|Photo: Facebook/Kashmir Originals|
Kashmiri music, poetry and arts has a rich history which dates back to when the valley was the seat of prosperous kings. When Sufi mystics made the region their homes, it only added to the cultural constructs already in place. Over the years, numerous poets and musicians have made their fortunes and fame in this region, but in recent times, traditional music had been on the decline. To revive it and inculcate present generations with their own cultural history, a new musical show called Kehwa Beats is being broadcast on a YouTube channel called Kashmir Originals. Following the tradition of the famous Coke Studio setup where traditional songs are given modern makeovers through ingenuous fusion, Kehwa Beats takes songs and poems of past greats and preserves them with the help of contemporary music.
Kehwa Beats, a musical series on YouTube is the brainchild of young student Sanna Bhat from Srinagar. The series is being produced by The Kashmir Originals. The first episode sees a poem by Kashmiri poet Rasul Mir called ‘Lalas Wantai’ transform into a lilting tune, riding on the wings of the stringed rabab – one of the primary instruments of Kashmiri folk. Indigenous percussions also play along with modern instruments such as guitars and bass in this celebration of love and feasts.
“It has truly got the name of Kashmir’s Coke Studio. If you check the comment box of our YouTube page you will find that people have clearly written that this is Kashmir’s own Coke Studio,” Sanna said India Times.
“We started this series with an aim to showcase Kashmiri folk music by blending it delicately with contemporary genres and also provided a platform to Kashmiri singers and musicians who didn’t get the space to showcase their talent,” she said India Times.
Challenges in the beginning
Sanna said setting up such a musical series in the beginning was very tough work. “Since the idea was to revive the traditional Kashmir music in a new form, I had to look for those artists, instruments and set designing which was completely challenging. But one of my friends from Jammu Aakash Dogra helped me in setting the things on the track and finally we did it,” she said.
She said that the first season will feature eight singers which include Kabul Bukhari, Ishfaq Kawa, Waqar Khan, Sonali Dogra, Zartasha Zainab, Rishab Raino, Shahbaz Gul and Master Saqib. “As of now, we have released three Kashmiri songs which include Lalas Wantai, Choan Rokh Posh and Malal Traevith. We are coming up with three more songs in this season,” said Sanna who is the founder of The Kashmir Originals, the production house bringing out this series.
She said that the upcoming songs would be a little bit different. “We have added a Punjabi blend to a song which we hope would be loved by the people,” she said.
She said, “In the second edition, we will be taking up the different languages like Punjabi, Pahari, Gojari and also the artists from India to sing this series. We don’t want to keep any cultural or regional barriers.”
Sanna feels all this popularity was only possible because of social media. “In the old times, people would have to go through so many channels to get a platform but today everything is a click away. We did this series and uploaded it on YouTube and people in lakhs watched it,” she said adding, “We don’t have to struggle a lot as social media has made things easier.”
Kashmiris are talented
Sanna said that there is no doubt that Kashmiris are talented. “All the team involved with me whether on camera, cinematography or stage set up, all were locals. They just need a platform to showcase their talent,” she said.
When asked how she sees the future of Kashmir’s own Coke Studio, “I believe that it will go a long way and thankfully I am getting a positive response from the people and are appreciating too. I am hopeful of positivity in the future too.”
She added that they would have made a number of mistakes this time as it was a first attempt. “But we would improve and do better for our audience.”
What artists say
Waqar Khan who has sung Kashmiri song Choan Rokh Posh said that it was a wonderful experience of singing there and that too Kashmiri. “My Kashmiri accent is not that good but still people have loved my song. In fact, it was totally a unique performance because it was done in a closed room,” he said.
Another singer, Kabul Bukhari said this performance taught them a lot of things. “It taught us very basic things like arranging, composing and then performing in a new set up,” he said.
Zartasha Zainab, whose song has over 288K views on YouTube called her performance a ‘major break’ in the music world. “Singing on social media and then singing on a big platform means a lot. Looking forward to more such collaborations,” she said.
What is Coke Studio?
It is a Pakistani television programme and international music franchise which features studio-recorded music performances by established and emerging artists. It is the longest-running annual television music show in Pakistan, running annually since 2008.
Coke Studio combines a myriad of musical influences, from traditional classical, folk, Sufi, qawwali, ghazal and bhangra music to contemporary hip hop, rock and pop music. The show is noted for promoting Pakistan’s multiculturalism by inviting artists from various regions and of various languages to collaborate musically.
In 2011, India started its own Coke Studio officially titled Coke Studio @ MTV is an Indian television programme, which features live studio-recorded music performances by various artists. It is inspired by the Pakistani show of the same name.