Innovating Sufi music

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Shazia Khan
They are becoming a phenomenon with more than 12 chart-busters since January. Literally Irfan Nabi and Bilal Ahmad of newly created Sufi Band have succeeded in changing the face of traditional Kashmiri Music.
Ask them what music means, “It is something which soothes your soul.” And put the very definition of music in words of Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”. Born and brought up in Kashmiri middle class families their childhood dreams of becoming pop stars faced resistance but they persisted and when people realised their talent, support came their way.
“We didn’t receive any special training in music and singing. It is something within us right from beginning. We only discovered it when we were in class 8, we composed a song, sang it in a school function and were highly appreciated,” said Bilal.
For the duo the event began the journey. Soon they started saving their money and bought some used musical instruments.
By the time they were in class X, they were selected to perform in Youth Festival organised by Cultural Academy in Ahmadabad. “That was a sparkling experience. We performed in front of thousands and got an opportunity to explore music of different regions,” says Irfan.
On return they approached many singers and musicians of valley but were not encouraged. Immediately afterwards, they moved to Mumbai in search of work. “It was something absurd, without realising the ground realities we tried to enter into the territories of Hindi music and were rejected.” Irfan says with a laugh.
After 15 days they returned and completed their schooling. But their dream lived within. Years after, they landed in Punjab to work in a music studio, and as DJ’s in clubs.
“It was learning experience for us to promote many forms of music. But that was not exactly what we were striving for. We wished to contribute something to our music so finally we came back.”  Back here, they participated in a musical show Saaz Aur Awaaz and met singer Mehmeet Sayed, King Paul and Amit Wanchoo and created a musical band Emersion.
Though Emersion didn’t survive long but the duo’s music was loved and welcomed.  Ask them the reason they say, “Our music has different sound. We owe a lot to Sufism.  If we would play same folk, we would not have achieved what we did. So the credit goes to our innovative style, in which we treated ordinary Kashmiri folk music with Mexican style, Fusion and Hip –Hop.”
In eight years they have composed and sung more than 500 songs. “Our songs aren’t just songs; they are the fruit of our blood, sweat and tears,” says Irfan  The duo is researching Sufism, and want to treat it with different styles of music without disturbing its essence. Their future plans include setting up a musical school for Kashmiri children besides promoting Kashmiri music worldwide.

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