Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Melody King of Kashmir ( 1932-2009 )

Born on July 8, 1932 at Dalgate. He started his singing with chakar. Mohammad Subhan who used to conduct a mehfil. Ghulam Hassan Sofi sings with him till late hours, eventually, Sofi got hold of singing in rhythm. Ghulam Mohammad Tanki intro­duced him to the legendry Amrit­lal Mini, Officer on special duty in the radio Kashmir. Mini gave him a break in Radio Kashmir, in early 1950’s and he became very popu­lar with the masses.

Overtime, he moved away from his form to evolve his own unique form of modern Kash­miri Ghazal singing, which was more modern and accessible to the newer audience. As a singer and artist, it seems that Sofi 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. At the peak of his career, his songs reflected a perfect weave of poetry, emotion and melody and a talent for capturing the essence and mood of lyrics in different genres ranging from the serious mystical rendering of Rajab Ha­mids Afsoos Duniya……….to ghazals like Che looguth Sorme Chasman, to lighter folk songs like Chonpaknooy parznomai Dooriye Walae Kastooriye. From romance to spirituality, he would sing with ease and feeling his sing­ing was full of aesthetics. He used to compose some songs himself which were full of emotions.

What distinguished him for all other singers is that he lived his songs. Looking back and reminiscing, it would appear as if he sang only either to anticipate or to rationalize his own life and that of many others. Every facet of his life, from his being a prodigy to the neglect towards the end of his life, has been described by the songs that he sang. He had been given his voice, as if in lieu if the visual impairment that he was born with. This should not come as a surprise considering that his father had sought him from the darbar Hazrat Mouh-ud-din Chisti. The greatest Sufi saint of the land seems to have blessed the unborn Hassan Sofi. The singer in him was awakened by his sur­roundings

He also sang for Doordar­shan Kendra, Srinagar, and the Cultural Academy besides work­ing as an instructor in the Song and Drama Dvision from 1967 to 1994. Ghulam Hassan Sofi had been working as an instructor in the Song and Drama Division of the Government of India from 1967. In the course of his work he had trained a large number of staff artistes of the Division.

Sofi, who also performed outside the State, was a recipi­ent of Sangeet Natak Academy Award. He had also received life time achievement award from the Union Information Ministry and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah award from the State Government in 2006.

Sofi was an icon of Kash­miri light music and had contrib­uted a lot for its development. Sofi had remained associated with Academy for more than 60 years. Ghulam Hassan Sofi, the melo­dy king of Kashmir who had en­thralled generations, died inSri­nagar after a prolonged illness. He was 77.Visually impaired Sofi died at SMHS Hospital and was later buried at his ancestral graveyard at Maletang in Dalgate area of the city.

His message to younger generation of the Kashmiri singers was to work on the significance of purity of language, tradition and diction. Money or fame would not lure him National Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development towards anything that he would consider hybrid or ‘Filmy’. While it is accepted that Sofi contributed to the music of the valley, what has not been ap­preciated in his role in the cultur­al revival of Kashmir. According to him devotional and romantic songs are full of aesthetics.

Rouf Ahmed can be reached at rou­fahmed008@gmail.com