Ufaq Fatima

Man with last pair of hands that pour soulful music into wood and strings!

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Meet master artist Ghulam Mohammad Zaz

Srinagar, Dec 30: In the heart Srinagar downtown in Zaina Kadal, the traditional legacy of making Kashmiri musical instruments is breathing its last.

Here, septuagenarian Ghulam Mohammad Zaz represents the eighth and last generation of his tribe who can make musical instruments with accuracy and precision.

He has carried forward this family heritage with pride after having inherited this art and profession from his father Abdul Rehman Zaz.

Today, the musical instruments made by him have reached almost all corners of the globe – being a master artist the instruments coming from his hands have no match.

“I grew up seeing my father and grandfather doing this business all their life. It is, so to say, in my blood even though I never received any formal training,” says Zaz, who is considered god of sounds in Kashmir.

“The making of these musical instruments requires pure attention. Only an instrument made with purity can produce soulful music.”

Adjacent to Zaz’s house is his small workshop where hundreds of musical instruments have taken shape for decades. On the walls of the workshop are hanging pictures of legendary musicians playing Santoor, Rabab, Dilruba, Indian Sitar and even now-extinct musical instrument called Tawoos.

Once this workshop would echo with music of various strings; today an eerie silence is its fate. The hanging instruments too seem to be dipped in melancholy. The music instruments and their master maker both are losing the race against the time!

With the limitation that come with age, Zaz now makes instruments very rarely — that too for his foreign customers only.

“My customers were always those who valued the music and its purity. The legendary musicians like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Bajan Sopori made my instruments famous by taking them outside Kashmir.  Whatever we had or have is all because of this traditional art,” Zaz said while talking to ‘Kashmir Images’.

Zaz, who has three daughters and no son, who could have possibly carried forward his legacy of instrument making, says it is the will of Almighty. “I am supposed to be the last one of my lineage. Actually only seven generations were supposed to be involved in this rat; I am from the eighth one. It is His divine plan. We can do nothing,” Zaz says with a smile, adding that the least people could do is to encourage and recognise their tradition as “there is no wisdom in being ignorant towards our own culture and heritage”.

Zaz believes the lack of dedication, focused attention, and moneyed thinking of younger generation are reason why Kashmiri musical instruments are dying.

“Making of these musical instruments is more divine in nature than about training and earning. Understanding each sound and creating it requires pure attention.  Both your heart and mind should be involved, only than an instrument can produce a sound that can touch million hearts,” Zaz explains.

Zaz says he never thought of switching his profession. According to the family, this ancestral craft has always been sufficient for them.

“From building a house to the education and marriage of my daughters, this legacy has always sufficed my needs,” he adds.

Daughters of Zaz term the profession of their father as a matter of pride and luxury for them. “My elder sister wanted to carry on this precious legacy but my mother never allowed her. In our society it’s a very rare practice even among men, and a woman making musical instruments is out of the question. We feel proud and sad at the same time that our family represents such artistic legacy but it is very tragic and unfortunate that we will not be able to carry it on,” rues the youngest daughter of Zaz.

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