Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bombur ta Yemberzal: The first Kashmiri Opera

The popular Kashmiri song Bumbro Bumbro, a song so popular that grandmothers often sing it to the delight of their grand children, is from the first Kashmiri Opera ever performed and written, Bombur ta Yemberzal (Bumblebee and Narcissus).

Kashmiri poet Nadim, having seen a performance of White Haired Girl (Bai Mao Nu) in China, was inspired to write one along a similar style in Kashmiri language. White Haired Girl, first performed in 1945, told the story of trials and tribulations in life of a young peasant girl living in an exploitative society. White Haired Girl with its communist revolutionary theme was one of the eight plays permitted during the Cultural Revolution in China that lasted 1966 to 1976. Marshal Bulganin and Khrushchev, during the 1955 visit to Kashmir, saw the second production of Bombur ta Yambarzal. In 1971, the Soviet government conferred Nadim with the Soviet Land Nehru Award, an award given by Soviet Union to selected Indian artist in recognition of their outstanding work.

The cultural movement in Kashmir during that era starting 1930s and ending mid 1970s, like many other places in the world, was lead by many left leaning artists. Bombur ta Yemberzal first produced and performed in 1953, just as its Chinese inspiration, told the story a peasant girl and her tribulations. Based on a folk saying according to which although Bumblebee and Narcissus aspire to be together, they can never be together in their lives. First performed at famed Nedous Hotel and SP College Hall, both places of deep significance in the cultural scene of Kashmir, the play was a great success. The play had characters with names like Bombur, Yambarzal, Gullala, Maswal, Gilatoor, Agarwal, Tekabatani, Irkyoam, Wav and Harud. All these names had symbolic meaning with some of them like Bombur, Yambarzal, Wav and Harud being Kashmiri words for Bumblebee, flower Narcissus, Strong winds and Autumn respectively. Written at a time when Kashmir was going through a tumultuous phase that saw among many other events: 1953 arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and formation of Bakshi Government,* the Opera hoped for a better future as can be fathomed from its optimistic ending and was in someways a play on these events, Yambarzal and Bombur do get to meet at last.

The success of Bombur ta Yemberzal owned as much to Mohan Lal Aima, director and composer of music for the Opera. He took the tunes of already existing popular Kashmiri songs and by varying their rhythm, managed to create an original musical experience. For the song Bombro Bombro, its traditional Chakri tune was tweaked with a faster tempo to create a memorable song, a song that generation of Kashmiris were to sing.

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Recommended read:

One of the best articles, a first hand account written by Moti Lal Kemmu, about the Opera can be read at Kashmir Herald

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Footnote:

Another Kashmiri who has been awared Soviet Land Nehru Award:
Prof. Saif-ud-Din Soz ( ex- Union Minister of Water Resources, ex- Union Minister of environment & Forests ) for his translation of Mikhail Il'in's 1,00,000 Whys - a Trip Round the Room (1929) from Russian to Kashmiri.

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*Bachha Nagma gained currency during the time of Bakshi Government as it was extensively used for sending out political messages.

2 comments:

  1. The strange thing is that Rushdie used this name (Bombur Yamberzal) for the head (and head-chef) of Shirmal, Kashmir in his book Shalimar the Clown.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There something more strange to the novel (Rushdie is a master at doing this), head-chef's wife, in a passage full of wordplay, is given the name Harud(Autumn), which was the name of a character in Nadim's Opera 'Bombur ta Yamberzal'.

    ReplyDelete

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