SOUNDCHECK: THE KASHMIR FRONTLINE

September 22, 2019

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The jacket cover from the first album
The jacket cover from the first album

The internet is a wonderful place. You can come across the most random things, such as songs by a Pakistani band from the late ’80s/early ’90s which most of your friends didn’t know even existed, but which had its songs playing on PTV for some time. That band was called Kashmir.

Yep. Almost 30 years before the Battle of the Bands-wala Kashmir, there was this expat-returned-to-the-motherland-early ’90s band, Kashmir. But why talk about them now? Because back in the day, ye olde Kashmir had a song called Kashmir (no surprises there), which was first released in 1991, and which they recently re-released last week.

Thanks to music apps such as Patari, both purana and naya versions of Kashmir are available to listen to. The older version of Kashmir has all the tropes of a stereotypical ’80s song — syncopated synthesizer beats, a slight electro-rock feel and very emo singing. Listening to it almost 30 years later, it comes across as incredibly cheesy, but in such an entertaining way that it makes it good.

Before the Battle of the Bands’ Kashmir the band, there was an early ’90s band called Kashmir who had a song also called Kashmir

The newer version is quite different. There’s an attempt to create a sense of urgency, a ‘theatre of the mind’ via introductory sounds of ambulances etc. but there’s also a distinct dramatic, Bollywood feel to it. “We added more drama to try to drive a bigger impact,” says singer-songwriter for the band, Euceph Ahmed, who is now a known name in the expat American Pakistani-Indian diapora’s music circles. “We felt that with the shortened attention spans of current listeners, we needed to add more emotional appeal, just so people might remember the song better. A softer, acoustic version is definitely on the cards and is already being worked on.”

Personally, I prefer the purana Kashmir version for the nostalgia and character.

While the rest of the band chose to continue pursuing music more in private — as opposed to professionally — one of the band members, Fareed (Fred) ‘Bambi’ Khan, later formed a band of his own called Y2K. It made a few waves in the underground music scene, and they even managed to record an album sometime in the early noughties. And then that was it.

The older version of Kashmir has all the tropes of a stereotypical ’80s song — syncopated synthesizer beats, a slight electro-rock feel and very emo singing.

Now in their 50s, all of the band members have relocated back to the United States, where they have been settled for some time. According to the singer-songwriter for the band, Euceph Ahmed, “With the recent abrogation of article 370 and 35A by the Modi-led Indian government, and especially the manner in which that was bulldozed through the Indian parliament, we felt that this would be a perfect time to release the song again. We strongly feel that this time round the fight for human rights in Kashmir needs to be strongly fought on the artistic front instead of wars and bullets. The lyrics have been slightly changed from the original version to suit the situation. We hope that the song will become a rallying cry for those struggling in Kashmir.”

Photo courtesy Euceph Ahmed
Photo courtesy Euceph Ahmed

The older Kashmir isn’t the only music act to release (or re-release) a song based on the current situation in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. Some prominent names in the Pakistani entertainment scene recently got together to release a song called Main Kashmir Hoon. Rehan Nazim has written the song and sung it alongside Nimra Rafiq. The video features the likes of Hina Dilpazeer, Faysal Quraishi, Shahood Alvi, Sohail Sameer and Parveen Akbar among others. One assumes this highlighting of Kashmir’s plight will not be the last.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 22nd, 2019