Srinagar G20 Meeting: Kashmir's Sahil Santoor to fill the air with music for visitors

Story by  Ehsan Fazili | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 22-05-2023
Sahil Santoor playing music for the guests in Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar
Sahil Santoor playing music for the guests in Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar


Ehsan Fazili/Srinagar

A multi-lingual cultural programme, including Kashmiri folk music, Gojri songs, and Punjabi dance is all set to welcome over 100 delegates of the G 20 Summit, on their arrival for the two-day Tourism Working Group meeting beginning here Tuesday.

The officials and delegates have already started arriving since Sunday morning, and are being lodged in two top hotels overlooking the sprawling Dal Lake under tight security arrangements in the Cheshma Shahi area here. The 15-km-long road from the airport to Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) has been spruced up to international-level standards during the past few months given the first-ever international event in the valley.

As the guests started arriving here in the morning on Sunday, a multi-cultural program presentation including Kashmiri folk songs with dancers wearing traditional dresses, Gojri songs, and Punjabi dance greeted the guests. Beginning today, Kashmir’s well-known musician of Santoor musical instrument, Noor Mohammad Bhat, popularly known as Sahil Santoor is presenting the soothing Kashmir music for four days till the end of the event.

“I will be having a three hours performance on Santoor on Monday evening”, at the Lalit Grand Palace, Sahil Santoor told Awaz the Voice. in over the phone from the hotel. His performance before the foreign delegates would be held in the lobby of the hotel. 

This would include Santoor music on Kashmiri folk dance, Bollywood songs, and Hollywood notes, he said. The majority of the delegates would be staying at the Lalit Grand Palace and Taj Vivanta hotels during the event. Sahil said as many hotels in Kashmir already have the facility of background music, the “guests like listening to live music”.

The Lalit Grand Palace is also known for many locations in different Bollywood movies including a memorable song from 1976 movie Kabhi Kabhi, sung by Mukesh. The song “Mein pal do pal ka shayer hoon, pal do pal meri kahani hai”, filmed by Amitabh Bachan, has been shot inside the hotel. The title song “Kabhi Kabhi meray dil mein khayal aata hai, ki jaisay tujh ko banaya gaya hai meray liyay” has also been filmed on Amitabh Bachan and Rakhee at various scenic locations around.

On the distinctive qualities of Santoor, a variation of Iranian Santoor, which has a long history in Kashmir music, Sahil said that the instrument had been mainly associated with the Sufiyana music of Kashmir. This, he said, was introduced in Bollywood music by Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, India’s music maestro, classical musician, and Santoor player. Four more bridges were included to enable compositions of all types of low-note songs, Sahil said.

He is hopeful of a change in the perception among tourists about Kashmir, which has not seen any foreign tourists for the past many years. “There were many houseboats in the Dal Lake area with unique ambiance, which were exclusively occupied by foreign tourists many years ago”, he said adding that these houseboats were being used by domestic tourists over the years now. He hoped that by hosting the G 20 summit, a message would go across the globe to attract foreign tourists back to Kashmir that would regain the practice of “houseboats only for foreigners”. 

The 29-year-old musician from the Wathora area of Budgam district in central Kashmir, who was inclined to music from his early childhood, has been in the performing arts for the past about 10 years. He has been mainly performing in some of the big hotels in Srinagar apart from santoor playing at wedding functions. 

“I have also been performing at wedding functions for the past about four years. People have been liking Kashmiri music over the Santoor in marriage functions instead of bands and fast music”, he said. He added that the trend was on the increase and more and more people were turning to his performances at wedding functions.

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Having graduated in Music, Sahil Santoor is pursuing his Masters's degree from the University of Kashmir. He continues to be a B-category artist of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar, now All India Radio, Srinagar, and Srinagar Doordarshan for the last about seven years.