Crowd Content

With the effective takeover of personal communication by the internet-powered cell phone, hundreds of fortune hunters and vested interests are generating content for a diverse audience. Offering the flip side of the virtual world, Fahd Khan reports the ways and means of the new fortune-hunting and the costs society pays on a long-term basis

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Over the years, the cell phone supposed to help mankind in real-time better communication has emerged as a key player in reshaping life. Connected with the internet, it has already made obsolete a huge electronic equipment basket comprising nearly 50 items from GPS to a watch. It has taken the sheen away from newspapers and is currently threatening the library. Smartphones have already taken a huge sliver of the classroom as the banking sector is the new target. Covid19 triggered work-from-home culture has taken the crowd out of the offices and online governance has done away with the time-space matrix.

Regardless of how anti-social it might be making its users and which kind of vision and orthopaedic issues it may lead to, the small device is a huge time killer.

Never ever in human history was this much data generated or consumed at a mass level as it is happening now. Kashmir, with more than 90 per cent of cell phone penetration, is as good on this parameter as any developed nation could be. But, what are we consuming?

Ubaid Taj’s Hello Hish might have taken the internet by storm in Kashmir and people of all age groups have bombarded social media with lip sync reels without even recognizing what the words represent or what the music is trying to serve or promote. They just jump into the bandwagon wishing their reels to go viral and become instant celebrities.

Level Playing Field

Cell phones have been a disruptive intervention. It demolished the routine hierarchies and opened multiple sectors for almost everybody. Now people go directly to the virtual world with their artworks, music, photography, writings and music.

They can make significant incomes while lounging at home in luxury. Writing blogs and running websites might formerly be the only way to make money online, but with India’s digital revolution and the introduction of fast internet (now 5G), that is no longer the case. From being a consumer to a prosumer, there has been a shift.

People used to merely consume content, but now easy access to the internet has enabled them to generate content too. Content consumers are prosumers now. More and more people are trying their luck on social media to obtain notoriety and recognition, but only a handful of people are able to achieve it.

Now, users decided what to watch and that decides who earns what. A general trend in Kashmir, unlike the rest of the world that consumes knowledge, is that users consume a lot of data, apparently categorised as entertainment and music

Now, there is a bulk of platforms that can help prosumer to reach out to a host of consumers. It is Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and a host of other applications. Chinese TikTok’s lip sync service in 2016 took the world by storm. Even those living in remote areas started making videos, and some of them even rose to fame overnight and started making money. However, as a result of the standoff between India and China, the app was blocked in India. Taking advantage of the deficit, Instagram developed Reels that allow users to create 60-second videos based on popular music and filmy dialogues.

The Eco System

Everyone who has achieved success on social media has a similar slow growth trajectory as it all begins with the creation of an account, after which they are influenced by other creators and decide to try their luck by making lip-sync videos. If this strategy proves successful, they eventually decide to start a YouTube vlogging channel where they make regular day-to-day videos and let their viewers into their personal lives. However, when they shift from lip sync to producing content, the problem arises.

YouTube content creators have started posting videos where they discuss their incomes, show purchasing luxury goods and automobiles with money they earned online, and generally cajole viewers into doing the same.

Kashmir witnessed a surge in content creators, and there are several individuals who have achieved online fame. Singer Ishfaq Kawa, who will make his Bollywood debut soon, began his career by uploading songs. Kawa has established himself as a household brand and now makes substantial earnings from his YouTube channel, which has about 500000 members.

Almost all the new ‘singers’ connect with the masses through the internet, leaving their traditional counterparts to the age-old practices.

Fame and Fortune

YouTube is a huge platform for these content creators so is Facebook. In India, a video with 10 lakh views might trigger a business of US $800 to US $2500. The earnings depend on the geographical location the views come from, the quality of the videos, the niche and the type of adverts displayed on the channel.

This advantage has inspired a large number of Kashmiris to launch their own YouTube channels and make content creation a career. Some of them are into comedy and some into “singing” and there is a lot of trash too. Some of them imitate famous artists from other regions of the world by producing videos that are identical to theirs. It is being seen as a surefire method to have fame and money. It is a simple formula: “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”

There are some huge successes and Kawa is one of them. This is despite the prevalence of stereotypes that usually gets invoked when a female content creator attempts to chase a virtual goal.

Kashmiri Kalkharabs is a young group of satirists and stand-up comedians having nearly 900 thousand followers. Bakus, another video creator apparently inspired by the roast-content creator Carryminati, has 324 thousand subscribers, all of whom have been garnered either by making roasting others or by creating cringe songs. It makes fun of other’s content to make its own profile, a legitimate virtual world reality.

Amir Majid, a content creator from Jammu, has 23 lakh subscribers on YouTube where he posted his rags-to-riches story. In a video, he shows how he was living in an old house and how YouTube changed his life forever. The YouTuber explores different places and also arranges meet-ups with his fans in different parts of India. In one of his fans’ meet up in Srinagar, thousands of fans gathered to meet him. People were in such large number that police was called in to control the mob. His channel is also evident in how much fortune he has made through the platform.

Kashmiri singer Reshi Sakeena who at many times was compared to Dhinchak Pooja, the queen of cringe pop music, now dances at private parties and uploads content. Not everyone can pull off what she does: sing off-key, miss every beat, and still win millions of fans. On YouTube, all of Sakeena’s videos have accumulated millions of views and she has earned well.

Off late, pranks have come to Kashmir. Popularised by some private FM radio studios, pranksters were able to capture the audience’s interest right away. However, as time went on, people began to lose interest since the content was drab and old. There has been an explosion of such videos on the internet where creators create self-humiliating videos that might make one feel uncomfortable at times. While some content makers do it for enjoyment, others do it to gain notoriety and make money from their films. These creators’ primary goal is to get popular online.

Amir Bhat has a Facebook page where he plays pranks on others and has earned 100 thousand followers.

You-tuber Idrees Mir is famous Vlogger with around 900 thousand followers on YouTube and Facebook. He recently made a trip to two foreign destinations and uploaded videos buying automobiles and tech equipment on regular basis, indicating that he earns well.

Risking Lives

Some creators even risked their life for creating content. Murtaza Rafiq known by the name of The EmmInErr recently crossed a milestone of 100 thousand subscribers on his channel and uploaded a video where he spent a night camping in an ordinary summer tent at Gulmarg. Accompanied by the two young children, his video was uploaded with the caption Surviving in Snow for 24 hours in minus 13.

Kashmir’s winter wonderland, Gulmarg is mostly the coldest place where temperatures dip to minus 15 degrees during the night. This act of creating content could have proved fatal for the trio as they didn’t carry proper equipment.

There was also another video creator who jumped into the frozen Nigeen Lake for his video, a media report said.

‘Virtual Politics’

With formal politics squeezed to a level, a group of youth have emerged as “virtual politicians’. They create and upload cringe content presuming it is politics but the people consume it as comedy.

The comic character of Fayaz Scorpio surfaced on the internet during the Covid19 pandemic soon after he became Deputy Sarpanch of Dandoosa (Rafiabad). His rise was his infatuation and an uncanny demand for a Scorpio vehicle. Now, he has become a household name in Kashmir. His clumsy speaking and mannerism have turned him into a laughing stock in Kashmir, and all of his online videos receive millions of views. Scorpio’s fame is so established that people rope him for advertising their products.

His contemporary is Mohammad Shafi, who calls himself Babar Sher, the lion. He moves from one party to another, is driven in a Scorpio vehicle and is always well-dressed. He jumps into any crowd and becomes its “leader” and is known for his theatrics and interesting “statesmanship”. His commentary is sure to make the video viral.

While their virtual presence indicates the tragedy of politics in Kashmir, the fact remains that the people barely watch formal politics the way they see this content. Unlike formal serious politics, these rib-tickling capsules give people moments of pleasure and reasons to laugh at the shift in the space-time matrix.

The Music

In the recent past, one had to be a serious singer or musician, spending years of his life practising to get in the zone of being good, just to be taken seriously and to get a launch by any Music label.  Now, anybody can make music and have access to free tools, auto tuners, vocal plugins, melody, and free beats, and it hardly matters whether one sounds good or bad. On top of that, literally, anyone can sing, shoot an album on their smartphone and upload it to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.

This is the tragedy the entertainment and culture sector shares with the media. Anybody with a smartphone and microphone in hand is seen as a “journalist”. The coverage of a murder case in Pampore, where a brother-in-law strangled his sister-in-law to death for rebuffing sexual assault, is evidence of how low video creators have descended. In a viral video on social media, journalists can be seen asking the slain victim’s daughter to describe what transpired, but she seemed hesitant to do so concerning the age of the victim.

Promoting Vulgarity

Musaib Bhat is one of the social media “influencers” whose musical content has been consumed a lot and was very well appreciated. He initially began creating TikTok videos by lip-syncing on well-known Kashmiri tunes. His video gained popularity among all age groups, especially for his copying of female conversations on phone. Apparently, he is attempting to make the virtual world his career.

Recently one of his ‘songs’ Excuse Me, featuring transgender Manu Bebu hogged the headlines for its questionable content. He is being accused of glorifying eve-teasing and objectifying women. One of the lines of his ‘song’ says: When you leave home for the tuition, Everyone including the baker and Milkman swoons at you.

Despite his public apology, his video is still accessible and earning.

The promotion of sexism and the objectification of women through songs and films is not limited to Musaib alone.

Ubaid Taj has released only two songs to date and both of them were watched by millions. Both legitimise the objectification of women. The songs show a man trying to ‘own’ a woman and objectifying her with or without her wish. It dubs a woman a biscuit.

There is another content creator by 7afazul on Instagram who started a new trend of reels in which a person is being asked “che chuy zanh love gomut” (have you ever fallen in love?) His reels have huge views. His popularity has given birth to a similar channel on Instagram where they ask people if they have even fallen in love and shockingly some videos have surfaced where children or mentally challenged people were not spared. Instagram is quite popular among teens and youth groups.


“These songs are good for providing enjoyment, but apart from gathering views and followers, every content creator has certain social duties,” a female university student said. “Everything has an effect, and these song lyrics encourage eve-teasing, which breeds crime and other social evils.

Another girl, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the impact is being seen when girls are being referred to as “biscuit” in real life now. “Tragedy is that future generation is getting impacted. One of the song’s lines, which is subtly advocating eve teasing, is being repeatedly hummed by my 8-year-old cousin.”


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