Noor Mohammad Shah is the new sensation on the internet and his song Nazneen is hitting the right chords. Shah’s journey from a nondescript village in Kupwara to becoming one of the most famous internet-age Kashmiri artists is simply amazing.
It is unbelievable for the reason that Shah comes from a generation that isn’t much versed with the concept and working of the internet and the social media. As a matter of fact, until February last year, he didn’t own a smartphone and had a poor working knowledge of Nokia 1100, the basic non-android phone that he was using.
It isn’t for the first time that Shah has become a sensation on the internet. He has had many such trysts with limited fame, including the first video in which he is seated against a car tyre on a barren land, which pioneered his rise. Without the internet, Shah, like many Kashmiri artists, would have been lost under the dust of time.
Shah’s rise opens a vista for many Kashmiri artists of old and new generations. Many artists who had been waiting for patrons should now understand that the world has changed in the last few years. Internet is a platform that provides parity to the art, among other things, and can also monetize it–at a pretty handsome rate.
Kashmir’s folk arts and artists remained obscured due to their over-reliance on the government-funded media platforms like Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir, which, understandably, have limited space to accommodate them all. Maybe the best or the well-connected got in, but definitely not all could have made it.
This limited space became a reason that Kashmir’s folk art and artists started to look for options that would provide them a livelihood. As the numbers dwindled, so did the competition and urge to create and innovate. All the renditions sounded the same and all the dramas appeared dull and monotonous.
In the fast changing world, while art was driven by innovation, Kashmir’s folk landscape started falling apart.
With the introduction of the internet and its deep penetration across the length and breadth of the Kashmir valley, a new talent has emerged that is not dependent on the patronage of a limited few.
From young to old, the internet has given a platform to everyone. From Yawar Abdal to Mohammad Muneem, from Ayaan Sajad of Bedard fame to Noor Mohammad Shah, the internet is becoming a host to Kashmiri artists – no matter what their background, age or education is.
Kashmir is a fertile ground for talent. What was needed was a platform.
Kashmir’s folk art and artists need to explore the amazing world of internet, which would not only provide them with a platform but also monetize their art and talent.
It is incumbent upon the administration to allow spaces to exist where art and artists can explore their talent. These spaces should be allowed without the interference with the content, for such an attempt would be a great disservice to Kashmiri art and artists.
Artists need space to think, discuss and create content. If such spaces are encroached upon by political entities or bureaucracy with their limited knowledge and understanding, then art no longer remains art.
There is a need to allow such spaces an independent working culture. For too long now, spaces like Tagore Hall and other such platforms have been used as political stages instead of spaces of art.
Such attempts where the governments in the past have attempted to coerce artists to work for political adventurism have miserably failed.
Art thrives when it is true and independent. It falters when it is contained or forced to operate in a suffocating atmosphere.
There have been recent attempts also to politicize the art in Kashmir, whether in the form of patronizing a cinema hall or making rudimentary cinemas in district headquarters. The lessons of the past are simple: art doesn’t thrive when it is agenda-driven or politically motivated.
Art and artists, whether it is Kashmiri folk or any other genre, has to be given what it has long been deprived of – a chance to thrive independently. Administrations in the past failed to do so. As for the current administration, it will take some courage and vision to step aside and let it flourish.