Singer brings Muslims, Pandits closer through music

Singer brings Muslims, Pandits closer through music

In an era of polarisation, where divisive forces often incite communal hatred, this young female singer from Kashmir has been bringing native Muslim and migrant Pandit communities closer through her melodious voice.

Meet 31-year-old Mehmeet Syed,  a perfect combination of beauty with mellifluous voice, who uses the power of music to leave her listeners spellbound across the globe.

When Mehmeet, often referred as Nightingale of Kashmir, performed at a  concert in Melbourne in Australia last year, her audience included both Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits (Hindus). Her melodious voice touched the hearts of the listeners ,turning them nostalgic about homeland Kashmir, with tears rolling down their eyes.

“After the show, I could see many in the audience crying. The coordinator of the show told me that 'Mehmeet you have no idea what you have done.' Muslims and Pandits couldn't control their emotions as it was after more than two and half decades they were together at some a function and that too away from homes,” Mehmeet told DH.

Seeing her audience in tears, Mehmeet couldn't control her emotions. “It gave me so much of satisfaction and I was in tears myself after witnessing emotional scenes. There was no other feeling apart from love for each other. Pandits and Muslims were hugging each other. This is what music can do. This is the convenient way to promote your culture, language and peace among communities,” she said. It was after a long time that Muslims and Pandits were together having fun.

Earlier, Mehmeet held concerts in New York, Los Angeles, Texas, Washington DC and several other cities in the US, where all the shows were sold out. The success of her US concerts was followed by international concerts in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, resulting in a renewed love for the Kashmiri music among the Kashmiri diaspora.

“You have to always come up with novel ideas to promote Kashmiri culture and music. It is easy because music is the easiest way to promote culture. Good lyrics, tunes and voice enthrall even those people who do not even understand your language,” she said. “My mission is to promote the love for music in Kashmir in India and other international destinations, especially among the younger generation."

Daughter of a doctor-turned-politician, Mehmeet says her passion for music started from early childhood when she was a student of prestigious Presentation Convent School in Srinagar. “I think passion for singing was there by birth. I performed for the first time on the stage at my school when I was just six. I would say it has to be a genetic thing. My mother was a music teacher and slowly and steadily I began to discover my love for music,” Mehmeet said.

Asked whether she faced any challenges pursuing music in a conservative society like Kashmir, she said: “My family and friends always supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. The support for Kashmiri music at societal level is still in an evolving stage and singing for a girl is still a taboo. Mindset is changing and we are working hard that it changes.”

The turning point in her music career came in 2005, when as a teenager, Mehmeet did something which was never done before in the history of Kashmiri music. She, with the help of local composers, made her first video album titled “Cholhama Roshay Roshay”. The album was an instant hit with 50,000 VCDs and 75,000 audio cassettes sold in the first year. Mehmeet became a celebrity overnight. In conflict-hit Valley, she is a household name.

Despite her rising to stardom during  teenage, she didn't discontinue her studies and completed master’s in journalism and mass communication apart from pursuing master’s in the public administration.

Mehmeet says she owes her success to the unconditional love and support of her father Syed Makhdoomi, her mother the late Yasmeen Mir, and brother Muheet Syed.

While popular Kashmir singer Rashid Hafiz is her favourite locally, Lata Mangeshkar is her all-time favourite in Bollywood. Her mother, a music graduate, is an inspiration for Mehmeet. In 2007 Mehmeet’s mother became terminally ill.

For next four years, Mehmeet stopped performing until her mother passed away in August 2011. “This part of life was the most difficult for me and nothing mattered more than being by the side of my mother and making sure her final days were peaceful," she said.

After recovering from the shock, Mehmeet made a comeback in 2014. She recently sung a number for a Bollywood movie making her perhaps the first Kashmiri woman to make a debut in tinsel world. Earlier, Kashmiri male singer, Saim Bhat, had sung two songs in Emran Hashmi starrer Murder 2.

Asked whether she faced any discrimination during her career being a female, she said, “I know how to make my point and I am more qualified than any other female singer. Nobody can dominate me and I don't put myself in a position where somebody can discriminate me.”   

Mehmeet has already made it to the history books of Kashmir as a girl who transformed and revived the love of Kashmiri music. She has received several awards not only for reviving Kashmiri music but also for inspiring distressed Kashmir youth to follow the path of peace and love.

She received an award from former President of India the late A P J Abdul Kalam. This year she  got state award for her contribution to revive Kashmiri music.  

Mehmeet said her heart cries when she sees the prevailing situation in Kashmir where youths are in utter distress. “We are unlucky and I feel bad for my people. We can't concentrate on anything as all these  are happening (referring to the frequent trouble and shutdown in the Valley). But you need to carry on and work hard on your passion. There is no other option. Our identity is Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. If we do good, world will recognise us," she added.

Mehmeet achieved all the success during the times when Kashmir was going through turbulence. But then she stood steadfast. “I want to be loyal to my profession and have deep love for Kashmiri music and thanks to almighty, I have so far succeeded in my mission,” she added.

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