Friday, February 24, 2023



( Ustaad Ramzan Joo..Photo courtesy Saaznawaz family )






Sufiana music arrived in the Kashmir valley with Islam. Musicians from Iran and Central Asia were patronised by Sultan Zain ul Abdin, a liberal and tolerant ruler of Kashmir. These musicians brought some new musical instruments and also modified some existing instruments to make them compatible with the new music that came to be known as Sufiana Music in the Kashmir valley. At its core, it is a Central Asian musical tradition influenced by Indian classical music. Like Hindustani Classical music, Kashmiri Sufiana music also evolved through a Gharana system. The main concept in Sufiana is that of Maqam, a counterpart of the Indian Raga system. Some popular and prominent Maqams of Kashmiri Sufiana music could be listed as Araq, Asavari (Navroz-e-Khara), Bahar (Ushshaq), Behag (Bihag, Hijaz), Bhairavi (Bharvi), Bilaval, Dhanasri, Dev-Gandhar (Kanada), Jazvanti, Jinjoti (Manj, Majiri), Khamanch (Khamanche, Khamanch, Kamanche, Kamanj, Asfahan, Isfahan, Safahan), Kochak (Kalyan), Lalit, Malhar (Nihuft, Mallar), Navroz-e-'Ajam, Navroz-e-Arab, Purbi (Zalab), Rast (Rast-e-Kashmiri), Sendhuri, Shahnaz (Zengola), Suhani (Nishaporak), Tilang (Mahur), Todi (Buzurg), Udasi (Maghlub), Uzzal (Uzzal-e-Farsi) and Zaval (Pahlavi, Pahalvi). The Maqam system is also prevalent in North African, Azerbaijani Uzbek, Tajikistani and Turkish music. The thematic content of the compositions is mostly mystical or could be based on spirituality or divine love. Sufiana music is sung by a group of musicians led by the leader who generally plays the Santoor. Santoor is the principal instrument in Sufiana singing. There are a hundred strings ( Shat-tantri Veena ) in the Sufiana Santoor stretched over twenty-five bridges. Each bridge has four strings for each note. It is played with two wooden hammers known as Kalam.


 In the past, there was also a female dance form associated with Sufiana music. In this dance form, a female dancer known as Hafiza used to express the meaning of Maqam compositions through various movements and body gestures. Known as Hafiznagma, this form of dance cum music was banned by the then Maharaja in the early part of the 20th century as it got associated with prostitution.


   (  Portrait of Pandit Shanker Nath Sopori.. Courtesy Abhay Rustam Sopori ) 

At present we have only four surviving Gharanas located in the three districts of the UT: Budgam, Srinagar and Anantnag. The oldest and principal one, Ramzan Joo-Sidh Joo Gharana ( Saaznawaz Gharana ) is in Srinagar. Two Gharanas are located in Budgam, one in Wathura village (Qaleenbaft Gharana) and the other at Kraalpora (Kamal Bhat Gharana ).The fourth Gharana (Sehtari Gharana) is in Bijbehara , Anantnag. There were two Kashmiri Pandit Gharanas of Sufiana music also. Of these two , one was from Sopore town and the other from Srinagar city. The Sopore Gharana was represented by Pandit Shankar Nath Sopori. He used to play Sufiana music on the Kashmiri Sitar ( Sehtar). In fact , Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori ,Pandit Bhajan Sopori and Abhay Rustam Sopori belong to this illustrious Sopori Gharana and Pandit Shanker Nath Sopori was great grandfather of Abhay Rustam Sopori the youngest and a  well known  performer of this Gharana.  The other Gharana belonged to Pandit Khera Kak Munshi. Pandit Khera Kak was one of the leading Sufiana musician of Kashmir who held regular Sufiana Mehfils at his home. Apart from this, Pandit Ved Lal Dhar Vakil of Tankipora ( Srinagar ) was also a Santoor player who taught Sufiana music to his daughters Rageshwari and Jaijaiwanti. Jaijaiwanti was perhaps the first Kashmiri Pandit girl who could play Sufiana music on Santoor. In the popular composition, ‘Yas  maarmatis maanz chhe naman, kaman saeti gom (The adorable one , who has henna dyed nails , with whom did he slip away ?)' , sung by Jaijaiwanti and Rageshwari, the melodious Santoor notes have been created by Jaijaiwanti ( Jaya Parimu).


   ( Rageshwari and Jaijaiwanti singing Sufiana Kalaam..Kaman saeti gom )     


To get a soulful feel of the music created by Saaznawaz Gharana, I would suggest my readers to listen to Padam-shri Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz's two composition listed below.


Bozu myan zaar,

Zaarai paar ,

Awaara karthas" 

"( Listen to my woes,

Listen to the agony ,

 An aimless wanderer  

I have been rendered in this love" )


" Baeti na ye dooreyr 

Chonuyi zaraai

Baal maraai yo"

( I can't withstand this separation

My love, i may die in youth )



Ramzan Joo(1881-1971)


Ramzan Joo was the patriarch of the Saaznawaz Gharana of Daan Mazaar, Safa Kadal Srinagar. After he died in 1971, this Gharana was carried forward by his son and disciple Ustad Ghulam Muhammad Saaznawaz. After the death of Ustaad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz in 2014, his children namely Mushtaq Saaznawaz, Shabir Saaznawaz and Rafiq Saaznawaz are carrying forward the Sufiana music tradition of this Gharana. Ustaad Ghulam Muhammad Saaznawaz was awarded India's fourth highest civilian honour the Padma Shri in 2013. He was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1998 for his contribution to the Sufiana music of Kashmir.


 ( Ustaad Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz )


  Like Baba Alla ud Din Khan of the Maihar Gharana of Hindustani Classical music, Raamzan Joo could sing and also play upon many instruments like Santoor, Kashmiri Sitar ( Sehtar ), Tabla, Saz-e-Kashmir and Madham. All these instruments are vital in the Kashmiri Sufiyana orchestra. The combination of all these five instruments is known as ‘Panjhatheyari’. Ustaad Ramzan Joo was into spirituality simultaneously apart from being a wonderful Sufiana singer and instrumentalist.Born at Dana Mazaar, Safa Kadal, Srinagar, his ancestors ( who were also musicians ) are believed to have come to the Kashmir valley from Iran. Music was in his blood. He learnt it from his elders since his childhood. He was known to be a perfectionist who never compromised with Sur, Taal and Lai. He would prefer singing before Sufi saints and disliked using Sufiana music for Hafiznagma. Ustaad Ramzan Joo learned the Sufiana music from his father Ustaad Wazir Joo, Uncle Ustaad Ameer Joo, his elder brother Ustaad Sidiq Joo( Sidh Joo ) and Ustaad Abdullah Shah . Quite often, both Ustaad Sidh Joo and Ustaad Ramzan Joo would perform together. 


Both Sidh Joo and Ramzan Joo would also sing in the Darbaar of Maharaja Hari Singh who was a patron of music. They would also sing before saints and Sufis. It is said that Saint Gopinath Ji was also a lover of Sufiana music and as such Ustaad Ramzan Joo also performed before the saint. The Ustaad and his brother were possibly brought to Saint Gopi Nath Ji’s Ashram by Pandit Ved Lal Dhar Vakil, an ardent admirer of Ramzan Joo and his brother. A devout Muslim, Ramzan Joo is on record as having refused to sing in marriages. It is said that if he was convinced that the gathering had real connoisseurs of music, then and only then he would agree to perform. Ramzan Joo had a unique style of playing Shakal (the commencement of the performance ) and singing Nasr (a short poem without rhythm sung after the Shakal). About Ustaad Ramzan Joo, Syed Zeeshan Fazil writes this in his book “Falcons of Kashmir”:-


“ Ramzan Joo was well versed with the most difficult Maqams of Sufiana music like Nawroz e Arab, Dev-Gandhar, Jazvanti, and Sendhuri. He had a melodious voice and he would play the Tabla, Kashmiri Sitar and santoor professionally. While playing the Tabla, he could also sing freely with the perfection of Taal.”


Prof Jaya Parimu, who taught music in various degree colleges of J&K UT, has this to say about Ramzan Joo and the Sufiana music of Kashmir:-


“ Like Hindustani classical music, Kashmir’s Sufiana music is also based on Taals, Ragaas and the Time Theory of Ragaas.To me, it is more akin to Dhrupad than Khayal Gayaki. That way it is a form of Hindustani Classical music.Like Hindustani Classical music ,it has Taraana ,Ek-Taal ,Teen-Taal ,Duyaktaal, Neem-dore ,Chapandaz etc. Sidh Joo and Ramzan Joo, both brothers were ace musicians of the Kashmiri Sufiana genre. Sidh Joo –Ramzan Joo Gharana scores over all other music Gharanas of Kashmir. As I understand, this Gharana had a definite edge over others in terms of style, Baaj, melody and Santoor accompaniment. By the time electronic media support and radio patronisation arrived, Sidh Joo had expired. Ramzan Joo did broadcast his music over the radio but age had overtaken him though he still retained his unique magical touch. He was an ace Santoor player. His music and Maqams had depth. He had a wonderful style of reaching the crescendo. One could feel as if honeybees were dancing around the honeycombs. Once my father had engaged Ramzan Joo for a month in a Doonga anchored at Naseem Bagh. I vividly remember the Sufiana Musical Mehfils that took place in our home in Kashmir .”


( Avtar Mota)

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