This article is a humble tribute to my Guru, late Vijay Kumar Malla. “Malla-Sahib” as he was affectionately and respectfully called by all of us, was the true embodiment of Kashmiri culture. His own life, devoted to this art, exemplified the towering tenets of Kashmiri Ghazal Ghayki. He not only preached the philosophy of “Simple living and high thinking” but also practiced it. I have seen no other man ever asking of life so little for himself! A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. To quote Rabindranath Tagore – “A lamp can never light another lamp, unless it continues to burn its own flame.” Malla-Sahib religiously did “riyaz” for hours on end, every day, so that he could not only attain perfection in the nuances of this art practiced in different Compositions, but also impart the best training to his students. He himself was a student “par excellence” of his distinguished Guru, Ustad Rahat Ali Khan. He was a great crowd puller and always played before a packed audience. One of the most successful and famous artist of all time as he was, his several musical tactic like emphasis on melody, improvisation mostly in lower and middle octaves, sparing application of murki , use of ruba’idar tarana and tendency towards serious and expansive ragas deserve appreciation.
A singer is an incarnation of the poet. Free from bias and boundaries, these are people adorned with divine endowment. The singer enlivens the intangible treasure of the poet by his tangible, rich, soulful and sonorous voice mesmerizing audience to the world of ecstasy. These great singers have carved a niche and name for themselves in the hearts of millions not by organizing publicity shows but by means of prolonged, consistent “Riyaz” (rehearsals), devotion to music and life-long research to take this art to its zenith. These born singers do not have lust for money and lime-light; they are true servants of this sacred art indifferent towards worldly treasures and tastes. Despite being remarkable singers, humility is their sole ideal; lost in the quest of inaccessible reaches of music, they follow an austere life. It is not the formal procedures like awards and medals or any other accolade that gives a singer a national, international or a mere regional recognition, but it is the captivating and charming spell that binds the follower of music to its real representative. It is not only unethical of mankind but also insolent that these divine gifted men have been forgotten. The only tribute to these legendary singers is not organizing programmes for self-interests of minting money and embarrasing this artistic legacy.
Vijay Kumar Malla was one of these great singers. He worked under the supervision of notable music director Noshed Ali Khan (Mumbai). He gave a solo performance the whole night in the presence of Maestro Ustad Mehdi Hassan Khan sahib. The living legend also wished him to be his disciple but he refused because of his some domestic problem .The renowned playback singer Sukhwinder Singh is the disciple of Vijay Kumar Malla who used to call him “Bittoo”. It is quite unfortunate that after migration to Jammu in 1990, the officials of Radio Kashmir never ever invited him for recording even a single “Ghazal” or any song of his genre till 2009″. Actually this pre-planned act didn’t defame his legacy, is it appearance of shame for concern”! Rashid Barqi eminent theater director and his close companion namely Ashok Kak the renowned Writer/Director both once requested him to record an Album produced by HMV United Kingdom to be organized by Shashi-Kala munch, the cultural origination. The Album was based upon the primeval poetry especially several numbers of “Naat-e-Shariefs” for this cultural organisation. To their surprise he insisted upon that I would love to record this collection at the studios of Radio Kashmir Srinagar. But due to poor response of the then concerned officials of radio Kashmir who were directly involved in the recording and processing, this activity was limited to only three and that too with much difficulty. It’s on record that not a single hit number was recorded from July 2009 till today. For AIR Srinagar, In July 2009 Malla sahib recorded his self-composed and music arranged three hit numbers which were his life’s last recording in studios of Radio Kashmir His voice was indeed a blessing of God but Vijay Malla must be credited for nurturing it to spectacular horizons of melody with consistent sustainability for over many decades? Eminent music director Ustad Mohammad Ashraf Sahib observed that the promoter of Kashmiri Ghazal after the legendry Ghulam Hassan Sufi was endowed with wisdom and innovative knack for experimentation. “He embellished the Ghazal format within the range of Kashmiri Instruments to popularize it among the masses. Vijay Malla never lost his sense of roots and the traits of a true Kashmiri.
From romance to spirituality, he would sing with seamless ease and feeling. In doing so, he would drown in his experience of the song and leave indelible imprints on the souls of thousands of hearts. His ability to lift his listeners above earthly concerns was supreme as was so evocatively done in many of his songs especially, Be Chus Darya by Abdul Ahad Aazad, wanay Bo Seere Asrar, By Shamas Faqir, Traditional Harmok Bartal, Posh Mate Dil bar by Ali Mohammed Shahbaaz, (Naats) Aye Sarwarey Hardosara by Abdul Ahad Barqi (Kaar),Qarari Dilo jaan by Bashir Aarif, Lagenay Chay Paayan by Khazir Wangan pour, Gayee Putene Chasheman by Rafiq Raaz and many others. His great asset as a singer was that he was quite at home rendering the mysticism of Shams Faqir, the romanticism of Rasool Mir, the revolutionary zeal of Mahjoor, the radicalism of Nadim, and the devotion of Wahab Khar. All this was done only with just style and intonations; not supported by music. Can anyone else even try this?
As a singer and artist, it seems that Vijay Malla found his spirituality through his songs and will live forever as part of our rich musical heritage and folk and romantic lore- a heritage dating back and underpinning a local, syncretic musical-mystical tradition that cuts across the religious, gender, class and rural urban divides. It is ironic that there is not a single decent collection of the legendary singer’s songs available.
Music which was once the source of emancipation of human sufferings, spiritual zeal and zest, global integration and divinity, has now become a source of minting money. Is this the future of music?