Song of Despair

  • Zia Shakir / Tanveer Rashid Magrey
  • Publish Date: May 14 2018 1:16AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 14 2018 1:16AM
Song of Despair

Why the popular singer Asadullah Anjum Yatoo is disenchanted with Kashmir’s music industry.


Nearly ever Sunday morning, young music lovers flock to Asadullah Anjum Yatoo’s home like moths to a candle. For his modest home in Baadipora, Budgam, is a hub of learning and creativity. 

The singer, composer and tabla player Asadullah is one of the most popular figures in the contemporary Kashmiri music scene. He’s now passing on his art, and passion, to those who throng his house on Sundays.

Asadullah learned his art from Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, the “Chota Mehdi of Kashmir”, and honed it under the guidance of Waheed Jeelani at the famed singer’s academy at Wathoora. “Those were tough but golden days of my life, where I learnt the most,” he said.

He left Waheed Jeelani’s academy after three years and went to train under Imtiyaz Malik and, later, Hari Krishan Langoo. “I am indebted to them.” 

In his nearly two decades as a singer and musician, Asadullah has delivered an impressive collection of “hit songs”. Gass falnay wane gulzar watan, gul falnay dil kin arman hinde; Agar bae halay dil wanay, jiger chatakh vuchan vuchan; Gamuk dadyuk ti dagihund kahn akha guftar mati kertav, ye andrim doad myano dosto bedar mati kertav.

He has sung over 600 Kashmiri songs and composed over 350 songs. 

Currently, though, Asadullah is upset. The “monopoly of some”, he alleges, has distorted the music industry such that the lion’s share of the work, and income, goes to “well-connected” artists while artists “who like to keep a low profile earn peanuts”.

“It is very disappointing that the music industry has become a fiefdom of a few,” he charged. “Those close to the corridors of power are being hired for all the shows while those who fail to kowtow to bureaucrats and other officials are left high and dry.”

Asadullah frowns when asked whether Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir are helping alleviate the misery of the singer community. “Doordarshan used to give a platform to budding singers to showcase their talent and earn few bucks, but that is just lore now. Radio Kashmir is still doing its part but Doordarshan has always disappointed me.” 

He’s also greatly troubled by the trend by young Kashmiri singers and composers remixing old songs instead of producing original work. “We are plagued by a very dangerous problem,” he said. “Now a group or two are sent outside the state to conduct musical shows but what they do is appalling. They recompose the superhit songs of Raj Begum, Sofi Ghulam Mohammad and others, destroying the soul of Kashmiri music.”

Asked about Asadullah’s allegations, GD Tahir, director of Doordarshan Srinagar, said “there is nothing like that”. “It is Doordarshan which has given them due recognition,” he added. “We always try to boost their talent by giving them good space on Doordarshan Srinagar.”