Singing might have been a simple exercise at some point in time. Not anymore. A city singer had to struggle hard, lift a loan from the bank and the family to purchase instruments that his ideal band required. Many years later, he tells Saba Gul that he is happy that he owns a band that has a brand value
Kashmiri music holds its own melodies, depths and a distinguishing badge. Most of the famous singers across the political divide have sung Kashmiri numbers.
In Kashmir, traditional music is the soul of culture but strife had an impact. Even modern western influences pushed traditional music to the background. This emerged a challenge to some music artists who worked overtime to revive it by lending it a modern touch. Now, some are passionately choosing music as their career.
Owais Pandit is one such talented young man whose days and nights are spent rehearsing on his keyboard. A resident of Srinagar’s Haft Chinar, Owais is the eldest son in a working-class family.
“At school, I was mediocre in my studies. Books never attracted me,” Owais said. “But I used to participate in all kinds of cultural events. I was popular among my classmates, teachers and the peer group.”
After completing his twelfth, Owais went to Delhi to pursue a course in music and Fine Arts from International Musical Institute Delhi. “I was amazed to see the response of people there for being a Kashmiri. They often used to ask me about our prevailing conditions, Sufi music and folk songs like vaanvun. But I always cleared their misconceptions regarding our identity and music by giving them a befitting reply,” he said.
Unlike others, he never wanted to pursue a degree in medicine or engineering as he was inclined towards music since his adolescence age. He had made up his mind and the only thing he wanted to become in future was a singer. During his childhood, the first thing that attracted him was his father’s piano keyboard and saxophone. He used to be fascinated whenever his father played a tune. Seeing his admiration his father agreed to teach him playing of keyboard and harmonium.
“It was a beautiful experience as I was learning from none other than my father,” Owais said. “I remember my mother’s eyes welled up when I sang walai kastooriyai poor mai trav neeriyai in my immature voice”.
During marriage ceremonies of his relatives, Owais took a lead and used to sing with zeal along with his aunts, friends and family. After coming back from Delhi, he used to participate in musical programmes organized by Doordarshan. It was then he thought of creating his own musical band which would not only fulfil his dream but could also earn him some livelihood.
Struggles and failures are part and parcel of life. It wasn’t easy for Owais to arrange things, as tools and devices were not available locally. He faced a huge shortage of funds. He took a loan of Rs 3.5 lakhs from Jammu and Kashmir Bank and his mother also sold her jewellery so, that Owais could live his dream.
To create his own musical band, Owais needed a drummer, a lead guitarist, pianist and extra singers. Though he bought instruments from Delhi, he couldn’t find other team members.
“I then decided to take the help of my friends who had some knowledge of music. It was a daunting task for me,” Owais said. “I and my father worked very hard on three of my friends including my younger brother and together we created our own band in 2012 and named it as Chinar Boys Musical Band”.
Finally, it took off. He started by performing at wedding functions. He was appreciated by all for his graceful voice and adorable looks. Thereafter many young singers and artists approached him and soon his band started being recognised in Srinagar. He gained mass recognition from his first-ever official event in 2013 called Jashn-e-Bahaar which was organized by Jammu and Kashmir Bank at Badaamwari.
“I was overwhelmed by the response that I received from people. It boosted my confidence,” Owais said. “I began receiving umpteen official contracts from Jammu and Kashmir Bank and Department of Tourism to perform at Badamwari, SKICC, The Grand Lalit palace, Gulmarg and Ladakh which were mainly for tourists and businessmen.”
In 2016, however, Owais suffered heavy losses during the extended unrest following the killing of Burhan Wani. He went to Jammu to look for some work. He was invited by a Kashmiri Pandit family on their daughter’s marriage.
“They had tears in their eyes and felt too happy when I sang Kashmiri songs,” Owais remembers. “Many visions flashed in their minds. They asked me about Kashmir and expressed their love, grief and concern.”
In 2017 Pandit organized a four-day public event Jashn-e-Eid with the help of his friends at SKICC which was very well received. “It was a big event, the response and money we got was quite satisfying,” he said.
In 2018, Pandit was invited to Mumbai to do a musical concert at Children Welfare Centre, Yari Road which was mostly attended by Bollywood stars. He was admired and encouraged for his performance. There he was motivated to make his own music video Baaghwano.
“Inspired by Mehjoor’s poetry, I decided to make a music video which is a blend of Urdu and Kashmir lyrics,” Owais informed. “My team gave it a modern touch so that it is enjoyed and loved by all. It’s a beautiful song which states that we possess every quality and if we will hone our talents we can defy against all odds and transform our Kashmir into a beautiful place to live in.”
This all encouraged him to have his social media presence. Owais created his pages on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. His YouTube channel has 1.6K subscribers and his music video Baaghwano has crossed 46418 views.
In 2019, Owais did some official live shows in Jammu.
After putting in so much effort to create a band and making it a success, Owais is heading towards New Zealand for a musical concert which got delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. He believes that in Kashmir people are exceptionally talented but that proper guidance and assistance was needed to hone it.