Sheikh Abdul Aziz

(March 1928- December 2006)

For most of his life, Sheikh Abdul Aziz did everything possible to retrieve some of the melodies of the Sufiana music that were lost to monumental neglect over the decades. Well before breathing for the last time on December 3, 2006, Sheikh had not only succeeded in restoring 42 strains but also authored five volumes of two different books on the fast vanishing music tradition, an epic contribution to the subject.

Born to Abdul Karim, a small judicial employee in March 1928, Aziz was amongst the initial flock of students who were enrolled with the then missionary Biscoe School in Srinagar. He did his matriculation from the University of Punjab well before the partition and later it was music that was his first love. Keenly interested in notating he became disciple of noted Sufiana artist Ghulam Mohammad Kaleenbaaf.

Around 1955, family sources suggested, Aziz was appointed as the head of Santoor section of the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. It was during this period that he produced Kashur Sargam, a three volume reference on the Sufiana. Sangeet Natak Academy considered it the best book and conferred it a rare award.

It was around 1966 that Aziz joined Radio Kashmir Srinagar as a composer in its Sufiana section. He was a performing artist as well. It was soon after that he was invited to be the visiting faculty of Maryland University (US) where he stayed for around 14 months. Instead of trying to stay put and start teaching career, Aziz flew back and resumed his music research. During the amorphous years of militancy, post retirement Aziz once flew to Sweden to represent India in the sufi music festival.

But Aziz did not give up his mission to retrieve the lost ragas of his love. He started working on another book – Ramooz-i-Mousiqui (Secrets of Music) that created the music of this rare art for the first time. This was also the first book of its nature. In fact, he finished fourth volume of his first book Koshur Sargum before his death. However, the musicologists at the University of Baltimore are working on his contributions. Family sources suggested the department is converting his contributions in Western languages for posterity but they are unaware of the status of the ambitious project.

Unfortunately the legendry music theorist’s death was anonymous as it did not see the mourning that it deserved at the official level. Aziz is survived by wife, a son and three daughters.

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