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Watch: Mumbai Singer Vibha Saraf’s Captivating Tribute to Kashmir, ‘Harmokh Bartal’

On her debut single, Saraf invokes nostalgia and longing for her childhood home

Riddhi Chakraborty Mar 16, 2016
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A clip from the video for "Harmokh Bartal"

From the video for “Harmokh Bartal”

Vibha Saraf was only three years old when she moved to Delhi from her hometown Fatehkadal, Srinagar in Kashmir. Like many first and second generation migrants from the crisis-ridden valley who settled in Delhi, the singer grew up with a deep longing for her childhood home. Later when she moved to Mumbai three years ago to pursue music, it was only natural that she picked a matter close to her heart as the theme for her first single, “Harmokh Bartal”. The song is a traditional Kashmiri bhajan that Saraf has reimagined, bringing focus to Kashmir’s folk music and culture rather than the militancy it has been plagued with for decades. “Kashmir has always been associated with negatives and chaos. I didn’t want to address that [in the song],” says Saraf.

For her version of “Harmok Bartal” which is conventionally sung as a prayer to Lord Shiva, Saraf brought in composer Tapas Relia who understood the direction she wanted to take with the message of the song. The result is a rich acoustic-leaning composition with mellifluous guitars courtesy of Ankur Mukherjee [who has also played the South American string instrument charango on the track], flute by Ashwin Srinivasan and electric guitar by Relia himself.  The song also features Relia’s nine-year-old daughter Laakhi on English vocals.

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Watch the video here:

The music video, produced by Culture Machine and directed by Shaani Singh, adds to the undertone of nostalgia as it alternates between glimpses of Saraf’s daily life in Mumbai and animated clips of her childhood in Kashmir.  “The video is about childhood memories — things that you love, things that you yearn for when you move to big cities like Bombay for work. For me it’s a calling back to Kashmir,” says Saraf, who feels that regional music doesn’t get its due in India despite the country’s rich cultural history. “People need to care about things that are not mainstream. When I was about to work on this song, people told me, ‘It’s your first video, do a Punjabi, Hindi or English song. Why do you want to do this?’ They were afraid it was too niche and the reach won’t be wide. I told them I didn’t care,” says Saraf, who has also lent her voice to a few Bollywood songs and many ad jingles in the recent past. Saraf’s musical tribute to her regional roots is reminiscent of Mumbai rock band Joi’s video for their Assamese track “Rabha”, which also featured fascinating animation.

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