7 emerging female voices in Gojri music

Dr. Javaid Rahi
Gojri is the third largest spoken language of Jammu
and Kashmir after Kashmiri and Dogri. It possesses
rich cultural inheritance in the shape of folk and
oral lore, creative literature, music, theatre,
dance and other performing arts.

As far as the Gojri music is concerned, it has its own indigenous legacy in the shape of classical and folk tune and tenor besides having developed a robust music tradition in recent times.
Further, it owns rhythmic and notational tunes of folk singing that have been in existence for centuries in the shape of Baits, Siharfis, Baramah, and other more than a dozen music forms. Gojri Music has also registered its presence throughout the globe through its melodious compositions, symbolizing the nomadic culture of Gujjar tribes.
The Gujjar women have played a key role in popularizing and disseminating of Gojri music, despite the cultural and tribal restrictions discouraging the public performances of songs and music. Traditionally they were expected to limit their performances to private functions like marriages held within four walls. Those who were committed to the singing career and amateur singers were restricted from public appearances. The elders stigmatized singing/dancing by the women in public for years together. Given this, no female Gujjar singer was ready to sing in front of the audience or for Radio and TV.
In the absence of Gujjar women singers, the Punjabi, Kashmiri and Dogri singers mostly sang Gojri numbers, especially for Gojri Programmes of erstwhile Radio Kashmir Srinagar which was started from Radio Srinagar in 1972 and later from Radio Jammu in 1974. Some non-Gujjar female voices who emerged in absence of Gojri singers includes Shameema Dev, Kailash Mehra, Seema Anil Sehgal, Surinder Kour-Parkash Kour, Jitender Kour, Shabnum Akhter Bano-Shakeela Tabassum, Tripata Kumari, Deepali Watal and others.
In the late 80’s some Gujjar women were also seen on stage. They started singing for Gojri programs broadcast on Radio stations at Jammu and Srinagar besides Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar. Resham Bibi and Party, Haleema Bibi and Party, Begum Jan and Party, Razia Begum and Party, Noor Jaan were some of these pioneers. These female artists who belonged to Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes represented their areas with a diverse range of musical notes and varieties of singing. Most of them impressed their listeners for more than four decades.
In the present time, several female singers are following their footsteps. They, with their high-pitch voices, impress all. They have a massive fan following from masses, which range from a lay person to heads of the tribal clans of Gujjars/ Bakerwals. These singers also impact the critics of music through their presentation of favourite songs, folk songs, and quality performances by using new instruments too.
Some of these emerging female singers are:
Razia Ashraf
Hailing from Gharkote Uri, a village near Line of Actual control between India and Pakistan in Baramula District of Jammu and Kashmir, a young tribal (Chechi-Gujjar) woman singer Razia Ashraf is known among Gujjars – Bakerwals for her charming and beautiful voice. At the age of sixteen, she started performing at Doordarshan, Radio and J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages programs. Within ten years of her career, she developed a style of her own in singing, which is very loud but highly rhythmic. Her rendition of Isreal Asar’s song, “Almost Rutty” and “Neeli Neeli Ravi”, and Rana Fazal’s Song “Ghadyya”, have received an immense response on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites.
Parveena Choudhary
Daughter of popular Gojri Singer Begum Jaan of Arigam, Bandipora, located in North Kashmir, Parveena Chowdhary started singing in the early years of her life. She has produced several Gojri songs/folk songs including “Panchhi”, “Kiyon Rusyo Dilbar Janiyyaan”, “Ji Mahiya Meriya”, “Ji Wahe Shopia Ji”, “Ohh Mera Jang Baza re”, “Si Harfi”, “Baramah”, “Beat”, “Dooli”, “Beat”, “Noora Beguma” which became an instant hit. Parveena aims to keep the tradition of Gojri folk music alive in people’s hearts and minds with the help of her mother, her inspiration.
Through J&K Academy, she has got multiple opportunities to sing during several performances in Inter-State Cultural Exchange Programmes, besides National Tribal Festivals under Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt of India held at Delhi, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and other states of India.
Farha Choudhary
Hailing from a remote village of Kalaban Mehndar in Poonch District, Farha Choudhary is very popular among Gujjars – Bakerwals for her melodious voice. She has done many special musical programs for J&K Academy, Radio and Doordarshan. Besides this, Farha Choudhary is a well-known name in Gojri folk and light Singing. She has always stood in favor of the participation of tribal women of Jammu and Kashmir in literary and cultural shows being organized by different institutions as, according to her, it will empower womenfolk at large.
Anisa Karim
Elder daughter of Gojri poet Karim Darhalvi, Anisa Karim is from Darhal, Rajouri. She is the first woman from Gujjar community who did Postgraduation in Music from the University of Jammu in 2017. Anisa sings light music in Gojri and has participated in several music events/Programmes organized by J&K Cultural Academy, Radio, and TV Channels. Although she has many popular songs to her credit, she is known for compositions like “Ek Panchi Thari Yad Maa”, “Koye Gal Ambri Ki Das Ghadhya”, “Kaboran Ki Chal Chal Gy”, and others. Presently she is researching regional music with particular reference to Gojri Music.
Shabina Choudhary
Shabina belongs to district Doda -the place which has produced many Gojri Singers and poets like Bashir Mastana, Yusuf Arman, Jan Mohammad Hakeem, Khuda Baksh Khayali and others. Born in village Shalleie, Doda, in 2000, she is presently pursuing her graduation from the University of Jammu. She is famous for her high-pitch voice quality. She mainly sings Gojri light music besides folk songs and has played a crucial role in inspiring young tribal girls to compose and sing their own music. Her popular records are “Dopatto Mahara Sajna Go”, “Bait”, “Kuku Baleas Gaya” and others.
Salima Choudhary
Salima belongs to a nomad family presently putting up in Boli-Chak, R S Pura Jammu. She has done Postgraduation in Home Sciences from the University of Jammu. With a passion for music since her childhood, she has already participated in many music concerts. Self-trained Salima has recorded many folk songs besides ghazals, geets, and other songs for the last ten years. A number of her songs are available on YouTube and other social media sites.
Shabnum Naz
Daughter of a Sarpanch and tribal elder of Mangota village, located near Thanamandi Rajouri, Shabnum Naz is the latest emerging voice among the singing fleet in Gojri language. She is a student of Govt PG college Rajouri, doing a Bachelor’s degree from there. She recently represented Gujjar culture in a month-long Republic Day celebrations held at New Delhi. During a number of programs, she also met President of India, Prime Minister of India and other dignitaries of the country. She is known for a unique and vibrant style of singing which has added a trendy flavour to Gojri music.