It was a gloomy winter day witnessing intermittent snowing. This, however, was an ideal setting for Mohammad Ashraf Shah, who got his Rabab in his lap and started playing. For a while, it seemed as if Shah was offering a musical backdrop to what nature was doing.
A resident of Butsuma, the Patti of Rafiabad’s Rawoocha village, Shah lives in a two-room mud and timber house. Whenever he finishes his routine, he pulls out his rabab and plays. Every time the strings disturb, it creates music that seemingly supplements the natural settings around.
Almost 68 km, north of Srinagar, this village has music everywhere as around 80 per cent of the residents, are associated with music and singing. For generations, they have contributed a lot to Kashmir’s traditional music.
Everybody in the village knows how to compose and play music and most of the residents own one or many instruments - Rabab, Sarangi, Harmonium, Matka. What is more interesting; the residents are professionals, having no other source of income other than music and singing.
For generations, they have been performing in marriage ceremonies, cultural programmers, and school functions. Besides, they are accredited with the erstwhile Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Doordarshan Kendra in Srinagar. Over the years, the village has produced some famous names in Kashmir music - Khazar Mohammad Shah, Ghulam Mohammad Shah, Asadullah Shah, Khursheed Ahmad Shah, Manzoor Shah and Ghulam Nabi Bulbul.
It is because of the involvement of the entire village that at any point in time in the day tunes of musical instruments are audible from almost every home. Every house has almost every musical instrument. They start their day by setting their instruments up. There are more than six bands (Musical groups) in this village.
Over the years, Ghulam Nabi Bulbul has emerged as the culture expert who is not only the “ambassador” of the village but also represents traditions outside Kashmir. He is the man who introduced his village to Kashmir thus becoming an inspiration for many.
Residents see their “drama king” in Ghulam Nabi Shah. The handsome blue-eyed artist born in 1949, has been a theatre person from his childhood. He was in the third primary when he started participating in school functions. This introduced him to a generation and the area he lives in. Gradually he picked up folk singing and would become a bachkout, a dancer.
“In 1966 I participated in a cultural event in Srinagar in which the Chief Guest was Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad,” recalls Ghulam Nabi. “After watching my performance on stage he gave me the title Bulbul.” Since then, everybody knows him as Bulbul.
The appreciation received from the Chief Executive of Jammu and Kashmir became the key reason for Bulbul to work hard and become an ace entertainer. Bulbul represented Jammu and Kashmir five times in cultural events throughout India.
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