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,
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
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
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.