Ghulam Muhammad Zaz, a traditional Kashmiri instrument-maker in Srinagar, is renowned for making the Kashmiri musical instruments of high quality, both in craftsmanship and artistic aspects. He builds about a dozen instruments — sitar, rabab, sarangi, santoor, tanpura, nai (flute), saaz-e-Kashmir — at his century-old family workshop in the old city of Srinagar.
Ghulam Muhammad Zaz.
He is considered to be the master for making these instruments.
Zaz, who loves his job of carving melodious traditional musical instruments, is doing this for the last 50 years.
His amazing craftsmanship has roots in his family background. His ancestors were associated with this profession and this has been passed to him by his family. Zaz gives credit to his grandfather and father from making him a good craftsman. They would take him along the workshop when he was a young boy. But after the death of his grandfather, he fully dedicated himself towards this business.
It was at the age of 21, when he made his first instrument, a sarangi, for one of their regular customers.
He works in a small room on the first floor of the workshop that was set up by his grandfather Khazer Mohammad.
The interesting thing is that he has never renovated his workshop, and the tools have been passed down by generations.
Zaz takes a month to carve an instrument, but it sometimes gets extended to bring perfection in his work.
To make his instruments last long, he uses mulberry wood which he gets from Delina, a village in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Each block of wood costs around Rs.3,000 and he requires two to make an instrument.
Interestingly, he has never used a ruler in his life while making these instruments, which shows the mastery of his work.
Zaz carves out each part of the instrument separately before putting them all together. Then he polishes and paints the piece. All the designs are now stored in his mind and everything comes naturally to him. And if sometimes he tries to change anything, he will lose the sur (melody).
Music maestros like like Shiv Kumar and Bhajan Rustum Sopori has worked with him. They have helped him to generate customer base in USA, London and Germany.
Despite his love for this art, he does not want to pass this to his next generations as he thinks it does not give him enough money to run his family. In addition, he also sees the youth in the valley getting more inclined towards Bollywood and western music.
With disappointment, Zaz says that the valley’s youth are completely unaware of the traditional music of Kashmir which has been the part of them for centuries.
Zaz believes that another reason for the decline in this art was the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir valley. He sees the departure of Kashmiri Pandits as a big loss not only for his business, but to Kashmir.
But these days, he is busy in giving final touches to a handcrafted Kashmiri santoor—an order for a client in New Delhi.
On the centrepiece of the santoor, he has etched out an impression of Lord Ganesha, a special request from the client.
The journey of this his man will continue but the big question is will his art be forgotten and thrown into oblivion?Only time will tell.