The music scientist

Syed Sahahzad Asim chose music over medicine and became a successful musician. His family that had opposed his career choice is now proud of his accomplishments, Aliya Bashir reports.

When Shahzad was selected for a course in medicine in 1996, his family had a reason to celebrate. They, since his childhood, had wanted him to be a successful doctor. But medicine wasn’t what Asim himself wanted to pursue.

“I hated being a medical student. I never wanted to be a doctor. But, my family never understood that. I had been a very bright student both at school and the college. Even I qualified the Common Entrance Test just to prove that I am worth something,” Asim says.

After a month of joining Batra Medical College in Jammu, he returned home for holidays. But then, a tragedy struck the family. His elder brother died in a road accident. The incident left him shattered. After a few days, his family asked him to return to his college. But Asim wanted to follow his childhood passion. He wanted to be a musician.

“After the death of my elder brother, I had to shoulder all the responsibilities of the family. The tragic incident gave me a few days to think seriously about my future. Initially, I was unsure whether to go back to the medical college or not.

Then, I finally decided to leave the college and pursue my passion. The fact that the degree was time-consuming also helped me to make the decision,” says Asim.

Asim, who hails from Nowhamaam, Sopore, did not know how or where to pursue his dream. “The opportunity came quite unexpectedly,” he says.

While riding a bike with his cousin at Rajbagh, Srinagar, he saw the sign board of Institute of Music and Fine arts. “I immediately went inside and registered for a five-year Bachelor’s course in music,” Asim said.

“After registering with the college, I didn’t go back to my home and stayed at my uncle’s place in Srinagar. For three years, my family did not know that I was pursuing a degree in music. But, when they learnt about it, they weren’t happy at all. They said ‘it was unacceptable both in religion and society’,” says Asim.

When the family learnt that Asim was pursuing a ‘singing’ course they withdrew all the support.

In 2003, Asim completed his bachelor’s degree with distinction. He was the first music student from the state to win a gold medal. In 2005, he released his first musical album – Bram Dith Saaki.

“(In the album) I had tried to blend Sufi music, which has been the hallmark of our identity, with modern music,” Asim says.

The young singer-musician has released six Kashmiri albums. In 2005, he came up with his second album, Sadaa, in which he composed some most popular songs in modern music. He also wrote a song, Chaani mokhay gous astaan, lool bariyoo dilbaroo, for the album. The song became an instatnt hit, he says.

Asim’s other albums include, Sehar, (2006) and Sahibo, ( 2009) – a collection of devotional songs . Another musical album, Saroor, was released in 2008.
 “Because of the popularity and success of my albums, my family is now proud of my efforts,” says Asim with a smile.

Thirty-three-year old Asim is the first Kashmiri to have a doctorate in music. Earlier he did his master’s from Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh University in 2008. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the institute for his research, Secrets of Music.

“Music is not just playing the notes, it is itself an energy which tempts a person and stimulates positive vibrations in the nerves of the listeners. It brings about a sense of mental well-being in individuals. It helps to ensure calmness of mind by exposure and plays an effective role in subduing stress and depression,” says Asim.

Asim has also been awarded honorary Ph.D by the International Music Education Research Centre of University of London (IMRC).

These days Asim is busy making a film – Sakoon. “I am working on the film from last two years. The film will be completed this year. It is my initiative to show the world what Kashmiri culture and Kashmiri Music is all about,” he said.

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