Of folk, rock and hip hop
This film is a portrait of those artists and musicians who have turned their art into weapons of resistance during periods of heightened state repression and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir. A departure from Kashmir's Orientalist stereotype of a 'paradise' unfurls a transformed cultural landscape of the deeply militarised valley where the spiritual ideals of Sufiyana music and traditional poetry metamorphose into political lyricism of modern Hip Hop and Rock. By evoking the collective memory of their people and unwinding threads of the region's folk history, the featured artists and musicians in this film negotiate with questions of survival, resistance and freedom – all deeply embroiled in the complex conflict of Kashmir.
In the summer of 2010, a protest rap-song created and sung by a young Kashmiri boy broke the internet with cascading effects; he became nothing short of a legend in Kashmir as the song got banned by the Government of India and his studios were raided and ransacked by the police. He went underground with his productions under his alias MC Kash and continued to create a hip-hop revolution in the valley using the internet and his songs as a medium to narrate Kashmir's folk history to the world.
'Soz' means dirge, passion or vexation. It also stands for melody or a poem sung commemorating the martyrs.
Chance discovery of a song, a palpitating craft of storytelling, lure of the mystical valleys of Kashmir – it is hard to say which came when and how this project came about. Handcrafted over about 3 years of research and production in the heart and hinterlands of Kashmir valley, this documentary reintroduces Kashmir as a deeply militarised conflict zone departing from its orientalist stereotypes.
The tradition of oral and aural history in Kashmir is centuries old; such accounts often contradict with the official accounts of history recorded by the state. Incorporation of these historical accounts into musical art forms is a unique folk indulgence of Kashmiris that dates back to the years when Kashmir was refereed to as 'Mini-Iran'. This discovery of people's history in the region's music lends a context to understand the emerging voices of resistance and their resonance in today's Indian-administered Kashmir.
As Indian filmmakers in Kashmir this film is not only our journey into the rich history and traditions of a conflicted region but also a process of shedding the baggages in our understanding of Kashmir's history and its complexities, which pre dates the creation of independent India and Pakistan in 1947.
"In Kashmir it is tough to look at the art and not its politics."
"If the tongue is held, the report will remain unknown. Who will then tomorrow know of trials today undergone?"
- ZAREEF AHMAD ZAREEF
Poet, Social Satirist and Humanitarian worker Zareef Ahmad lives next to his orphanage Gulshan Mehal Hostel in the heart of old town Srinagar, Kashmir. With 4 books of poetry and over 40 publications to his credit, Zareef writes also for the liberation and rehabilitation of Chinar trees in Kashmir.
"Rebels in an alley Resistance in the air
We are down for the cause
We done murdered all our fears
No more pain we gain
Its liberty or its death
The wretched of this earth will soon be standing like the rest"
- MC KASH
Roushan Illahi a.k.a. MC Kash is Kashmir's first hip hopper. In 2010 when he released his first song 'I Protest' on the internet he became nothing short of a legend. The song got banned by the Government of India and his studio was raided and ransacked by the local police. Illahi became an underground artist thereafter - writing, recording, mixing his songs by himself.
"In Kashmir there's AFSPA. It's like there is a bullet meant for each one of us."
- MIR SUHAIL
Mir Suhail is one of the youngest political cartoonists of Kashmir. In a career span of over 8 years he has made thousands of cartoons on human rights violations, civil unrest and concerns of sustainable development in Kashmir.
"Bunkers had become a part of our landscape. If you had to give directions to somebody, you would say it's near 'that particular bunker' or next to 'this particular bunker'. Bunkers had entered into the lacunae of language."
- SHOWKAT KATHJU
Showkat started his career as a painter and slowly evolved into a performance artist incorporating his own body as a piece in the body of his art. Besides practicing art in biennales and workshops around the world, he teaches at the college of fine arts in Kashmir.
"One of the reasons I became a journalist was that I wanted to have a press card. Because that is how you could roam freely around the city during the curfews"
- ANEES ZARGAR
Now a journalist in a leading daily, Anees was the guitarist of Poetic Justice - the first rock band of Kashmir.
"roz roz boz
mein zar madhno
daede chaeniey raewam
ha raat madhno
oh beloved, stop and listen
to the torment that pursues
the affliction is you
the pain continues"
Parvaaz is a psychedelic rock band started out by Khalid Ahmad and Kashif Iqbal, childhood friends from Kashmir, who reconnected in Bengaluru years after they moved out of Kashmir.