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Kashmiri poetry enters a new musicscape

Published : Jun 30, 2018, 12:17 am IST
Updated : Jun 30, 2018, 12:17 am IST

The band Meezan is giving Kashmiri & Urdu poetry a new musical expression by blending it with progressive rock, blues and electronic music.

Meezan is the object that balances, and our music constantly tries to seek that art of balancing these vast narratives,” they unanimously believe.
 Meezan is the object that balances, and our music constantly tries to seek that art of balancing these vast narratives,” they unanimously believe.

Deeply influenced by progressive rock, blues, electronic music and Kashmiri folk, Meezan is a four member band that plays Kashmiri and Urdu poetry as music, amalgamating various genres. Qassam Hussain is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the band. Zeeshan Nabi adds to the electronics and keys along with vocals. Muneeb Khan specialises in playing the drums, cajon and darbuka, and the fourth member of the band, Ovais, plays the bass.

“The balance between the understanding of where we’ve come from, our roots, the music and poetry we’ve grown up listening to, how the contemporary soundscapes affected us, and art and literature we encountered defines the reason why we named our band Meezan. Our soundscape is a blend of folk, ethno-electronic, progressive, ambient music infused with Kashmiri, Urdu and English poetry. It is not restricted just to the sound that is produced but the very journey that leads us to creating that sound. Meezan is the object that balances, and our music constantly tries to seek that art of balancing these vast narratives,” they unanimously believe.

“Kashmiri being our first language, enables us to reflect our experiences. We have grown up in a cultural space where literature in Kashmir has inspired us with poets like Rasul Mir, Shams Faqir, Lal Ded... we have grown up reading and listening to their works and Urdu and its beauty. We experienced it through poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ghalib. In fact, we have been exploring English literature during this process as well. The journey creating our music using bilingual poetry gives us more space to express. We recently composed a short story by one of our favourite authors, Franz Kafka,” says Zeeshan

Meezan was co-founded by Zeeshan Nabi, Qassam Hussain and Muneeb Khan, who each add their uniqueness to sounds they create.

According to Qassam, “Our sound doesn’t fit one single genre. The idea is not to specifically stick to genres. Also, the band’s formation is due to a reunion we had after years. We all have been close friends since we were quite young. In December 2017, we met in Kashmir and I had to leave for Mumbai, Muneeb was at that time studying and Zeeshaan had come back from Australia. We met at the right time in the right place and ended up forming Meezan. Zeeshaan and I cancelled our plans to go back and here we are, playing at one of the finest venues in Delhi — The Piano Man Jazz club.”  

Adding to that Muneeb says, “The band was formally formed in January and we jammed to a couple of songs we wrote together and it all worked quite well. Since we knew each other since a long time, we knew how each one of us operate musically and I guess that is the reason why we’ve been able to write 15 songs in last 6 months. Our first single, Pasbaan was created because we, I guess, were seeking the same thing all these years.”

The bass player of the band, Ovais reveals his story, “I used to listen to a lot of Kashmiri mystic poetry and folk musicians like Rashid Hafiz fascinated me. It’s basically I guess due to the demographical placement of the land where we come from and how it has been a significant contributor to the cultural exchange. Persians travelled from Middle East to this side of the planet. Somewhere, Urdu merged with our culture creating a unique bond. Maybe that is why subconsciously we all connect to both languages at an emotional level. Be it studying Urdu in school or singing Kashmiri songs, somewhere in between, it all began,” he says.

On being asked about their future plans, they say “We have couple of things lined up for this year as we have started working on our debut album, reaching out to masses and share our music as much as we can and apart from that, we are trying establish a proper independent music scene in Kashmir, that’s why we like to call ourselves “home grown”. Zeeshaan is opening his own studio where we’ll be holding up music sessions with a lot of artists creating a space to help the whole scene grown. So, our idea isn’t restricted to being just a band that perform music. We want to contribute to the fabric of Kashmiri art and music and that gives us numerous options and how we can utilise music with other art forms.”

Tags: muneeb khan, meezan, kashmiri folk