A Kashmiri hit song’s message to our society - Hindustan Times

A Kashmiri hit song’s message to our society

May 31, 2023 09:49 PM IST

Beyond the buzz, what is the viral Kya Karie Korimol song all about?

Bei Kya, Bei Kya, Bei Kya ,Bei kya, Bei Kya?? Goshtaba!

Beyond the buzz, what is the Kya Karie Korimol viral song all about?(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Beyond the buzz, what is the Kya Karie Korimol viral song all about?(HT_PRINT)

Is it necessary to scrutinise the politics of an earworm of a song, or should one just surrender to its peppy beats and soulful poetry? Choosing to play a sullen phuphaji — the apocryphal uncle who can never be satisfied with offered hospitality — is in line with the theme of the recently released and already viral Coke Studio Bharat song, Kya Karie Korimol. Like all wedding songs, this medley of Kashmiri wedding folk songs is powerful and very expressive, and has already raked up over four million views on YouTube since its release four days ago.

But beyond the buzz, what is the song all about? Is it about the predilection of the bride who is unsure of her home? Is her home the one that she’s leaving forever or the one that hasn’t yet welcomed her? Is the song about the equally precarious state of her father who is willing to stake his life for hosting a memorable reception? Or is it about the sullen phuphaji who skipped the reception to belittle the father?

Stripped to its bones, the song is about how patriarchy perpetuates itself through our rituals. Most wedding songs do that. The folksongs of marriage in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan and even other states often fall into three categories: Wedding preparations, the lament of the bride and her family, and lewd competitive ditties turning the solemnity of the occasion upside down. Kya Karie Korimol gives us a flavour of the first two. One begins to wonder, then, if a wedding — and, by extension, marriage — is such a stressful life event for women and their families, why has it still not been transformed beyond recognition as a more equitable institution?

Bridal songs of lament are not unique to South Asian weddings; Spanish, Russian, Moroccan, and Arabic folksongs of marriage use the lament trope extensively. The universality of the experience of women’s socio-familial disenfranchisement drips from their melodies. These songs encompass the entire gamut of the bride’s present and future experiences. There are instructions on how to survive in the marital home, bear a son, serve the household well, and not nag the husband too much for having a mistress.

The idea of honour — of family, tribe, community, and even nation — is also often reinforced through traditional wedding songs. This is most pronounced in traditions such as the Emirati performance of Al Ayyāla, where male performers enact scenes of battles amid loud drumbeats and young women, known as al-nāishāt, move their head from side to side, allowing their long hair to fly. We understand the gender roles immediately: Men are the benefactors, and women the custodian of honour: An arrangement that ill-suits both parties.

This is where the importance of the third category of wedding songs can’t be emphasised enough. They’ve been present since human beings understood poetry. In classical Greek literature, Horace called the obscene and taunting verses used in rustic ceremonies, Fescennine verses. Their purpose, however, “was to avert the envy of the gods at a time of supreme human happiness,” as explained by Arthur Leslie Wheeler.

The irreverent songs of wedding, often sung by women, not only undermine the solemn nature of the sacrament but also punctured patriarchy. The dadariya songs of Uttar Pradesh or some Bhojpuri wedding songs, for example, are so lewd that they are often weaponised by women who are otherwise rendered silent.

Folk songs have always expressed the zeitgeist and, often, mounted a challenge to institutionalised religion. As noted by European music scholar Alica Elschekova, “Overlapping elements of the sacred and the secular in the wedding have led to the large-scale replacement of secular elements by religious ones in communities where the folk music tradition has grown weak”.

Let’s harness the disruptive power of folk songs rather than celebrating entrenched inequality. At a time when the demand for marriage equality is growing louder in India, women need a different idiom to express their joy in finding companionship.

We need weddings where the bride isn’t afraid to come back “home” should the marriage fail. We need weddings where her father doesn’t bankrupt himself by hosting lavish banquets.

And we need songs to celebrate such weddings.

Nishtha Gautam is an author, academic and journalist. She’s the co-editor of In Hard Times, a Bloomsbury book on national security. The views expressed are personal

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