A Musical Journey

When everything in Kashmir virtually came to a halt with the outbreak of militancy in 1989, Mohammad Amin Lala, a music enthusiast, found time to revisit his notes and write his first book on music. Saima Bhat meets the man whose award winning book Kitab ul Mosiqi is hailed as the next big thing in music in Kashmir.

(Extreme left) Mohammad Amin Lala receiving award for his book Kitab ul Mosiqi.
(Extreme left) Mohammad Amin Lala receiving award for his book Kitab ul Mosiqi.

Recently, Mohammad Amin Lala’s book Kitab ul Mosiqi, an analogy on music was awarded the Best Book Award – 2011 in Urdu language by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages.

Lala’s association with music dates back to 1975 when he was in 8th standard. He learned music from Indian Classical Musical School in Kashmir which was run by Kakaji Safaya, a Kashmiri Pandit now settled in Mumbai. Lala who used to play guitar initially shifted to violin after getting inspired by E K Anand Desakar, a violinist from Bollywood, who was on a visit to Kakaji’s music school in Srinagar.

“During those days there was nobody to teach us guitar so I decided to shift to violin,” says Lala.

From 1976 to 1986, Lala learnt music from Kakaji’s music school situated in Srinagar, the school was run from a room in Suwyaar Mandir’s basement in Habba Kadal.

Lala spent his childhood in a Pandit dominated locality in Srinagar where his neighbours, mostly women, used to tell his mother to let him continue his passion for music. “They used to tell my mother that your son is an asset for music lovers. That used to make my mother proud of me and she supported my passion throughout,” says Lala.

Lala, who belongs to a business family feels it was because of his mother’s support that he could pursue his love for music otherwise his family would not have taken him seriously.

During his initial years as music student, Lala came in contact with Dr Arjumand Durani, an eminent Kashmiri violinist, who was a scientist by profession. Durani, a Phd in Physics, had migrated to Germany in 1956. But he kept his passion for music alive by performing with orchestras in Germany and other western countries. “I am honored that Durani sahib taught me staff notations and violin in western style. I was his student for three years (1983 to 1986). He taught me the physics of music,” says Lala.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in commerce from Islamia College, Lala did an advanced diploma in Indian classical Music from Akhil Bhartiya Gandharav Mahavidhalaya Mandal, Bombay. Then he did his post graduation in commerce from the University of Kashmir, in 1978.  In the meantime he got a job in J&K SIDCO in 1984.

But in two years time Lala passed  All India Yuwani service exams as a violinist and became an approved artist under light music category at All India Radio’s Kashmir centre. Despite getting a position in  the All India Radio, Lala decided to pursue music only as a hobby.

“During those days successful professionals were those people only whose primary job was something else, all of them had kept music as their secondary job,” said Lala.

But Lala’s passion for music was too strong to be kept aside as a secondary job. It was because of that passion that Bollywood’s ace violinist [E K Anand] Desakar offered to train Lala. “It was a dream come true for a young music enthusiast like me. He even offered me to stay with him at his Mumbai residence,” remembers Lala.

But Desakar advised Lala to first go for General Services Examination. “When I applied I got selected for Yuwani Service instead as I had earned B-grade. It discouraged me. I knew again I had to keep music as my secondary job,” says Lala. That day Lala promised himself that one day he will be the best violinist in North India.

In 1989, Lala joined Department of Communication and Information Technology, Government of India. He is presently serving as deputy director.

Lala says he must have played in 4000 to 5000 songs so far including Keertans and Films (Naazu 1987). He has also performed live at various places like colleges and universities across India. “I have performed live at Madras, Banaras Central University, AMU, Delhi University, Pune and Jammu universities,” says Lala.

Lala believes it is important to master any subject both practically and theoretically. It was during initial years of turmoil in Kashmir that Lala got time to work on the theory part of the music.

Lala who has a good command over Persian, Arabic, Sankrit and Hindi, believes these languages have helped him in learning the theoretical part of music as most of the theory of music is written in these languages.

It was Lala’s interaction with students of music school that prompted him to write an award winning book on music titled Kitab ul Mosiqi.

“They (students) only knew how to play instrument but that hardly makes you a good musician. Music is a complete subject with its own physics and mathematics,” said Lala. But he does not blame students for their lack of theoretical knowledge about music. “I know it is not their fault because they don’t know other languages like Hindi,” says Lala.

Disturbed by the state of young musicians in Kashmir, Lala decided to help. But instead of lecturing them, Lala collected his notes from 1976 and then downloaded the syllabus for maters degree of various universities. “On the basis of my notes I compiled 53 chapters of music and out of that I have drafted 33 chapters in Kitab ul Mosiqi.”

In 2010, Lala went to Delhi and approached Farid Book Depot, a leading Urdu publishing house, to get his book published. “They liked my work and agreed to publish it,” said Lala. Once the book was out, Lala took made sure that his book reaches every music school in India. “I personally distributed Kitab ul Mosiqi in music colleges and universities across India,” said Lala.

Lala never thought of winning an award for this book. “I just wanted to help music students especially Kashmiris who don’t know Hindi language.”

Lala chose Urdu as a medium of language for his book because there was hardly anything available on music in this language. “No music book was published in Urdu since 1946 and I wanted to fill that gap.”

Kitab ul Mosiqi, comprises of 33 chapters, which Lala has used to explain 108 notes of music, history of music in various places, time theory of music, how to derive the equations of music and various other basics of music. The revised edition of the book will have 20 new chapters.

Lala recalls the day when the secretary Cultural academy, Khalid Bashir rang him up in Jammu and said he has been nominated for an award. “It was the happiest moment of my life,” Lala is planning to write a book on Sufi music, which he believes is on the verge of death. “I will be noting it in staff notations so that people all over world can play it.”

Lala got married in 1995 and is blessed with two sons-one is in class 11 and another class 7.


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