Saaznawaz Gharana, a family from downtown Srinagar, protects Kashmiri Sufiana music and the eighth generation of the family remains well connected to their musical roots.
Kashmir is one of the few regions in India with a distinct regional tradition of classical music as well as a rich repertoire of folk and modern music. The classical music of Kashmir is known as Sufiana Mausiqi. This music is taught orally and passed down from generation to generation.
Mushtaq Ahmad Saaznawaz, who belongs to the 7th generation of the Saaznawaz family of Danamazar Safakadal, said that during the Mughal period their family ancestor Muhammad Sultan Saaznawaz migrated to Kashmir.
“At that time, our family was performing at public meetings of Mughal kings. To this day, we keep this trend alive. We have kept the same music as that formed by our ancestors. There is no change, ”he said.
Mushatq who earned his title Ustad received an early training from his father, a winner of the Padma shri Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz award.
He has gained extensive experience playing all the instruments used in Sufiyana music, especially the Saz-e-Kashmir which is the essential instrument used in Sufiyana music. In 2021, he obtained grade A in the field of Sufiyana music.
Ghulam Muhammad Saznawaz was a great Maestro of Sufiyana music who received lifetime awards including Padma shri and Sher-e-Kashmir awards. He was the first Kashmiri musician Sufiyana to receive the award. He died in February 2015.
Mushtaq believes that music brings love into the air and makes people feel more connected and creates memories that will last a lifetime.
“Sufi music has the ability to heal diseases of the heart and head. This is the easiest way to realize Allah, ”he said.
“We are training our children now to carry this family legacy to the next generation. We kept it as we learned from our ancestors, ”Mushtaq said.
He has participated in hundreds of musical programs organized by Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, All India Radio, J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages and Sangeet Natak Academy, New Delhi.
In addition to regional and local media, Mushtaq has performed at the Jashn-e-Aman Music Festival in New Delhi through the Department of Information and Public Relations.
In recent years, he said, there has been no change except in Iranian content which is replaced by Kashmir poetry in the same way he learned it.
To keep old traditional music alive, some artists have started to train young people by creating their own institutions where they provide free training.
The family runs the Saaznawaz training institute which offers free training to students and musical instruments and food to students who wish to learn Sufiana music.
The institute has enrolled more than a dozen students, including children from their own families who they believe carry on the legacy.
Sufiana music has Maqam like Ragas in Indian classical music. There are 12 Maqams in Sufiana music which are divided into 2 branches which further divide and become 160 Maqams.
Shabir Ahmad Shaznawaz (title Ustad), brother of Mushtaq, believes that Sufiana music is an integral part of the rich cultural and musical heritage of Kashmir.
“In the last few decades, there aren’t many practitioners of this art form anymore,” he said.
Shabir received an early training through his father Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz and is able to play all the instruments used in this music, especially the santor.
It was also conferred with Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Purskar in 2008-09 and Ustad Shaikh Abdul Aziz Memorial Award 2012 for promising young artists. In 2010, he received the Shashrang Award from the Kashmir Music Club.
“In 2015, we achieved success for Sufiana music in the valley, as the Sufiana Santoor department was introduced at the University of Kashmir, where students learn and train,” he said.
“Unfortunately, after graduation and proper training in the department, there is no more room for these students nor for any government-level jobs,” Shabir said.
He said that despite repeated assurances that the government had not introduced at college level and that nothing was being done about the same at ground level.
The seasoned music teacher said that outside of Kashmir there are permanent positions in Indian classical music in various departments including tabla artists, singers, harmonium performers, etc., but this concept does not exist. does not exist here.
“I have performed in international music festivals in Paris and Lyon (France), Geneva (Switzerland) and various other regions of Europe, including Switzerland,” he said.
Shabir has performed on national and international platforms. He also participated in various Sufi festivals organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
“Sufi musicians have recently introduced local poetry as lyrics in their performances because Persian lyrics, which were originally used for such performances, are difficult to understand,” he said.
Shabir said the main responsibility of the government is to formulate an appropriate cultural policy for the promotion and propagation of traditional music.
“In addition, training in Sufiana Mausiqi should be provided in all schools and colleges in Kashmir. It should be part of the curriculum in educational institutions, ”he said.
Shabir believes that there should be financial aid and maintenance grants for artists to earn a living and be able to give their full attention to the art form.
He also suggests that the government offer scholarships to students interested in learning Sufiana as it is not possible for musicians to teach without any financial support.
“The language of music is universal and it connects souls and breaks barriers. In my opinion, sound is the purest form of music, uncorrupted and free from all foreign elements, ”he said.
Another member of the Saznwawaz family, Muhammad Rafiq Saaznawaz is the youngest son of Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz.
He learns Sufiana Mausiqi under the guidance of his brothers, Shabir Ahmad Saaznawaz and Mushtaq Ahmad Saaznawaz.
Muhammad is able to play tabla and santor, and has been approved by the New Delhi Music Hearing Board as a B grade artist.
Qaisar Mushtaq Saaznawaz is the youngest and belongs to the 8th generation of the Saaznawaz family. He said his ancestors were the first to bring Persian music to Kashmir and continue to carry on the legacy.
“Ustad Sultan Joo was our ancestor who got the treasure in our family and now this treasure has been handed over to us,” he said.
Qaisar has learned this music since his childhood. “I was at KG and gave my first performance in Doordarshan. Since then, I have worked, studied and learned this music from my father and my uncle. I’m lucky to have learned from my grandfather too, ”he said.
A lot of his performances are with his grandfather and he is proud of it.
Speaking about the music, he said she is from Iran. In Kashmir, there was Sufism at that time and people accepted it.
“It was believed that the language used at the time was Persian. The medium of music was Persian, so people liked it and embraced it. Music has been played at events and weddings, ”he said.
Over time the language changed which influenced the music and gradually the music began to decline.
“People don’t understand it like in Persia. We have added Kashmiri poetry, Urdu poetry so that people understand it and its artists have the platform to showcase their skills, ”Qaisar said.