January 05, 2020


“The moment I heard it, I fell in love with the song and decided to lend my voice to it,” says Pakistani singer-songwriter Maha Ali Kazmi about a Kashmiri song, Sahibo, that she had heard through a post on a relative’s social media account. Browsing online, she came across another song that reminded her of her ancestral home in the valley, a song called Kashmir by Sharat Sinha.

“That very moment I decided I was going to do a live Instagram mash-up video combining the two songs,” she relates. “The moment I put it up online, it went viral in Kashmir. It was all over Facebook and Instagram, with tremendous amount of appreciation pouring in from Kashmiri people, especially from Srinagar, which is also my ancestral home.”

She was later approached by Kashan Admani who was looking to release music through a project called Acoustic Station. She suggested doing the mash-up. He loved the idea. It ended up becoming Acoustic Station’s first release.

With Sahibo, Maha Ali Kazmi reconnects with her roots in Kashmir

Maha Ali Kazmi’s Sahibo is a Kashmiri-Urdu song, an adaptation of the original Kashmiri song Sahibo by Mudasir Ali and Kashmir by Sharat Sinha. Maha’s version carries additional lyrics in Urdu by Shah Faesal. The musicians who contributed to Sahibo include Joshua Amjad on the tabla, Veeru Shan on the Peruvian cajon, Bradley D’Souza on the acoustic u-bass, Alex Shahbaz on the piano, Irfan Ali Taj on the rubab, Zulqarnain on the flute, Kashan Admani and Mairah Khan on the acoustic guitars. Sahibo has been directed and produced by Kashan Admani.

Sahibo was recorded last year at a very special time in Maha’s life — she was seven months pregnant and constantly travelling back and forth between Singapore, where her husband is based, and Karachi, which she calls home. In the video of Sahibo, she can be seen in a traditional Kashmiri matha-patti while recording her vocals in the studio.

According to her, the effort paid off. “The response has been overwhelming, especially from Kashmiris round the world,” she says. “It has been shared on several prominent Kashmiri blogs. I was actually overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from diaspora Kashmiris. And this brings me to the sad part: the intended audience of this song — the people of the valley — are living under a curfew, in the most gruelling conditions, without access to basic amenities, let alone the internet.”

Ever since the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution denying Kashmiris their special status, the valley has also experienced a shutdown in communications, notably the internet. It has been difficult for Maha to receive word about the safety and welfare of her own extended family trapped in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. Needless to say, Sahibo is very close to her heart.

Now that Sahibo’s out, what’s in store for her next? “I have few songs in the pipeline,” she relates. “Some are already recorded, others exist merely as melodies in my mind. I’d recently recorded a song produced by Meekal Hasan. I’m hoping to release it sometime this year.”

Published in Dawn, ICON, January 5th, 2020