Almost a month into last year’s civil unrest in Kashmir, as violence on the streets spiralled and civilian death toll increased, Ali Saffudin, 23, — a rock singer here — uploaded a song titled ‘Tum kitne jawa maroge’ on YouTube.
His song goes: “Tum kitne jawa maroge, har ghar se jawa niklega/ Jo lahoo hai behta rag rag mein, wo junoon banke ubhre ga…” (How many youth will you kill, from every home a youth will come out/The blood which flows in the veins, will rise into a frenzy, madness)
The song became quite popular and had 30,000-odd views on YouTube.
Since last year’s unrest, the Valley has been seeing an increase in the number of protest songs and raps by young artistes who are composing, singing and launching their music on social media.
Ali, a post-graduate student of mass communication at Kashmir University, says, “In Kashmir, there is a new wave of resistance through art and a lot of young kids joining in through their respective mediums of expressions.”
Ali says his songs depict the reality. “My songs portray the general sentiment on the streets of Kashmir. If I do not put those sentiments into my songs I will be blocking my natural process.”
“I am in a conflict zone, a militarised zone, in a politically unresolved area. I believe people connect to the truth in my song. One aspect of my music is that they are songs of the oppressed and the other side is that I intend to play some Blues and Kashmiri folk songs,” he adds.
Ali’s protest songs have catapulted him to global recognition. In October, as the unrest continued in the Valley, he appeared on a programme on BBC World Service from London and spoke about the socio-political situation in Kashmir, prolonged curfew, rights violations and the use of the controversial pellet guns.
On the show, he sang “Inquilab o Inquilab (Revolution)” – a song based on a poem by Abdul Ahad Azad, a Kashmiri poet of the early 1900s – and dedicated it to the “valour of Kashmiris”.
On January 26, two Kashmiri protest raps were uploaded on YouTube — Dead Eyes in English, which describes the plight of pellet victims, and Voices of Kashmir, rapped in Urdu, narrates how conflict and the ensuing deaths have ravaged the Valley.
“Dead Eyes” has garnered over 11,000 views on YouTube in two weeks, while “Voices of Kashmir” has got 9,000-odd views.
“My friend Nazar ul Islam was injured by pellets during the unrest. That was the inspiration to start writing this song,” said Aamir Ame (23), the singer of Dead Eyes who is doing his MBA from Kashmir University.
Danish Bhat, 22, a diploma student of engineering who wrote and rapped the Kashmiri part in Dead Eyes, says, “Till the time I feel that my people are suffering injustice, I will keep writing and singing.”
But the brewing hip-hop revolution is not limited only to the state’s summer capital — “Voices of Kashmir” has been sung by two rappers from the strife-torn north Kashmir town of Sopore.
“During the unrest, there was a neighbour of mine who told me he is going to take a stroll and two hours later I came to know he is no more. One line in my song, says, ‘Koi ghar se gaya, duniya se gaya’,” said Faizaan Farooq, 22, who along with fellow musician Wani Arman composed and sang Voices of Kashmir. The song was recorded and produced in Sopore, and so was the YouTube video.
The first protest rap came out of the Valley during the 2010 unrest when a then 20-year-old rapper from Srinagar, going by the stage-name MC Kash, sang the cult hit “I Protest”. Today, like Dead Eyes and Voices of Kashmir, scores of protest raps are being uploaded on YouTube by Kashmiri artists.
Their songs, mostly produced at home, are perhaps not of professional quality and these aspiring composer-singers are still honing their skills. But they do not shy away from expressing their feelings about the decades-old conflict in their homeland.