Song of the Old World

  • Hirra Azmat
  • Publish Date: Jun 21 2017 9:14PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 21 2017 9:14PM
Song of the Old World

Meet Abha Hanjura,who made the Kashmiri folk ditty 'Hukus Bukus' an internet sensation


As a child, Abha Hanjura would often wake up to her grandmother’s humming of the merry tune “Hukus Bukus Teli Waen Tsche Kus”. Twenty five years later, her rendition of the folk song has taken the internet by storm. The ditty is part of her latest album Aabha Hanjura and Sound of Kashmir.

Abha was born in Kashmir, brought up in Jammu, and is settled in Bangalore. Her tryst with music began at the age of eight when she started studying under Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. She credits the teacher for igniting in her a passion for music. “The fondest memories of my childhood include learning Hindustani Classical singing from Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma,” she says. “I really enjoyed it and started practising seriously.”

She was also inspired, she says, by Jagjit Singh, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Reshma, Abida Parveen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Norah Jones.

After finishing school, she moved to Bangalore to pursue higher studies. There, her life turned a new leaf when she was selected as a contestant for the popular reality music show Indian Idol in 2005. “At the insistence of my brother and friends, I reluctantly auditioned for Indian Idol, Season 2, and before I knew it I was in the finals. It brought me a lot of fame and success at the age of 18.”

The journey thereafter was not as smooth, though. There came a point when she felt that commercial music was not for her and decided to pursue a different career path. “Some good and bad experiences later, I realised that commercial singing wasn’t something I wanted to pursue and went on to make a career in the corporate sector.”

But, after a long gap of six years, music returned in her life. By accident, she says. “It was at a tiny club in Bangalore that I got up and sang for just ten minutes. As I sang, everyone in the room stood enraptured. That was the moment when I realised that my connection with music has formed again”. She went on to form a band called Sufistication. “It is the name of one of the bands that I front. The genres closest to my heart are sufi, folk and ghazal. I wanted to perform this kind of music because it speaks to me as an artist.”

The idea of reviving Kashmiri folk songs came to her during a short visit to Kashmir a few years ago. “I went on a holiday to Kashmir when my dad was serving there as a government officer. That trip inspired me and helped me find my artistic purpose – to blend ethnic Kashmiri saaz like rabab, santoor and tumbaknari with modern genres of music, and share it with the world. The idea of doing an album was born and I also formed a live band called Aabha Hanjura Feat: The Kashmiri Folk Ensemble.”

She now collaborates with folk artists from Kashmir, who feature in her album and live shows. Her band includes Abdul Rashid Shah on rabab and tumbaknari, and Umar Majeed on santoor. The other members are Bangalore-based instrumentalists.

But isn’t it said that the traditional music of Kashmir is slowly dying from the introduction of modern instruments? “I don’t think its dying because people do listen to it and many artists in Kashmir, Jammu and other parts of the country are doing a lot of work to keep Kashmiri music alive,” Abha replies. “In the valley, there are some very talented and celebrated artists who are keeping the folk music alive in their own way. In my new album, I am trying to create a more global appeal for Kashmiri music as I believe our music is beautiful and should be shared with the wider world.”

Abha says he “sole aim” is to spread happiness through her music. “I am not trying to convey anything in particular. I am simply an artist who is celebrating the folk music of Kashmir and other parts of the country in her own unique way.”

When she is not composing and crooning melodies, Abha likes to dress up in bright colours and seeks to “live life to the fullest”.