by Khalid Bashir Gura
SRINAGAR: For the last few days, the lines reverberating within Kashmir’s Gen-X are: One minute up and one minute down, baby this is downtown. This peppy number by Musaib Bashir Bhat, Srinagar’s new comedy singer is re-introducing the downtown in the lingo that the internet generation understands better. Ever since its upload, Kashmir’s virtual space is stuffed with this.
A resident of Nawa Kadal, Musaib, has dedicated the song to the place he grew up in. He is a businessman and considers his creative products as a hobby.
The uncertainty from climate to weather to people to politics is the character not of the downtown but Kashmir and the song is about the uncertainty, however, restricted to the Shehr-e-Khas, the old city.
As the successive lockdowns in Kashmir shackled the avenues of outing and entertainment, people in order to find respite and escape from the constant tension choose YouTube as the medium of entertaining people and a source of entertainment.
Lately, Musaib Bashir Bhat, a comic digital content creator’s new release; an ode to the old city became an instant hit as within four days it notched more than 539 thousand views on YouTube and lakhs of views on other social media platforms.
Musaib’s videos had gone viral earlier also when the pandemic gripped Kashmir and the enforced lockdown confined people to their homes. To contain the contagion as the people were quarantined, Musaib in his video described the new dictations of pandemic and the vocabulary it created and entailed by its spread. He moulded his message in creativity and his emulation of women accents and tones had tickled the bones of people across Kashmir.
Lately, again his song which took two months in making according to him, despite being dedicated to downtown has found resonance and is reverberating across Kashmir because of its creativity, humour and lyrics.
The song besides Musiab features Sharjeel Javaid, Shujan Saleem, Ashaal, and Mysaib Sofi. The video is also scheduled for release on August 4, on Spotify
What earned people’s admiration of a song was not just its music or lyrics but the messages embedded in them. Given the trash content available on cyberspace these days, the quality by Musaib found its space and acceptance. In his video, he has put across daily problems faced by the residents often ignored by the authorities and has described the age-old culture, lifestyle, and history of downtown.
The video starts with the now-proscribed drone shot of historical Jamia Masjid in Kashmir probably at the end of winters, and the shifts to his entry on a hand-pulled cart one of the common features of downtown. The shot is hot on the historical bridge of the old city and features the rusty roofs of the cramped old city. His admirers regret that the old city space has not been fully accommodated in the song.
Soon, the music is blended with the different trajectories of life downtown and produces a message and melody. And soon he introduces various characters, events, and eccentricities of downtown.
People oblivious to this part of the city and its essence can sure use the song as a prologue to understanding.
What seems to have produced this nostalgic ode is the Musaib’s tryst with a new home outside the old city and the stark difference in the people and lifestyle.
In an interview with Kashmir Life, he said that as he grew in downtown he always wanted to do something. His video has put across the grievances people of the old city face besides paying tribute to the bonds the cramped city is knitted together with.
“I had conceived its idea a long ago. There are very cramped houses, alleys. There are handfuls of marriage halls. Even if there is a fire emergency there is a lot of difficulty in dousing the flames,” he said, adding that he wanted to put forth some of these grievances through his song and hoped it reached the government.
The song has sketched the lives of the people, everyday routines, and the geography of the downtown. Shehr-e-Khaas despite historical importance has been neglected and relegated to the background on the developmental front over the years by the authorities. The irony, though, is the Babul Iqbal, the gateway of Shehr-e-Khaas, which is considered as the beginning of the old city, the site is stinking with Brari-Nambal lagoon despite the government’s cosmetic measures to beautify the growing cesspool.
According to Musaib he is nonchalant and does not like talking much or having a lot of friends. He started entertaining people with a TikTok to express himself but soon after his videos got viral and his family came to know about his antics he has had to face rap on the knuckles.
But as he found wider acceptance outside home and people started admiring his talent, soon his family too started laughing and support at his creations but not after bearing a separation for two years he said.
“My friend had introduced me to the App called TikTok. I made a video acting as a transgender and it got it and then there was no looking back. And soon I shifted to YouTube,” he said and has started shifting towards singing and it is the beginning of entertainment songs.
As is the nature of human beings to feel happier by making others happy, Musaib’s hobby did cheer up distressed people. But what kept him going according to him were the calls that informed him that people who were suffering from deadly diseases or were distressed, his videos were a source of joy for them and brought smiles to their sad faces.
According to him, he learns from constructive criticism and in turn negative comments help him to improve his content.
Bhat also said that one cannot subsist on its earning and taking this hobby as a profession will be a blunder. “But if a bigger platform hires you, then one can imagine it as a profession,” he said.
However, at a time when the youth are choosing negative coping mechanisms like drugs, Musaib who lives in the same world is the best example to channelize potential in the service of society irrespective of the medium. In Kashmir, however, the new age comedians have changed the comedy contours and have wider reach and acceptance by choosing alternative platforms to showcase their talent than DD Kashir, the Kashmiri language satellite channel.
As his videos became viral, so did his followers on social media skyrocketed. One with a couple of followers has now 133 thousand followers.