Rhythm of Hope

Western music may gradually be entering in to Kashmiri society, but there are still some aspects of it that are relatively unheard of in Kashmir. Sameer Yasir reports on one young Kashmiri’s desire to march to a different tune.

At first glance, Athar Iqbal might look like an average young Kashmiri. But there’s an air of restlessness about him, a desire to break into what some might see an unconventional career.

Athar dreams of becoming a Disc Jockey, or DJ. The 25-year-old from the Baghi Mehtab area of Srinagar confesses that he was perhaps a bit idealistic when he first thought of this as a career option. “I had never imagined it would be so difficult to pursue being a professional DJ,” said Athar.

After completing his Bachelors’ degree in Commerce, Athar said he wanted to join a professional DJ academy. “There are no Disc Jockey schools in Kashmir, so I went to Delhi,” said Athar. That’s where he met  a DJ who found Athar to be quite talented.

He gave Athar the opportunity to work as his assistant in social gatherings, including weddings. Athar says, “It was very tiring in the first few years. I needed to work very hard to learn basic things.” But gradually, his hard work paid off and Athar started performing at bigger venues, and at major events. “That exposure helped me build my confidence, and increased my knowledge of music.”

Gaining such experience enhanced Athar’s desire to join a professional music academy. “I’ve always dreamed of learning at DJ Akeel’s Future DJ Academy in Mumbai,” says Athar. In 2010, he was one step closer to realizing that dream— DJ Akeel’s Future DJ Academy offered him admission, as did the Future DJ Academy of DJ Suketu. “But these are both very expensive institutes, and I can’t afford to go to either of them,” Athar said.

After receiving news of his admission, Athar sought help. He went to the J&K Bank, and asked for a loan to help pay for the admission fees. But the bank refused. “They weren’t very clear on why they said no to me. Some at the Bank said that learning music did not fall into any category of loan requirements.” Today, Athar is still persistent; still searching for some way to help finance his education.

There have been others whose stories are not too different from Athar’s—a cyclist who was sent back home from the Delhi games when he was not able to afford an expensive bicycle for the practice sessions.

Inclination towards music as a career is steadily on the rise in Kashmir. In the past few years, young Kashmiris have been creating their own music, either as individual artists or as music bands. Many say they see music as an outlet for their angst, and as a platform for crafting their unique identity.

Athar says despite the hurdles he is facing, he will not give up. “This is a very competitive industry, but I know I just need to stay focused on my goal,” he says. He believes it’s only a matter of time before the world hears the music that plays in his heart. “For as long as I can remember, this is what I’ve wanted to do,” he said. “I was made for this.”


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