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Bombro Bombro - My Recollections

By Moti Lal Kemmu

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was arrested on 9th August, 1953. There was hartal and near blackout for seven days in Srinagar and other towns of the Valley. On the seventh day, with people indoors, a huge procession came from down-town led by a few Bakshiates shouting slogans-- “Azad Hindustan Zindabad”. Most faces in the procession were identifiable with those who were pro-Sheikh only a few days back. Normalcy returned soon after.

I had passed my graduation the same year. Being jobless, I used to attend all the meetings of the Cultural conference. Nadim Saheb, after return from his China tour was living at Magharmal Bagh. In the discussions ‘the 1953 episode’ was attributed to the imperialistic intrigue. Since the Cultural Conference was an organisation of progressive writers, artists, theatrists, and performing artists, it projected cultural programmes  reflecting unity of all peace-loving Kashmiris and exposing imperialistic manoeuvreing.

Mr Nadim had seen a Chinese Opera--’White Haired Girl’ and was highly impressed by it. He wanted to write similar one in Kashmiri. In a meeting held at his residence and attended by Mohan Lal Aima, Pran Kishore, GR Santosh, Roshan, Pushkar Bhan, Aziz Haroon, etc. and myself he explained the theme of the opera he intended to write. He gave us the legendery background of the Bombur Yambarzal as reflected in some of the verses of Kashmiri poetry of old poets. Yambarzal blossoms in the early spring alongwith Gilatoor. Bombur arrives in summer months and moves from one flower to another in search of Yambarzal which has withered away waiting in the summer months and moves from one flower to another in search of Yambarzal which has withered away, waiting for Bombur. Ultimately Bombur turns blind. In this belief Bombur and Yambarzal never meet. But Nadim’s Opera has an optimistic end.

After conceiving the story line of the Opera, Mr Nadim wanted to compose his poems on the popular folk tune. Only three songs were written keeping in mind such folk tunes but Mr Aima Saheb improvised the tunes and that made these popular musical compositions. Mr Nadim did not write the Opera in one-go. He would give us the scripts of songs one by one. The first song written by him was conceived as a duet, written on a popular tune broadcast over Radio Kashmir, Srinagar, on the poem by Abdul Ahad Azad, “Kazale Karinam Wozale Jamay Mea Nunam Kamdeevan Dil’ sung by Ghulam Mohammad Rah. On stage Nadim’s poem had to be sung by three characters, Gullala, Yambarzal and Maswal. For Gullala, Mr Ghulam Mohd Shah, a top male voice of the times, was selected for the role. Mr Aima Saheb, the Director of the Opera wanted to assign the role of Yambarzal to Miss Zia Durani, a handsome non-Kashmiri speaking enthusiast but the authorities decided the role for Zoona Begum, a popular Chakri singer-dancer.

Rest of the casting was done as follows: Gilatoor--Pran Kishore, Maswal--Omkar Nath, Agarwal-Kemmu, Tekabatani-Girdhari Dass, Irkyoam-Santosh, Bombur-Dwarika Nath Bakaya, Wav-Mohan Lal Aima, Harud-Pushkar Bhan. Excepting Rah, Zoona and Aima Saheb, none was experienced singer but were stage-actors. Perhaps none of us had seen any Opera, yet it was an experiment in pioneering the trend.

Bombur Yambarzal was a symbolic Opera. All the flowers represented Peace Loving Kashmiris. Wav and Harud (Wind and Autumn) represented Imperialistic agencies, dividing people.

There is an Opera house in Bombay, once constructed for presenting Operas for European audiences of Bombay. Now unused. In Europe Opera Houses had two parts, one for musicians, singers-performers and the other for audience. Music is the most important and dominating element of an Opera and for the perfect presentation,  to create emotional impact singers with attractive voices are needed. The performers may not have attractive, slim body shape or full talent to act but good voice and singing are very very essential. There could be more than hundred musicians on the stage playing different instruments with notation on board, playing in total harmony. Desired atmosphere is also created through voice, tunes and symphonic melody in harmony. Even at times, audience listens with rapt attention with closed eyes. During 17-18th centuries, some Indian themes were also tried in Italian Operas such as stories of Sita, Savitri etc.

Mr Mohan Lal Aima, as director and composer of music for the Opera had to work strenuously with majority of amateur singers. Similarly all the musicians and instrumentalists did not know the notation and had to remember the tunes and pieces by intuition. The Opera when produced and performed during Oct.-Nov.-1953 created a stir and the number of audience increased appreciably.

When a song in chorus form in Bombur had to be conceived and written, Nadim Saheb asked for a tune which would be fit, attractive, vigorous and forceful. Many tunes and songs were sung and suggested. Finally, Nadim Saheb liked the Shamas Fakir’s song, “Shuniya Gachithay oas meyoan Oalooy--Amay ashq naran zooloyea” which is sung by popular Chakri singers and each line ends with broken Hay Hay Haay. Nadim wrote Bombro Bombro chorus with simple, forceful words and when set to tune by Mr Aima Saheb every actor and musician congratulated the director. Nadim had changed Hay Hay Hay with Ho Ho Hao commensurate with the word voice-image of last word of the each line. Bombro Bombro is sung in quicker pace than Chakri artiste’s traditional tune, which goes to the credit of Mr Aima Saheb, the first and foremost music composer Kashmir had produced.

This type of tune in Chakri style is called Sahrai. Patrons of Chakri singing must have listened to this type of songs numerous times, where sound like a soofiyana muqam. In this style abrupt pauses with short silences are considered embellishments. In olden days there were no transport facilities. After day’s toil villagers would go home in each others company. While crossing over the Karevas they would sing their favourite songs. While singing against the flow of winds, some impediment would cause pauses while one began to sing. Therefore a longer Ha will get broken into Ha Ha Ha. So this form of folk singing developed and was named Sahrai.

Aima Saheb gave us an improvised tune of Sahrai. When people would come out of Nedous Hotel, after having seen ‘Bombur Yambarzal’ every one would sing and mutter Bombro Bombro. Because of its popularity, it was sung in College entertainment programmes, and on Chakri by Kashmiri women.

The only one Rof song in the opera was also tuned after a popular Rof Tune which has been forgotten now. The song was led by Mr Rah and all other actors acting as flowers used to sing in two rows of Rof formation. Rest of the songs of the Opera were all composed in music by Aima Saheb with his creative effort and ability. Mr Pushkar Bhan maintained comic-satirical mood of the song Hu Hu Hu of Harud on a time beat. Since Aima Saheb acted Toofan himself, he sang the song of Toofan with wind like movements and the words, “Wah Wah Wah Wah Yam Bar Zal” would echo in the Hall.

Every musician has a background of classical semi-classical or folk music which enables him to compose new tunes and melodies. Mohan Lal Aima, as a producer-Composer in Radio Kashmir had done Yeoman’s service to Kashmiri music from 1949 to 1964. Most of his compositions are reported to have been erased from the tapes but the opera Bombur Yambarzal is said to be in tact. This opera was re-produced with some different cast during the time Kreshchov and Bulganian visited Kashmir. In 1964, I produced its shorter version and the shows were presented in Kerala, Tamil Nadu besides Jammu.

Bombur Yambarzal is relevant to present times as well. It is a classical piece for the stage performance. If produced on modern stage with the facilities available to us now, engaging good voices and dancers, it will prove its worth again. But, alas, no-one is interested in our cultural development in and outside Kashmir. It could be re-produced for TV for which  funds are needed.

J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages presented Robe of honour to Mr DN Nadim but Mr Aima Saheb was not fortunate enough to receive one for the services he rendered for popularising Kashmiri music, its melodies, composing music for Kashmiri operas, films and Radio features.. Ye he lives in our memory alongwith his compositions and melodies.

Reproduced from:
Kashmir Sentinel,
Panun Kashmir

 

 

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