Hill Singer

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A faith healers son, Kabul Bukhari did his primary schooling in Karnah and then in Srinagar. He finally flew to Mumbai for studies and reconnected with Kashmir through YouTube as one of the few modern singers, reports Umar Khurshid

Whether it’s the falsetto or soft music compositions, Kabul Bukhari, 28, has won the young hearts by singing Kashmiri unplugged songs to become one of the favourite YouTuber. He sings Kashmir folk music with a modern touch.

Hailing from remote Karnah belt, almost on the border, Bukhari is the son of a local faith healer Syed Abdul Abdul Rehman. He did his primary schooling from Karnah and then moved to Srinagar city for further studies.

Bukhari started learning music under the tutelage of his brother Syed Tariq Pardesi, a famous folk singer of his belt and later honed his skills in the Mumbai University. Bukhari’s melodious voice and decorous stage presence have made him one of the favourite folk singers of Kashmir. Bukhari insists that he has always preferred singing Kashmiri songs, despite having Pahadi mother tongue.

For Kabul, music has been his calling for as long as he could remember. “I was barely six, when I used to sing along with my elder brother Syed Tariq Pardesi, during marriage ceremonies and other local events,” Kabul said. Then, he started learning harmonium and became part of his brother’s local folk band.

During the beginnings of his career, Bukhari used to participate in every event he would get chance into and to get to his instrumental jams.

In 2006, Bukhari did his first-ever live show with his brother Syed Farooq, as a Pahadi singer, in Kupwara. “My brother has always been my inspiration, as he is the one who has supported me and my passion,” Bukhari says.

Bukhari was a runner-up for Kashmir’s first-ever singing reality show, Miley Sur, in 2009-10. The show was themed to sing a Kashmiri along with a song from another language on every episode. “This talent hunt had 87 shows and I came into top 3 finalists,” he said.

In 2011, the love for the music brought Bukhari to the dream city of Mumbai where he lives with his brother’s family now. “There were two reasons for me to shift Mumbai, first to pursue my higher studies, which I did not want to leave in middle and second to learn advanced music,” he said.

Bukhari joined the Mumbai University, did his diploma in the music department for two years and then bachelors from the same department for three years. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Classical Music.

“My masters will finish this year, I’m opting for a PhD in Mumbai University and my research will be on, diversity in Kashmir’s cultural music,” Bukhari said.

Apart from singing, Bukhari does his own compositions and has a studio of his own, called KB Productions. He also sings in Gojri, Dogri, Pashtu, Panjabi and Urdu. “This all comes gradually but my main focus will be on the Kashmiri language.”

In 2015, Bukhari participated in Voice India, singing reality show, and obtained an appreciation certificate. Then he remained a finalist of Big Golden Voice Mumbai city. He also won the third position in All India Devotional Song Competition, held in Katra Jammu. Bukhari has recently received an up-gradation from All India radio as a singer artist.

Bukhari has covered a wide spectrum of Kashmiri folk songs from melancholic to mystical to romantic and has struck a balanced harmony between the old and new. “I am actually preparing for new hits and probably you will find me in something good very soon,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari’s first Youtube hit was Dilas Dubrai Gayem. The song has 919, 700, views on YouTube and has won him a wide fan base. His numbers are so popular that some other local singers are attempting copying his style. The live shows and concerts in various places have given a new boost to Bukhari.

Contrary to the common perception that the folk in Kashmir has a narrow base, Bukhari says it is huge and impressive. “There were no music schools in Kashmir in our time,” he said, insisting that it is very difficult to choose music as a career. “Apart from talent, which is obviously important, luck plays a huge role.” Bukhari got lucky, indeed for being a part of various singing reality shows in Kashmir.

The singer has big plans for the next year. There will be more songs in Gojri, Dogri, Pashtu, Panjabi and Urdu, he said.

Perhaps the greatest achievement for Bukhari was to shift to Mumbai for advance music and his hits like “Dilas Dubaraye Gayem, Meh Nah Chane Lay Mashahni, Yusi Ishq Pazar.”

Asked what he is keen to convey through his music, Kabul said he wants to connect with his audience at an emotional level. “I want my music to sound like hope. In a world that’s so darkened by the shadows of problems, I would like to create atleast a glimmer of light,” he said. Despite the emotional and physical drain, he felt due to the pressure of live shows, Kabul describes his experience as ‘phenomenal.’

Many of the Bukhari’s songs have been lauded but when asked which of the songs he enjoyed performing the most, he said it had been Dilas Dubaraye Gayem. “It was upbeat and fun and different from anything that he had performed,” Kabul said. “I had to understand the tradition of Shimla, where we actually shot the video.”

But Kabul is satisfied. “I have had highs and lows but I have learned a lot. It is still unbelievable to me that I have gone through this amazing experience.”

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