A voice from the valley

A voice from the valley

New sensation

After giving a new flavour to traditional Kashmiri songs through her music albums, Mehmeet Syed, 27, has taken her career as a singer to the next level.

The youngster has set foot in the glamorous, yet fiercely competitive world of Bollywood, as a playback singer for the film, Chinar. Thus, she becomes the first Kashmiri woman to break this barrier. “I am happy to be introduced to Bollywood through the film Chinar, which is a simple love story, set in Kashmir. I am singing one solo and one duet number for the soundtrack,” says Syed excitedly.

Singing comes naturally to Syed. She started performing right from her school days in 1990s. Her mother played a significant part in honing Syed’s talent. “My mother was a music graduate and it is from her that I received my basic lessons in singing,” she reveals. Syed’s father is a doctor-turned-politician.

Riyaz (musical practice) was an integral part of her daily routine. In order to gain a formal training in classical music, she went all the way to Mumbai, a city known for its prestigious music schools and accomplished teachers. She pursued the training for two years. It was in 2002 that Syed made her first official appearance as a singer in Srinagar. She recalls, “I performed in a programme organised by the sports and youth services, which was attended by many dignitaries. Immediately after that performance, I started getting offers.”

In 2004, she released her first Kashmiri video album, Chulhama Roshay Roshay. It was a big hit with 50,000 VCDs and 75,000 audio cassettes being sold in the first year. Today, there are over 100 music albums to her credit, as her primary interest has always been in singing Kashmiri songs.

Elaborates Syed, “Traditional Kashmiri songs are losing their relevance. I wanted to bring them back into the mainstream culture.” The unconditional backing of her family only fuelled her rise to stardom — she has been feted with several awards, including Most Promising Singer of the state and Naseem Akhtar Memorial Award, named after the great Kashmiri singer.

But Syed’s dream run came to a screeching halt when her mother fell ill. She decided to stay away from music at that point. She recalls that period with a voice ridden with pain, “My mother was bedridden for four years. I spent all my time with her. I did my master’s degree in mass communication through distance learning and did not sing for a long time.”

After a difficult battle with her illness, Syed’s mother passed away in 2011. As she was close to her mother, the young singer was heartbroken. She lost interest in doing everything that earlier gave her happiness. Once again, it was with the help of her family and friends that Syed managed to pull herself together and come to terms with her grief. As a tribute to her mother, she went back to singing. It was the offer from the makers of Chinar that ushered in an exciting phase of life for her. “I am thrilled with getting the chance to make it to the big league and I will give it my best shot,” she says with a smile.

As a Kashmiri youth icon, Syed is conscious of her influence on many young minds. She says, “I want the Kashmiri youth to pursue a career in music if they really want to. They must not wait for opportunities but stand up for themselves.”