Bashir Mastana- Keeping alive Gujjar culture, music

Dr. Javaid Rahi
Though the Gojri language is largely spoken in the 12 states/UTs of India by the Gujjars , Jammu and Kashmir is considered as the vibrant center of all ethnocultural activities, related to the distinctiveness of the tribe. This region has played a key role in propagating, persevering, documenting the cultural properties of Gujjars besides language (Gujari/ Gojri), rituals, customs, traditions, folklore, and literature which is prevalent among this tribe across the subcontinent with minor regional variations
This is a matter of pride for this region that the Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir have produced a number of versatile artists, noted poets, eminent writers, and scholars who with their hard work produced quality literature in Gojri. Besides, they with their zeal, have given new heights to performing arts, Gojri folk and light music.
Bashir Mastana is one of the prominent names amongst the Gojri singers of India who undoubtedly provided a solid base to folk tribal Music of Gujjars in India. He is also a performer of traditional and Folk music of Gujjars and has spent most of his life in the profession of singing of Gojri folk. He with his outstanding performances held in and outside Jammu and Kashmir popularized the tribal music of pastoralists Gujjars among the masses.
Born on the 20th of December 1964 in a remote Village Khankote in Doda District to a nomad family, Bashir started his education in a Mobile School meant for migratory Gujjar-Bakerwals students who move to upper reaches of Himalaya during summer and in winter they live in downward areas which are usually cut off from the mainland. Bashir left his studies mid way before completing school-level education and focused on the art of folk singing.
Bestowed with a melodious voice, Bashir grew up in a remote village where he started singing at the age of 12 by participating in Mobile School programs and tribal community meetings.
At a very young age, Bashir through his unique style of singing acquired immense popularity among the tribal people, Gujjars- Bakerwals and other communities. Today, the Gojri Folk music concerts are considered incomplete without the presence of Bashir and his robust voice and the rhythmic beat of his ‘ Sarangi’.
In the year 1994, he joined Jammu and Kashmir Police as a cop at Doda. Now he is serving as Assistant Sub Inspector of Police, in Jammu. In Police, he remained a part of the Police Cultural team for years together.
Bashir Mastana is first amongst the Gojri folk singers who got grade ‘A’ status from All India Radio in Folk-Singing which is rare in almost all the regional languages of Jammu and Kashmir.
He is the only ‘Tribal Singer’ in J&K whose Folk singing program was uplinked on National hook-up relayed by 200 -stations of ‘Vividh Bharati Service’ across the country and major cities covering 97% of the Indian population, in the year 2013, .
While studying these musical practices among Gojri artists, the name of Bashir Mastana is at the top who modified instrument by restructuring the Music instrument SARANGI to accommodate unique traditions of music of mountains. The main contribution of Mr. Mastana to Gojri music is that he modified the music instrument ‘Sarangi’ into ‘Gojri Sargi’. He added nine ( 09) more strings to actual instrument of Sarngi , in its base -with three main existing strings and extending the ‘Gaj’ (the stick which plays the SARANGI) from its normal size to double in length. He called the new Sarngi as ‘Gojri Sargi’ naming it ‘TOOTA SARGI’ which is different from the instrument of Sarangi mainly played in Classical, Punjabi, Kashmiri or Dogri Music. With new additions, the modified GOJRI SARAGI produces slow and soft musical rhythms which accumulate the real tune and temperament of Gojri Folk music.
On the modified instrument, Gojri Sarangi , it is very easy for Bashir to sing Gojri Folk Songs, Gojri Bait, Siharfi besides GOJRI Bar -an epic or long folk song which tells a story of valour, bravery, especially in battleground or in love.
Bashir Mastana is very famous for his rendition of Baits , Si-Harfis of eminent Gojri poets, Mian Nizam ud Din Larvi (RA) , Khuda Baksh Zaar, Zabeh Rajourvi, Shams ud Din Mehjoor Poonchi, Shams ud Din Mehjoor Rajourvi, Israel Asar, Nazir Ahmed Nazir besides other Sufi poets of Gojri .
He recorded his first album at the age of 20 and throughout his career, he Sang around 500 songs in Gojri and Badherwahi. His most popular audio records are Changair. Kuku Paradesiya, Shopiyaa wahy, Baisakh Baharr , Charkho,Sohnny Gujaraniye , Dhokk, Si-Harfein, Gojri Chanat, Dard Firaq, Gojri-Louk Geet and Apu Dil Laita Tusha -Badherwahi etc.
Bashir attainted a big fan base in view of his large popularity in J&K and adjoining states by singing the Tribal music of Gujjars on a very high and melodious pitch with a variety of voice flow.
In concerts, Bashir performs in Gujjar turban, trimmed mustache with long beard which displays a unique demeanor. His voice reverberates the Gojri folk music of Gujjars in high-profile programs organized from time to time by All India Radio, Jammu, and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Department of Tribal Affairs Government of Jammu and Kashmir, North Zone Cultural Centre, ICCR, and others.
Bashir was a part of J&K Cultural Troupes in interstate cultural events held in different states of India from time to time. He participated in the month-long, Delhi Republic Day parade twice in 2014 and 2019 Republic Day celebrations. He represented J&K Tribals in this mega event held in New Delhi under the banner of the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, and Languages.
He also sung duets with renowned artists of J&K who include Kalaish Mehra, Deepali Watal, Shabnum Akhter Bano , Ardo Benerji and others. Bashir Mastana has been awarded for his outstanding contributions to Gojri music by J&K Government, Tribal Affairs Department J&K, J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Doordarshan, Gurjardesh Charitable Trust Jammu, and Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation. Mastana is the main Gojri singer who is known for keeping entire tribal music and singing art alive in the north-western States of India where Gujjars reside.