Srinagar: From Shamim Dev Azad’s ‘Tse yewaan roshe chhukh nata’ to Vijay Malla’s ‘Antan su madanvaar’, Pandit Bhajan Lal Sopori’s compositions have always created magic.
And when the santoor maestro and music composer passed away on Thursday, Kashmiri music lost a legend. Sopori had not only composed masterpieces but also mentored a wide range of Valley-based singers and musicians like Vijay Malla, Shamima Dev, GN Sheikh, and Kailash Mehra among others.
Recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and Padma Shri awards, Sopori belonged to the Sufiana Gharana of Indian classical music and he first learned music from his grandfather Samsar Chand Sopori and then father Shambhoo Nath. He later learned western classical music from Washington University and his performances have been broadcast worldwide.
While people usually remember him for the popular Kashmiri songs that were played on the radio in the past and now on YouTube, Sopori’s music presented a fusion of the traditional, classical, Shaivite, Sufiana, and folk music.
His legacy is now being carried forward by his son Abhay Sopori, who has been promoting music and artists through the Sopori Academy for Music and Performing Arts (SaMaPa).
“My father had initially learnt ‘naad yoga’ from his grandfather Pandit Samsar Chand Sopori, who was spiritually elevated and was known for curing diseases through music. The seven pieces also depict the seven ‘chakras’ in a human body. He (Sopori) presents a fusion of the traditional, the classical, the Shaivite, the Sufiana, and the folk music of his motherland Kashmir, with contemporary sensibility,” Sopori had told The Kashmir Monitor recently.
Sopori worked with the All India Radio, Srinagar till 1990 and later was stationed in New Delhi where he breathed his last.
However, Sopori would come to Kashmir once in a while to encourage the young musicians and singers. He and his son would even conduct the ‘SaMaPa Aalap Festival’ to identify local musicians across the Kashmir valley and promote them at the national level.
“We started from Sopore (in North Kashmir) and we will hold programs across the Valley including far-flung areas. We will identify local talent so that we can promote them at the national level,” Sopori had told reporters during a past visit to the Valley.
Well-known singer Dhananjay Koul said Sopori had given a new life to Kashmiri music through his compositions.
“He breathed a new life into Kashmiri music with his Sufi compositions after he joined All India Radio in 1975-76. Because of his breathtaking compositions, singers like Vijay Malla, Shamima Dev, GN Sheikh, and Kailash Mehra became celebrities. I have also learnt a lot from him. His compositions are masterpieces and will be remembered for all times to come,” Koul told The Kashmir Monitor.
“I remember the period when I used to see him compose music at the radio station in Srinagar. He was so energetic and so inspirational,” he added.