Band Paether


Neither is music new to the land of Habba Khatoon nor the debate over its status in Muslim societies. Then why all of a sudden was there a high decibel noise and swift police action after three little girls disbanded following massive media attention. Shams Irfan reports.

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Indian media once again succumbed to the temptation of passing a judgment on the entire Kashmiri society. Charged debated were held on prime time news where Kashmiris were branded as intolerant and orthodox after the valley’s first all-girls band, Pragaash (First Light), called it a day and decided to split.

The decision came after Kashmir self-proclaimed ‘Grand Mufti’ Bashiruddin Ahmad issued a religious decree (Fatwa), terming music as un-Islamic and appealed the girls to “stop from these activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership.”

The all-girls band consists of vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, 16, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid (both 15). The band came to limelight in December 2012 when they performed at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition which was sponsored by the CRPF. The band won the best performance award in the event.

Soon after their performance, Pragaash’s official page on social networking site Facebook started receiving comments, some of which were offensive in nature. The band was widely debated by netizens who were divided between those who saw it as an offense to Islam in a Muslim dominated society and those who supported the girls and called it a positive step.

But things snowballed into a major controversy when ‘Grand Mufti’s’ issued a decree against them, which made Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweet in support of the band.

Adnan Mattoo, a resident of Srinagar’s posh Jawahar Nagar locality and Pragaash’s mentor and manager, who runs a small music academy called ‘Band In’ claimed that the girls are receiving threats and their life was in danger.

Yasir who has helped many youngsters realize their passion for music during his three-decade long career blamed Mattoo for using Pragaash controversy for his personal gains. “Matoo used these innocent girls for his own publicity,” said Yasir.

With no music background, Mattoo claims to have helped establish at least a dozen music bands in Kashmir, including Pragaash.  In an interview with a New Delhi based magazine, Mattoo claimed that he was the first person to set up a rock band in Kashmir called Blood Rockz during the late nineties.

Yasir told Kashmir Life that Mattoo would often try stunts like singing in the crowded place or sit down at a road side shop with a guitar in his hand and sing. According to Yasir, Matoo convinced two youth to sing at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar city two years back. They agreed as Mattoo promised them good public response.

The moment they started singing, they were driven away by irritated shopkeepers and bystanders. While the two youth were injured, Mattoo managed to flee from the spot unhurt.

“I am sure this entire controversy is his making only,” claims Yasir “he unnecessarily dragged these teenage girls in this mess.”

Tariq, who owns a small recording studio in Srinagar, blames media for creating a big controversy out of an isolated incident. “The Pragaash incident does not reflect upon the entire Kashmiri society. Why has Indian media never highlighted the work and contribution of other talented singers from Kashmir? How come nobody talks about Raj Begum, Zoona Begum, Kailash Mehra or Ghulam Ahmad Sofi for that matter who are all legends,” he asks.

Mehmeet Syed
Mehmeet Syed

Even the new breed of singers and musicians from Kashmir has remained largely unknown to the world. For years, Mehmeet Syed, a charming singer from Nishat, Srinagar, occupied the prime time space at local cable channels in Kashmir. Mehmeet, a graduate from Government Women College, Srinagar, sang her way to fame after reinventing lyrics of the famous 14th century Sufi saint Lal Ded.

“Mehmeet, in a way, gave new life to dwindling Kashmiri music industry,” claims Tariq. Mehmeet’s melodious voice earned her instant fame, especially among youngsters who were happy to retrace their lost musical legacy through her songs.

In 2008, Mehmeet went on a musical tour to Russia. The tour was supported by the Cultural Academy in collaboration with the Indian Cultural Foundation. Mehmeet also won the best female singer award of the state. —


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