Saturday, April 24, 2010

Writer with 100-yr-old singer

Looking back at 100-plus yearsSheik’s jail charmer feels let down, ignored

Amid calls that Kashmiri heroes should be retrieved from the junkyard of history, an aging, forlorn artist is ruing the neglect slapped on him by state’s literary and cultural institutions.During the prime of his youth Ghulam Qadir Langoo, 110, was the most sought-after singer. He was the ‘court singer’ of Maharaja Hari Singh who would specially ask for Langoo to please his guests. Langoo used to charm Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s grandfather and the then most popular leader Sheikh Abdullah in Pune jail where he would sing Mahjoor’s famous patriotic number Walo ha bagwano nowbaharuk shaan paida kar to the jailed leader. Back home, then J&K Prime Minister Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad would book Langoo for an extended weekend during which the singer would mesmerize PM and his aides with romantic folk number Ditamo darshun bharayo pyalo, Wathu lalo nindray. Living in a ‘creative exile’ at his humble house at Shaheed Gunj, Langoo recollects his role in promoting Kashmiri folk singing through Radio Kashmir. “When I sang on microphone I didn’t expect it would impress the authorities. The director asked me to identify more talent. I picked up Raj Begum, Zooni Begum, Ghulam Mohiudin Balpuri , Mohan Lal Aima etc.”At such a ripe age, Langoo enjoys stable health; he has sharp eyesight, steady back and a stable heart. He remembers with tremendous accuracy all the years he spent entertaining the rulers of Kashmir. “Bakhshi once asked me to sing for the inaugural of Civil Secretariat. My performance went so well with the officers and staff that they personally came to me and expressed satisfaction.” This performance took Langoo straight to India’s then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s mansion. “PM Nehru was very happy. He told me he too was a Kashmiri. He enjoyed the Kashmiri song I presented before him while he fondled his pet bear cubs.” For government’s constant indifference to his talent, Langoo now regrets why he had joined Sheikh Abdullah ‘Volunteer Army’ against Pakistani raiders.Langoo is living a remorseful life. Besides official neglect, Langoo rues the mad race for remixing Kashmiri folk songs. “Those eternal lyrics belong to revered Sufi poets but see what commercial music firms are making out of them. I hate oddly dressed girls, dancing indecently over those Sufi songs. FM radio and local cable channels are the main culprits and I am surprised how cultural academy is silent about it.”

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