Abhay Sopory, 40, from the Sufiana Gharana of Kashmir’s music tradition, who won the Gandhi Global Peace Prize earlier this year, is working towards completing his thesis on the music and culture of his home state. He will submit it to Pracheen Kala Kendra in Chandigarh soon. Currently at his Lodhi residence, he says he hopes to develop this into a book. Excepts from a phone conversation.
How will students of classical music, unfamiliar with Kashmiriyat (cultural values) benefit from this?
My research work will first compel historians to revisit their opinion with regard to Kashmiri culture. Musicians, musicologists, and other research scholars will get a new insight. This will lead to new research works on Kashmiri music being analysed on the basis of facts rather than opinions and illusions.
How many hours of study and research you are putting in?
I write and research for my thesis from 9 p.m. and it goes on till 3 or 4 a.m.. I also study post lunch with brief gaps. Right now I am planning to organize festivals and artist line-up, venues, for both for SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan to be held in November 2020 in Delhi, as well as the SaMaPa festivals in Jammu and Kashmir. I am devoting around 10 hours to my research work, four to five hours to riyaz (music practice).
Why do you say that Kashmiri music and culture has been distorted?
Kashmir and its culture, unfortunately, has mostly been described by non-Kashmiris. Thus there has always been a bias in writing the history of Kashmir, especially music. Take for example the santoor, where all non-Indian historians called it a Persian instrument that came to India from Iran. To further distort our history, many Indians, even some santoor players, said the same. My research work will establish that the Indian santoor has Kashmiri origins.
How are you bringing out the syncretic traditions of Kashmir?
Post 1990, both communities [Hindus and Muslims] lost the balance of communal oneness in Kashmir, as they were not together. We need to grow in a mature, intelligent, and humane way and for that love is important. Love comes when we have inner peace. Peace comes through patience. Patience comes through creative arts where music plays the most important role. That’s the philosophy of my life and that’s what I am doing even through my thesis.