Kashmiri Singer In Grammy Limelight Sees A ‘Dignity Jump’ in Possible Nomination

SRINAGAR: Making history, a Kashmiri singer and musician, Qaisar Nizami is in the queue for being nominated for a Grammy Award 2022. The nomination is for lending his voice to a multinational music project piloted by American Ehsaan Matori.

Kashmir singer Qaisar Nizami

Grammy (originally the Gramophone Award) is the Pulitzer of music and is being given to outstanding artists and performances every fall. This year final nominees would be announced on November 23.

What is interesting, however, is that the singer whose contributions are being acknowledged at the global level regretted that he was hardly recognised back home.

“It is a matter of joy that the famous composer Ehsaan Matoori in collaboration with the greatest musicians of the world brought out an album in which many countries lend their voices and the voice of Qaisar Nizami, the legendary singer of the Valley, also is included in the album titled The Voices and Bridges, which speaks in itself about the music and poetry,” Nizami’s brief for the nomination statement reads.

In the album, Nizami sang Kashmiri number, Nazninay (O Beauty) and it has been pictured on many characters across the world. The 6.58-minute song is available online.

The nomination of a Kashmiri singer-musician is unprecedented in Kashmir history that has a rich cultural past and present.

Reports appearing in the media said that the first round of voting for the nominations ended on November 5. The next round will take place between December 6, 2021, and January 5, 2022, in time for the event slated for January 31, 2022. The voting takes place online.

The multinational album happened very recently when Nizami had flown to the US for a performance in a concert at the University of North Texas College of Music, Denton, Texas. It was there when a Kashmiri American professor, Sadaf Munshi, introduced Nizami to Matoori, a musician and a santoor player. That is how the album happened.

Matoori was working on the project since 2019. It is aimed at “an exploration which brings together languages of ancient cultures” such as Persian, Spanish, Arabic and English among others.

The album available on YouTube features diverse cultures. Its Persian lyrics are from Iranian poet Fereydoon Moshiri’s Beneshin Mara (Stay with Me) and Kashmiri poet Ibrahim Miskeen’s Pur Mah (Full Moon). The two songs are supplanting each other to keep the theme of the album intact.

The singers who have lent their voices to the project include Alireza Ghorbani (lead vocalist), Bombay Jayashri, Celia Woodsmith, Qaiser Nizami, Michael Kelly, Solange Meridinian, Maya Hobeika, Olcay Bayir and many others. The poets whose lyrics the ongoing project has tackled include that of Rudaki, Jorge Luis Borges, Nima Youshij, Pierre Riverdy, William Shakespeare, Allama Iqbal,  Lal Ded, Rabindranath Tagore, Nazim Hikmat, Maram Almesri, Forough Farokhzad,  and Rumi. Dr Munshi is associated with the project.

“I am just in the queue for the nomination and am yet to be nominated but for a Kashmir singer who is hardly been acknowledged at home, it is a huge thing,” Qaisar Nizami told Kashmir Life. “The credit for all this must go to Prof Munshi who made efforts for all this and provided me the opportunity to be there.”

Nizami said the album was recorded in New York at a time when the only thing happening around was death, because of the Covid19 pandemic. “Those who terrifying tine but the dedication on part of Matoori was impressive,” he said. “For me and the people of my tribe, the singers of Kashmir, it is a huge thing.”

 Son of a broadcaster, M A Nizami, Qaiser is a 52-year-old musician-singer who gave up medical subjects because he could handle a Rabaab better than a surgeon’s scalpel.

Qaisar said he recorded for the first time in 1986 and has been singing since then. He is the top-rated artist accredited with the Radio Kashmir Srinagar and the Doordarshan. “I and my colleagues have given almost forty years to this field but since 2014, we have all the accreditations but no work,” Nizami said. “Nobody is bothered about us. In a Sufi festival recently, singers were flown from outside and when it came to our turn; we were told that there is no time.”

In such a situation, the possible nomination is a quantum jump. “You see the comparison – here nobody is bothered if at all we (singers) are alive and outside our talent is being acknowledged.”

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