Srinagar: While scrolling through YouTube on July 25, Urvat Il Viska, 20, a resident of Downtown Srinagar, spotted a video made by someone who lives in the vicinity – a known local comedian, Musaib Bashir. The video was not the usual comedy skit, but an ode to the locality.
In the days since, the Kashmiri-English song titled ‘Down Town’ has become a runaway hit in the Valley and beyond, and has picked up more than a million views on YouTube – making it Bashir’s most successful video till date. As a YouTube user put it: “Everywhere I walk on the road I see people chanting this legendary song! Even on the streets, I see people listening to this song in their cars.”
Viska ended up watching the witty four-minute song on repeat. “After listening to the song, an ode to the old city, it was a cathartic moment where I felt very connected to my roots,” said Viska.
The song starts with a line, “One minute up and one minute down, baby this is downtown” – a comment on how drastically things can change in the area in a matter of moments.
Downtown Srinagar has witnessed a long history of political instability and is a microcosm of Kashmiri culture, socio-economic and spiritual identity. Known for its antique heritage buildings, the area hosts the Jama Masjid. The song open with a view of the historic mosque.
The English lyrics are followed by a couplet that depicts the ground reality of the scented lanes of the old city.
“Yette galliyo manz gypsy nachaan, yette vize vize kanne rood wasaan (Here, police vehicles roam in alleys, and here stone pelting is a routine)”.
Downtown has many localities, but it is famous for its unity and a particular style of dialect. Bashir also highlights the mood, charm and brotherhood of the area in the song.
“I am from downtown. I live here, so I know the situation. There are no ambulances, no facilities,” Bashir said.
For the local media sensation known for his funny TikTok videos, pranks and humour, it took two months to write the lyrics and execute the music and video production. He first floated the idea of making the song before his friends and cousins. “I explained it to them and it struck a chord. They immediately gave me a go ahead,” said Bashir. There are three characters in the video, all of whom, Bashir said, were selected after proper auditions.
A runaway hit
The opening line of the song, ‘one minute up and one minute down, baby this is downtown,’ has repeated a lot in the comment section on YouTube. One viewer, Tanweer Bashir, said, “This line holds true for all of Kashmir.”
A viral hit across social media platforms, many have applauded it for piercing the veil of depression that has descended upon the youth in Kashmir as it faces continuous lockdowns over the last few years since the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35(A) on August 5, 2019 by the Central government.
Tahir Bhat, a student of political science, sees this song as cathartic and feels this song is the voice of people. “Post the reading down of Article 370, people feel choked. People are scared as there is an environment of fear. So this song connects them to the reality, and that’s why they like it.”
Bashir, who says his goal has always been to entertain people, said he’s proud that he’s given fellow Kashmiris something to cheer for.
— RJ NASIR (@radionasir) July 26, 2021
Mufti Islah, a senior journalist, wrote on Twitter:
This brilliant creative piece will keep your spirits up through the day. Tune in to this crazy, rowdy, I don’t give a damn, ‘eff off’ music number. The expressions and bum dance are love 💖. Don’t miss it. Downtown tashan.https://t.co/Qi8ALPagHj
— Mufti Islah (@islahmufti) July 27, 2021
Saif Ullah Bashir is a Srinagar based freelance journalist.
Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab