The Voice Silenced
(By Huma Sheikh)
The recording was done in 2003, a few days before his killing when Dad was singing to a group of students and family at our home in
My father Ghulam Nabi Sheikh had sung and recorded those songs during reyaaz (practice) at our
The recording tape was unlike his singing recordings created at home or for his radio and television shows. It was not a monument to Dad’s recording ability. As Program Executive in Radio Kashmir Srinagar and previously as producer and singer, he could create a high-quality recording whenever he presented or dubbed a show on radio.
But in this recording, pauses, little chats, laughing and sometimes throat-clearing sounds accompanied the songs. They brought him to life six years after death had taken him away from us suddenly and mysteriously.
In the recording, I could hear Dad ask his students to recall a line for a new song as he sang and composed it. He paused to clear his throat in the middle of another ghazal and thanked his tabla player, who skillfully matched his harmonium tunes. He joked and joined others in laughing before he sang another song. And all this made the recording priceless.
The power of Dad’s voice and his singing versatility earned him a title “Mehdi Hassan of
He further honed his singing and musical abilities by creating a breed of singers in
Dad began his musical career at the age of 14. From these early days, he would participate in singing competitions in and outside of
He would be at the same recording room as popular singers of their days like Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Raj Begum and Naseem Akhtar. Dad received first prize in youth competition in 1980 by the
Dad soon joined a cluster of singers like Shaheema Azad, Kailash Mehra, who had started their singing career way ahead of him. Singers like Aarti Tikko and Vijay Mala came around the same time as dad. He started singing and composing songs for Radio Kashmir’s General Service while mesmerizing thousands of Kashmiris with his wonderful voice. Dad marveled people with his singing performances across all states in
In 1983, Dad was appointed Music Composer in Radio Kashmir. After 1989 when Pandit Bhajan Sopori, who was Program Executive at Radio Kashmir, left
As approved Music Composer by Music Audition Board, All India Radio,
Years into his stint as Music Composer, dad cleared Union Public Service Commission examination to serve as Program Executive in Radio Kashmir. Dad was awarded “Top Grade Singer” in light music for excellence in the singing of Kashmiri songs--the other “Top Grade Singer” in light music in the Valley is Begum Akhtar. Dad also won “D-I Graded Singer” award in light music (Urdu).
Dad served as member of the Advisory Sub-Committee for Kashmir Folk Music in
But the voice is silent now. Today is the sixth anniversary of my father’s death, which is still a mystery.
My father was killed in 2003. He disappeared mysteriously from the train bound for
The tragedy of his death has stuck with us and the ghosts of mystery haunt us as time passes. We have many questions but no answers. Dad’s death is a mystery and his killing didn’t linger with our Valley’s people, though he was renowned in
We have questions about who killed him and what led to his death. We regret that the
My father’s death is not the only case in the Valley; many tragedies have happened in
What is more frightening for us is the possibility that the tragedy may not have happened. We just don’t know as we have never seen his dead body. “Someday, there will be a miracle when dad will knock on our door. We don’t stop thinking about it.”