Kashmir's trailblazer all-women's Sufiyana Group is making waves

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 03-06-2023
Irfana with other group members (Courtesy: Kashmir Wallah)
Irfana with other group members (Courtesy: Kashmir Wallah)


New Delhi

At a time when popular music seems to be getting better of the traditional genre like Sufiyana, some young Kashmiri girls have formed a musical group to make inroads into this male-dominated field.

Their task is not so easy, as Kashmir’s traditional Sufiyana music which is part of its age-old Sufi culture propounded by mystics and divine seekers has always been dominated by men.

Five years ago, Irfana, a young girl in Gunistan, a remote village in North Kashmir's Bandipora district, founded the group and asked her father to teach her the art of Sufi music.

Her father is a santoor player and he offered to teach the music to Irfana at their home.

As Irfana and her younger sisters started singing Sufi Kalam (poetry) with traditional tunes at her house, the girls in her neighbourhood also took an interest. Two more girls joined her father’s class.

Five of them together named their association Sufiyana Group and offered to hold concerts at social functions.

All the members of Sufiyana Group are from normal families with not enough incomes. As offers for singing started pouring in they used the money made in some of these programs to buy the musical instruments.

So far neither the government nor any major NGO has helped them and the girls are managing on their own.

Irfana, who heads the group, is currently studying in the Department of Music at the University of Kashmir. She told Awaz-the Voice that she got interested in music after realizing that Sufiyana music was close to extinction.

Irfana said "Although we faced a lot of difficulties in starting this initiative. That is beside the financial difficulties. There was a lot of hate spread against us on social media from some quarters, but overall our initiative was appreciated and many people showered us with a lot of love and affection."

All the girls in the Sufiana group are being trained by Irfana's father Muhammad Yusuf. He exposed the girls to various aspects of Sufi music and made them aware of its rules and regulations.

Muhammad Yusuf told Awaz-The Voice. "Sufi poetry and music are the real identity of Kashmir. This tradition has been carried forward by the saints and elders here, which we must preserve forever - my heart breaks when I see this art slowly dying and this. No concrete steps are being taken for its survival.”

"He believes that the efforts of his daughters and other girls in the Sufiyana group will surely bear fruit one day. “ He feels the support of the government and non-governmental organizations working on art and music is also important for taking the Sufi Group forward.

“Government institutions should provide support to them,” he says.

The Sufiana group has also performed outside Kashmir, where people have appreciated their music. The girls feel encouraged as the Group has received several awards.

Rehana, another member of the Sufiyana group also seeks support from the State and NGOs to support groups like theirs and help in the preservation of a dying art form.

Speaking to Awaz-The Voice, Irfana said that it was the love for Sufi music that brought the five of them together. Now we are working for the revival and preservation of Sufi music.”

Gunistan, a backward village of North Kashmir,  resonated with the sound of Sufi music gatherings from a half-built mud house.

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Today these girls have taken the sound of music from their humble village to all the corners of Kashmir and outside as well. National and international media including BBC and Voice of America also reached this village and broadcast programs on this effort of the Sufiyana group.