When the musical numbers Sheela Ki Jawani and Munni Badnam hui were a rage in the country last year, radio jockey Sardar Nasir Ali Khan aka RJ Nasir (26) of Srinagar’s FM 92.7 was searching through 1980-90s compact discs, cherry-picking low-beat songs. The summer protests of 2010 nearly muffled the radio star; but that was last year.
Three months into 2011, life in the Valley is inching towards stabilisation, and to know it you just have to tune into this radio station.
“No one complains about playing high-beat songs now as they used to at the peak of the 2010 unrest,” says Nasir, who braved the bullets and stones to keep the melody intact in the lives of Kashmiris, all through the summer..
The killing of a schoolboy by the police in June last year resulted in five months of violence in the valley; 212 people were left dead in street protests.
“When I recall those days, it was hell. My two colleagues RJ Haya and RJ Sara, who had to come from downtown Srinagar to our station at Karan Nagar, failed to do so on many occasions because of stringent curfews and stone-throwing protesters,” says Nasir, who hosts the Yeh Shaam Mastani show. “In our phone-in programmes, I would discuss only light issues to take away people from what they were facing”.
Nasir, who lives in uptown Barzalla Bhagat, was the only one who kept FM “going” in the valley. But he had to face the music from netizen protesters.
“I received hundreds of messages on the social networking site Facebook. People would ask me to discontinue playing high-beat songs ‘as the valley was burning and people were dying’,” recalls Nasir.
He had to park his car at a relative’s place far away from the office when violence hit streets of Srinagar on September 11, on the occasion of Eid. “I was not allowed by the security forces to head to my office. I had to walk three-four km to keep the station going,” said Nasir, a post graduate in Mass Communication from New Delhi.
Nasir also had to keep in mind the sensibilities of the listeners. “I decided only to play the smooth songs of 80s and early 90s like Kumar Sanu in the film, Aashiqui. No metal-heavy and high-beat songs,” he says.
At the peak of the unrest, the radio station just played devotional music, otherwise aired only on Fridays.
But for the last three months, RJ Nasir is back on console with high-beat songs without any reaction from the street or the web. Acceptance of “dhin chak (racy)” music by listeners once again, Nasir says, reflects the changing mood of the people.
With summer round the corner, all eyes are on the RJ. Whether Nasir is fated to play the “smooth” songs or the high-beat ones, will only be clear in the next few months. For now, the valley is humming a new tune.