Kashmir valley has produced a glaxy of renowned sufiyana, classical and folk singers including Abdul Rashid Hafiz, late Mohamad Abdullah Tibet Baqal, late Ghulam Mohamad Saznawaz, late Ghulam Ahmad Sofi, late Ghulam Hassan Sofi.Among them late Ali Mohammad Shiekh was the taller .The late Ali Mohammad Shiekh was one of the key artists and certainly one of the most influential folk singers of Kashmir. His voice is universally recognised as one of the great voices in musical history of Kashmir. Shiekh’s popularity rested on the sheer magic of his haunting voice and taking the listeners on a roller coaster of emotions and was a household name of his time.His gifted voice could elevate the soul from worldly affairs to a mystic zone. Ali Mohd Sheikh was born on January 3rd, 1934 at Hajjin,Sonawari .Hajjin village is famous for producing great assets of Kashmiri poetry, language and music..Mention may be made of Wahab paray,Asad paray,Mohuddin Hajjini and Dr.Aziz Hajani.Ali Mohammad shiekh belonged to a very pover family.His father’s name was Ab Rashid Shiekh.Ali mohammad Shiekh was admitted in a primary school by his father but due to extreme poverty he could not continue his studies.He got class IV job in J&K health department.He loved kashmiri music from his childhood and used to attend sufi “mehfil e samas” and other local music shows.Day by day his lust of music increased .One day he met the famous singer of his vicinity namely Gh.Mohammad Shiekh who included him in his party.Latter on he learned the fibre of Kashmiri music from two teachers namey Gul Dar and sonaullah Shiekh.”Sarangi” was his faviurite musical instrument.latter on he became the Sarangi master.It is important to point here that Ali Mohammad Shiekh started his musical journey from the blessed” darbar” of the iconic sufi saint of yaroo langate -Hazrat Ama saheb RA. He was the prominent singer of the blessed “darbar” of hazrat Ama saheb Yaroo RA.One day a very big businessman from Culcutta came to Srinagar and stayed with Abdul Majeed Lone Wadipora,the then S P of J&K police. He was accompanied by a seven year old dumb son. This businessman expressed his dumbness to Majeed Sahib. The SP sahib suggested him to take Ali Mohammad Sheikh´s party ,Singer, and go to Ama Sahib’s “darbaar” . The merchant did the same. And Ali Mohammad Sheikh started singing in Ama Sahib’s blessed darbaar. Ama Sahib was listening to the song . Ali Mohammad Sheikh sang while singing (Na Roozi habab na rooz shabab).Ama Sahib RA immediately stood up, grabbed the boy by the collar and said, “Tell me who will live forever.” The dumb boy replied, “Allah,the most merciful,the most compassionate , then the dumb man began to speak.”
It is believed that his gifted voice could elevate the soul from worldly affairs to a mystic zone. Ali Mohammad was a gifted singer .
Allah Almighty had bestowed him a haunting and magical voice.In 1956 he got appointed in radio Kashmir Srinagar as casual artist.Soon he achieved popularity and became a household name in Kashmir.Ali Mohammad Shiek’s death on 19th of July 2006 dealt a big blow to Kashmiri music and left his fans grieving for years. He was a torch bearer who spread Kashmiri culture and heritage through out the world with music. As person , he was simple and focused . flaunting a serious appearance , sheikh generally wore elegant white or off white Shalwar kameez , waist coat and central Asian Karakulli cap. Ali Mohammad Shiekh believed that singers could not be ‘made’ and that divine blessings alone had carved his destiny. He had his own group of accompanying musicians and did regular “riyaz “creating new melodies and rhythms .He would mostly sing Sufi poets like Ahad Zargar , Sochhi Kraal , Samad Mir, Wahab Khaar and Shams Faqeer . Ali Mohammad Sheikh represented Kashmir at National and International music festivals. Ali Mohd sheikh was a master of “Chhakri” style of kashmiri folk singing. A Sangeet Natak Academy awardee , he had travelled to many places in India and abroad ( Tajikistan , USA ,Japan and some Latin American countries ) popularizing Chhakri style of kashmiri singing . Sheikh had also mesmerized the audience by his singing in Festival Of Asian arts at Hongkong held in 1988. About this Festival, Music composer Dalip Langoo Adds. Ali Mohd Sheikh not only performed there as a folk singer from Kashmir but he also performed in a small dance drama sequence created by noted composer Krishan Langoo ji. He acted as” Moulvi” sahib before a huge gathering at one of the prestigious shows held in Hong Kong.Sheikh also sang for the Radio and Television creating two generations of admirers . As person , he was simple and focused . Flaunting a serious appearance , sheikh generally wore elegant white or off white Shalwar kameez , waist coat and central Asian Karakulli cap . Ali Mohammad Shiekh sang every song with perfection . Perfection in selecting the Kalaam ( poetry ), perfection in handling and lacing the words with music and perfection in delivery . He was a master player of Harmonium and Sarangi and was the greatest exponent of Chhakri Style of Kashmiri Folk singing . Unknown to many of his admirers, Sheikh had an insightful knowledge of kashmiri sufiana singing as well .Ali Mohammad Shiekh is still considered one of the greatest and most influential singers of the Kashmir whose popularity rested on the sheer magic of his voice and taking the listeners on a roller coaster of emotions. gifted voice could elevate the soul from worldly affairs to a mystic zone.
(The author researches on the anonymous sufi saints and sufi poets of Kashmir. His 200 research articles have been published so for.The author has also discovered the 700 years old first underground cave khankah of Kashmir at Shahnagari ,Mawar Handwara. Views are his own)