“When the music starts, a positive wave goes from this stage everywhere. We only want to do good.”
The gathering at both events was a little over 1,000, the police trying their best to keep the attendance low at the parallel concert, though exact figures were not available.
At Shalimar, the audience enjoyed every bit of the concert, performed under chinar trees. Separatists had called a shutdown and civil society and militants too had opposed the event, dubbing it an attempt to present a false picture of normality in the Valley.
Zubin’s show began with a joint rendition of a Kashmiri composition by his Bavarian State Orchestra and Kashmiri performers led by local artiste Abhay Sopori. Zubin shook hands with every member of Abhay’s troupe. The visiting orchestra later played the works of Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
Although state administration bigwigs were present in full strength at Shalimar, much of their attention was focused on the unfolding situation across the Valley and the parallel concert, being held at the same time some 12km away at Municipal Park in the city centre.
The Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir had been organised by Kashmir’s civil society to “highlight the sufferings and pain of Kashmir” and pay tribute to the sacrifices of its people.
A wary administration had given permission for the event only last evening, and people had a tough time reaching the venue as blockades had been erected on the way. But hundreds persevered and got in while many more were pushed back.
The audience was diverse: trendy boys and girls in jeans on one side; burqa-clad women and young men with long beards on the other. They would be clapping in unison one moment and wiping their eyes the next, moved by an elegy.
The performers included teenage rappers Saif and Fahad, who drummed up passion with their lines: “Resistance is the choice/ It is going to make some noise.”
The organisers targeted Zubin’s concert. “That one is a function of the elite, for the elite and by the elite; this is a function for the ordinary Kashmiri. The rich were ferried in BMWs to Shalimar; whereas people who set out on foot (for this concert) were not allowed to join us,” said paediatrician Altaf Hussain.
|The Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir concert at the Municipal
Park in Srinagar. Picture by Abdul Qayoom
Abir Bazaz, an academic from America’s Minnesota University and a volunteer, agreed that music could be a new weapon in Kashmir’s “evolving resistance movement”.
“We have made a new beginning today and you will see Kashmiris employing new creative expressions to achieve aazaadi in the coming years,” he said.
Poet Zareef Ahmed Zareef summed up the opposition to Zubin’s concert. “We are not against music but against the politics behind it. They want to prove that everything is peaceful here, which is not true. When we get and celebrate aazaadi, we will certainly invite Zubin Mehta to sing to us,” he said.